Sunday, May 28, 2023

Josef Newgarden Survives Multiple Late Restarts to Win Sonsio GP at Road America

Josef Newgarden wins at Road America
Josef Newgarden collected the 23rd victory of his NTT IndyCar Series career in a thriller at Road America. Image courtesy of Joe Skibisnki / Penske Entertaiment

Josef Newgarden delivered a commanding drive to win the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America.

The 31-year-old Tennessee native, who started second and led a race-high 26 laps, was forced to fend off a pair of late restarts en route to claiming his third win of the season by 3.3710s over Marcus Ericsson. Additionally, the victory provides Newgarden a $1m prize courtesy of PeopleReady by virtue of claiming wins at all three track disciplines – oval, road course and street circuit – this season.

“I was just trying to stay focused on what I had to do,” said Newgarden, a two-time IndyCar champion. “Just unbelievable job by great Team Penske. Great to have PPG on board with us – we’ve had a lot of success in this car. Team Chevy; Team Chevy’s bringing it with this engine. I’m ust so proud to be here, and PeopleReady, I keep forgetting about this million bucks.

“I kept forgetting about it and now I finally get it done. And most importantly, to give that money to charity, half that money’s going to charity, with SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags and Walks out of Nashville. So I hope they’re happy about it. That’s a lot of money coming their way.”

Ericsson was able to push his No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda by pole-sitter Alexander Rossi’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda moments after the final restart on Lap 52 of 55. In the end, Ericsson was unchallenged and collected a runner-up result and leaves the eighth round of the NTT IndyCar Series season as the new championship leader.

“Yeah, it was a really good race,” Ericsson said. “You know, we had a really strong weekend and little bit of struggling in warmups, so we changed some stuff for the race car. I think the qualifying car was really good. And then the guys, everyone on the car, they did a tremendous job to give me a really good race car today. P2, great day for the championship. Josef did a really good, really good drive and deserved that win, but just happy with P2.”

Rossi, who led 16 laps at the 14-turn, 4.048-mile road course, collected the third and final spot on the podium. He finished ahead of Andretti Autosport teammates Colton Herta and Romain Grosjean, who ended up fourth and fifth, respectively.

“Yeah, I tried to really be aggressive on that last restart and it cost us,” Rossi said. “But no, we were trying to win the race. So it’s ultimately a good day. I think Josef certainly had a little bit better pace than us. It took us until the last stint to dial in the balance of the car and then we were coming back on him pretty quickly. I don’t think we could beat him, but all in all, a good day. It always is disappointing to start on pole and not win the race, but it is what it is. It’s been a good couple of races, so we’ll take the positives from that and move on to Mid-Ohio in a couple weeks.”

The No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist utilized a slightly different strategy to find the front of the field for seven laps, and ended up collecting a solid sixth-place finish. Scott McLaughlin put the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet seventh at the checkered flag.

Graham Rahal climbed from a 22nd-place starting spot to finish eighth in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, just head of six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon in ninth.

Christian Lundgaard was the highest finishing rookie and claimed a 10th-place result in the No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Callum Ilott, competing with a broken bone in his right hand, managed to put the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet in 11th, while Simon Pagenaud ended up 12th.

Other notables include Will Power, who entered the weekend as the championship leader, but was the victim of contact with rookie Devlin DeFrancesco on Lap 8 and could only rebound to finish 19th. Additionally, reigning series champion Alex Palou was the first driver out of the race and left finishing 27th after contact with CGR teammate Ericsson on Lap 4.

The race began with trouble moments after the drop of the green flag as Jimmie Johnson and Tatiana Calderon came together in Turn 1, which left the former’s No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda stalled and resulted in the first caution.

A restart on Lap 3 proved to be brief as the caution flew once again on Lap 4 after reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Palou ended up off the course in Turn 5 as a byproduct of contact with Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Ericsson. Ultimately, that’s where the race would end for Palou as the No. 10 CGR Honda suffered left front suspension damage.

While the green flag returned on Lap 6, it would be short-lived with a third caution appearing on Lap 8 after rookie DeFrancesco got into the back of championship leader Power, which sent the latter’s No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet into the wall. The No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet of Power ended up with a broken front wing that needed attention, but was able to continue on. Meanwhile, DeFrancesco was hit with a stop and go penalty as IndyCar officials deemed the incident as avoidable contact.

Once another restart came on Lap 10, the race became more straightforward.

A blend of different strategies and pit stops saw a variety of different drivers at the front, including Ericsson, Rosenqvist and Takuma Sato, among others.

It was on Lap 28 when Newgarden took control of the race, holding a 4.2848s lead over Rossi at the time. The gap fluctuated until around Lap 45, where Rossi began to make significant strides and cut it down to 3.2331s.

However, a caution came out yet again on Lap 48 after Pato O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet stopped off course in Turn 12.

The caution set up a late restart on Lap 50, which was nullified moments later with another caution after Helio Castroneves spun in Turn 14 trying to come to take the green flag. Another restart came on Lap 52, which saw Newgarden get a strong jump on Rossi, who was overtaken by Ericsson entering Turn 1.

In the end, it was Newgarden claiming the 23rd win of his IndyCar career, which puts him in a tie for 19th all-time with Tommy Milton.

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