Josef Newgarden dominates to win rescheduled Alabama GP
Reigning IndyCar Champion Josef Newgarden put on a dominant display to win the rescheduled Grand Prix of Alabama on Monday afternoon, which took place in dry/wet conditions.
Officials were only able to slot in 23 of the planned 90 laps on Sunday as torrential rain affected the region, but dry conditions prevailed when the series reconvened at the Barber Motorsports Park on Monday.
Newgarden, having controlled the wet running on Sunday, pulled clear after a couple of laps behind the pace car, with the previous delays meaning the race switched to a timed affair.
Newgarden stopped earlier than most of the other runners, prompting thoughts of two-stop strategy, which put him on course to battle with Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the final laps, as both drivers stayed out on the softer red alternate tyres to try and one-stop.
Rain clouds loitered around the circuit but didn't threaten the drivers in the early stages of the race, but with 20 minutes to go those clouds opened up, and threw a curveball into the strategies.
Race leader Newgarden was one the first drivers to stop for Wets and it initially appeared to be a premature move, with the rain not falling hard enough, and he slipped to third, behind the yet-to-pit Bourdais and Hunter-Reay.
The rain, though, intensified, handing the advantage back to Newgarden, and his strong pace allayed fears that he had burned his tyres on account of his early stop.
Hunter-Reay ultimately ducked into the pits for wet rubber, leaving Bourdais clear out front, as he evaluated whether to stay out and hope that a potential caution period would aid his cause, with the clock ticking down.
But with rain persisting and Newgarden catching, the Frenchman accepted defeat and came in to change tyres, giving the reigning champion a substantial lead up front.
Newgarden backed off across the final laps, having run close to the grass through the tricky Turn 5, but still had enough in hand to comfortably record his second win of the campaign, taking the points lead in the process.
Hunter-Reay brought his Andretti Autosport machine home in second spot, while the Schmidt Peterson's James Hinchcliffe managed to secure the final place on the podium.
Rookie Robert Wickens was behind Bourdais after the Frenchman's stop for Wet tyres, but the Canadian driver utilised the best out of his car and rubber while they were hot to beat Bourdais to fourth place.
Veteran four-time champion Scott Dixon was typically strong on fuel mileage and found himself battling with Bourdais on the final lap.
Bourdais and Dixon scrapped through the final couple of corners and it was the former who won the drag to the line for fifth.
Graham Rahal picked up seventh spot, while RLLR team-mate Takuma Sato, Penske's Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti capped the top 10.
Alexander Rossi entered the race as the series leader but slumped to 11th, his prospects hampered by strategy and an off-track moment as the rain fell.
Max Chilton failed to make the restart after stalling on the formation lap and had to receive a tow from a track vehicle after marshals could not get his Carlin-run machine restarted.
Top 5 in the Championship Standings:
1. Newgarden: 158
2. Rossi: 145
3. Bourdais: 119
4. Rahal: 119
5. Hinchcliffe: 118