It wasn’t a matter of pit stops or pace, Josef Newgarden was confident being able to overmatch pole-sitter Alexander Rossi in Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America.
Newgarden, 30, started alongside Rossi on the front row of the 55-lap contest, but a blend of early cautions negated an opportunity to show the strength of his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet. However, when the two opted to pit at the same time on Lap 15, Newgarden’s crew was able to deliver a quicker stop and put its pilot out ahead of Rossi.
From there, the Tennessee native and two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion was able to manage the race and hold a consistent gap between 3.3-4.5s over the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda around the 14-turn, 4.048-mile road course. A twist in the tale came late in the running with a pair of late restarts, but it merely delayed the trip to Victory Lane for Newgarden.
Additionally, as a byproduct of each of his three victories this season coming on each track discipline – oval, road course and street course – he received a $1m bonus from PeopleReady, with half of the funds donated to charity (Wags and Walks of Nashville /
SeriousFun Children’s Network).
“It was a great day. Great, great day,” said Newgarden, who now sits tied for 19th on the all-time wins list (23) with Tommy Milton. “Felt really good going into it. Felt like we had a car to win today. It was just about executing.
“My team really put me in position on that first stop. Rossi was not going to be easy to beat today. I felt like he was very strong. I felt like we were a little bit better than him, but he was by no means going to be simple to go by.
“That first stop is really what set the tone for us. Once we got in position, it was about getting through the lap markers, the alternate strategy quicker than him, building a gap, maintaining it. I felt like our PPG car was hooked up and had it from Team Chevy on the power side pretty much as always this year.
“Really comfy. To be able to win this million bucks, give half of it to charity, is very cool. Very, very cool. I’m sure our recipients are going to be thrilled with that.”
While overtaking Rossi during the opening round of pit stops helped, Newgarden felt the move to the top spot was only a matter of time regardless.
“It was going to be that point or another point,” said Newgarden, a two-time IndyCar champion. “Truthfully, I was hoping for an all green start, no cautions, because I felt that’s where we could find the exposure in Rossi’s game.
“I was kind of biding my time but felt like I had the straight speed advantage with him. I felt like my Chevy was much quicker than him on the straights. I was going to wait for an opportunity.
“All the yellows really took away that potential. We were running most of the laps under caution, so the reds weren’t going to drop off as much. We needed to make the difference somewhere else. We came in right on his tail. I made sure, Look, I’m going to give my team ample opportunity, get as close as I can to Rossi on the pits.
“If it wasn’t going to happen on the pit stop, it was going to be an out lap or a back end of a stint. The pit stop is what ended up being the pivotal point for us. If that wasn’t the point, I think we could have made that point somewhere else today.”