The weather forecast for Sunday’s race at Barber Motorsports Park was excellent. Little did we know that the actual race itself was going to be even better. The fourth race of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season proved to be epic, with non-stop action and phenomenal storylines around every corner. None were bigger though, than CFH Racing’s Josef Newgarden, who won his first career IndyCar race.
The start of the race was a sign of things to come for the 24 year old American driver. Newgarden started the race in fifth position, but was already up to second place within the first two turns. It was a hometown race of sorts for Josef, who’s hometown of Hendersonville, Tennessee is just 191 miles from Barber. He led a race high 46 laps in route to victory on Sunday.
Another big story in this race was the drive of Graham Rahal. After starting in eighth, he took his Honda-powered RLL car up to the front, and had the speed to stay there. He had to make a late pit stop, but was more than a second faster than the leaders in the closing laps. He made an incredible pass on Scott Dixon to take second place, but ran out of laps before he could hunt down Newgarden. As IndyCar Radio’s Jake Query pointed out, it was the first American 1-2 finish for IndyCar since Iowa last July.
Dixon joined Newgarden and Rahal on the podium, and has gained 15 spots in the points standings over the past two races. Two-time Barber race winners Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top five, but those were astonishing comebacks after the dreadful days they each had.
Power started on the front row, but he had a couple of mishaps early on, then the big one after his first pit stop. When he attempted to rejoin the field, he apparently didn’t see Takuma Sato, and moved down directly onto him midway through the turn. He went off course, then was given a drive through penalty for avoidable contact (video below). Despite all of his issues, he managed to rebound and earn the best finish of the four Penske cars.
It’s hard to imagine, but the 2015 IndyCar season is already a quarter of the way finished. Through the four races, we have had four different winners (Penske/Montoya, SPM/Hinchcliffe, Ganassi/Dixon, CFHR/Newgarden). It’s hard to believe, but Dixon has now finished on the podium in all six IndyCar races at Barber Motorsports Park, but still hasn’t won on the 2.3 mile road course.
Castroneves ran out of fuel very late in the race, and had a disappointing 15th place finish. He went from potentially leading the championship by 15 points, to trailing Montoya by 3 heading to Indianapolis. Behind Montoya and Castroneves in third, sits Dixon. With his win today, Newgarden moves into fourth place, just ahead of Power in fifth.
The next race on the schedule is the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Before that though, there will be testing/practice on the oval on Sunday, May 3. Rookie Orientation will take place from 10 AM until Noon, followed by Verizon IndyCar Series practice from 1 PM to 5 PM. Tickets can be purchased for $15, and children 12 and under are free. A recap of the day’s events will be posted here, as will all of the action during the Month of May.
Josef Newgarden: “This is the way I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to win on some crazy incident or on luck. This team deserves it. They gave me an incredible car and let me get out there and rip with the thing and pass people on pure merit. And that’s due to CFH Racing – they were just incredible today. We’re going up against the giants, but I think this team can be a giant one day. We’ve got great partners in Chevrolet and Firestone – they deserve it and today they made it easy on me. Today was a good day and we need to have more of these.”
Graham Rahal: “I’m really proud of these Steak ‘n Shake guys. They’ve worked extremely hard and today I drove that race 110 percent, every single lap. We knew when we made the strategy call to stay out (that) we had to go fast in order to make up the gap. I’ve got to say Honda did a great job for me today. It’s still tough to follow, but obviously I passed a lot of guys. This team has come a long way and I think we have proven that. Eventually one of these days we’ll win one of these things. I hope everybody enjoyed the race because we were pushing there until the last second. It was great racing with Ryan (Hunter-Reay), Will (Power) and (Scott) Dixon – he gave me room there in those last couple turns. That’s pretty nice of him; not a lot of guys do that.” … (On if he had a chance to win): “(Jack) Hawksworth got out of the pits in front of me and that held me up and we lost a few seconds right there, so we had to pit a little earlier than we wanted to. A couple laps earlier, we would have gotten him I think.”
Scott Dixon: “It was definitely a tough day. It started horribly, we kind of got pushed around there at the start and just didn’t get a clean line there. We dropped like a rock – we bled the rear tires off on the first set and I think we were the first to stop in that situation. It kind of altered the day and how we could kind of deal with tires and fuel and all that kind of stuff. We knew the alternate strategy was going to come late and it came strong. All in all, congratulations to Josef (Newgarden) – he’s a hell of a driver, with a small team, and for them to get a victory is really cool to see.”
Will Power: “Very eventful. A fun race that you like if you end up in a good position. Man, I didn’t even see what happened when I got put in the gravel there (the incident with Sato). But I did everything I could to get back and got back to fourth, so it’s a good result considering. After (the incident) I was just focusing on doing a good job, saving fuel and passing when we could. Did everything we could, got back. I didn’t even see what happened on that penalty because I just felt a hit from behind. I thought I was clear. I looked in the mirror, it was hard to see, but that’s racing.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “I think that was as good as we were going to get today. We really worked hard on saving fuel. We had to have a lot of discipline to pull that off. Some guys pitted a little later than us and they were able to go a little heavier, a little harder (at the end), so we missed out on the podium because of that. All in all a good day. Progress. We had to save a lot of fuel today. One of the worst things in an Indy car is having to save fuel while guys behind you are on good tires and don’t have to save any (fuel), like Graham (Rahal).”
Juan Montoya: “We had a long day with the No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevy. We started with a bad qualifying effort, but we seemed to be in an OK position to dig ourselves out of the hole at one point. We were racing with (Ryan) Hunter-Reay and he finished fifth. It’s hard to race with some of the guys in the back of the pack. They are young and sometimes make moves like you aren’t even there when you are right beside them. So we ended up with two broken wings and a 14th-place finish.”
Helio Castroneves: “Not the finish we hoped for the AAA Insurance Chevrolet. There was just a bit of miscommunication on our fuel number that, unfortunately, caused us to have to pit with one lap left. You never want to see the white flag on pit road. We were on the same strategy with (Josef) Newgarden and (Scott) Dixon, but we were needing to meet a different fuel number than they were and I didn’t understand that. So I was trying to balance making the number we had to meet with not giving up a position to Dixon, who was behind me. Unfortunately that caused us to come up short. I hate it because the AAA guys gave me another car that could’ve easily won the race, but it was a crazy race out there today.”
James Hinchcliffe: “The race was pretty good for the Arrow Electronics team. We were able to pick up a couple of spots, obviously. The pace of the car was really good and I think the guys called the right strategy for where we started. We were missing in one area: We just didn’t quite have it on the brakes today, unfortunately. That allowed Graham (Rahal) to stay in front of us while he was on blacks (primary tires) there and it really got us stuck behind those Coyne cars for way too long. You look at where Graham finished and we were right with him there. Obviously we missed a bit but strategy was good, car was good and like I said, if we’d of just had a little bit more on the brakes, I think we could’ve made some good headway. We stayed out of trouble, had a good points day and we’ll take it. We get faster and faster, more and more competitive in these races and that’s what we need to see. A big thanks to all the Arrow crew guys for a solid weekend and we look forward to the GP of Indy now.”
Tony Kanaan: “It was a tough day for NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing. We really had a roller coaster of a race weekend with a bad practice to start and then a solid qualifying effort. It just kind of went downhill even from the first lap when I got caught between some cars and dropped a few spots. It was just a hard day for the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet, with struggling to maintain tires and get back to the front of the pack. I’m happy for Scott (Dixon) for scoring another podium, but the 10 car definitely needs to get back up to the front.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “We had a great day. The Mistic machine was awesome. It’s just Race Control ruined it for us. You can’t leave two drivers stranded out there because they did a great job. Simon (Pagenaud) and I were managing our tires better than most people, we were first and second and we were going to come into the pits a few laps later and they called a caution for debris. They should have let us know they were going to call a caution and given us a chance to pit. They didn’t do that and it ruined our day. After that, it was recovery mode. Thankfully, we had a great car and we beat all the guys we were competing against … some guys in front of us and the guys who were on the same strategy. But you can’t overcome being dropped to the back of the pack like that. That was a shame because it should have been a very different day. The Mistic crew did a great job and we will keep trying, but for sure it is very frustrating.”
Simon Pagenaud: “We had plenty of pace in the Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet. Plenty. Plenty. We would have challenged for the win. In the first stint when we got by Will (Power), we were looking really strong coming up on Helio (Castroneves) and (Josef) Newgarden. It was a little bit of a shame. We just got unlucky with the yellow there. From then on we had to be really aggressive and attack and pass people, which we did. That was fun from that part; I’m happy with my driving. But I feel like we had a much better car than the result we actually had, but there are always some outside factors you can’t control. Congratulations to Newgarden on his first win. He deserves it. He has been knocking on the door for a long time. I’m really happy for him.”
Carlos Munoz: “I think sixth for me is like a victory today. I mean, I always want to win, but this sixth feels so good because of how we started the weekend. Starting 22nd at Barber (Motorsports Park), it is really hard to make your way to the front. My team did a great job – in pit stops, in strategy. I think I did a great job at saving fuel; I’m more or less a rookie at saving fuel, but I think now I have my ‘saving fuel degree’ from university (laughs). Now I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Marco Andretti: “I lost too much time early in the stint to (Scott) Dixon and Ryan (Hunter-Reay). I had a go at Dixon … I got pushed off the track, so we lost a lot of track position. I lost a lot of time, really, in that stint trying to conserve (fuel). I need to get better at managing, but we were losing the rear tires, so it was a real struggle.”
Race Photos via IndyCar