Defending champ wins again in Alabama

Associated Press

birmingham, ala.

Josef Newgarden banked on the rain at Barber Motorsports Park, and it was a pretty safe bet.

The defending series champion started on the pole for the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and led almost the entire way, winning the rain-delayed race on Monday for the third time in four years. IndyCar had pushed back completion of the race because of heavy rain Sunday.

With a sizable lead and showers starting anew, Newgarden made his second pit stop with about 15 minutes left in the timed race to switch to rain tires. Contenders like Sebastien Bourdais and runner-up Ryan Hunter-Reay remained on the track while the rain soaked the course.

“We could have stayed out like them, too, but for us it made no sense,” said Newgarden, who took over the points lead. “We had everything to lose, they had everything to gain. So I don’t blame them with what they did. It would have been their race to win if it stopped raining at that point because they would have been able to make it work.”

That’s why Team Penske president Tim Cindric told Newgarden on the radio they were racing the weather at that point, not other drivers.

“The rain was either going to come more and work out for us or it wasn’t,” Newgarden said. “Fortunately, it just kept coming down. The more it came down, it just played into our hands.”

He won for the second time in the first four races of the season.

Bourdais stayed on the track, trying to keep a grip on both the lead and the 2.38-mile (3.83 kilometer) course. He finally relented for a pit stop and Newgarden built a 25-second cushion that wasn’t challenged.

He finished 10 seconds ahead of Hunter-Reay, followed by James Hinchcliffe, rookie Robert Wickens and Bourdais.

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