In another Texas Motor Speedway race where another driver dominated, Josef Newgarden managed to win his first NTT IndyCar Series race of the 2023 season in Sunday’s PPG 375.
The Tennessee native took the lead after a late restart and held off the advances of Pato O’Ward to claim his third win at Texas. O’Ward finished second ahead of Alex Palou, David Malukas and Scott Dixon in fifth.
Though Newgarden led the most laps, the race was most known for O’Ward’s domination in the middle portion of the 250 lap race. The 2018 Indy NXT Champion at one point lapped every car in the field up to Newgarden who ran in second.
“We were getting beat pretty significantly in the middle of the race,” Newgarden said. “I thought (in the) beginning of the race we had him, like, super covered. The car was good, track gripped up. I asked for some progressions on the setup. They were not right for the way the track was trending.
“I think Pato went the right way. He did the exact opposite of what I was doing. They were telling me what he was asking for. We were bad in the middle. He snuck back up on me. I had a big gap. He snuck up on me, was walking away.
“I was like we just need to get through this stint and catch back up. He had such a lead at that point, it was going to be difficult. The caution 100% brought us back into it. We got the car back to where it needed to be. When we were in position, we could get the job done.”
The caution Newgarden mentioned was for Felix Rosenqvist’s wall contact on Lap 179.
That yellow flag allowed several drivers to get back onto the lead lap and what was a two-car race became a lot more frantic when the race went back to green on Lap 193.
After a short green flag run, Sting Ray Robb brushed the wall on the outside of Turn 2, sliding down the track and hitting the wall on the inside of the backstretch on Lap 210.
The field went back to green on Lap 219 before another yellow on Lap 223 after contact between Devlin DeFrancesco and Graham Rahal sent both cars into the Turn 3 wall. After 15 laps of caution, the race resumed on Lap 238 with a short 12 lap dash to the checkered flag.
Newgarden, O’Ward and Alex Palou swapped the lead during the last green flag run, but it was Newgarden ahead with a lap and a half to go when Romain Grosjean hit the outside wall exiting Turn 2 before the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda went down to the inside wall.
Newgarden and O’Ward’s side-by-side battle was finished as the field came to the checkered flag at a much slower pace than the lap before. Behind the top five was Scott McLaughlin in sixth, Colton Herta in seventh, Marcus Ericsson in eighth, Callum Ilott in ninth and Helio Castroneves in 10th.
For Newgarden, this was his first win with new race engineer Luke Mason. Mason was a race engineer at Carlin before that team folded and it was a nice way to welcome the Australian to his team.
“I think the world of Luke,” Newgarden said. “I guess just to look back a year ago, I felt the same way about Eric (Cowdin). I think Eric did a tremendous job for us in 2022. I can’t speak highly enough about the job that he did.
“Then for Luke to step into the role, I’ve just got a high level of confidence in that man. He’s excellent. He is just so excellent at what he does. He is a phenomenal race engineer. You got to understand the definition of ‘race engineer’ to really understand that praise. But he is phenomenal.”