Strategy gamble for Josef Newgarden helps win IndyCar season-opener in St.Pete
Team Penske's Josef Newgarden claimed victory in the opening race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series in St.Petersburg after a strategy gamble paid off mid-way through the race.
Newgarden had initially started in second place but lost out to Chip Ganassi's debutant Felix Rosenqvist on the opening lap. The 2017 series champion stuck with the lead pack through the early part of the race waiting to pounce.
As the halfway stage of the race came the leaders made their second stops, Newgarden stayed out on used Firestone primary black tyres and pushed hard, using lots of his push-to-pass to gamble with a caution period.
He then stopped on lap 56 for red alternate tyres and then managed to come out ahead of his rivals and gain track position and kept it until the end of the race.
Scott Dixon used his wealth of experience to move up from his fourth-place starting spot to finish in second, the Kiwi held his position in the opening laps, but a strong middle stint of the race meant he was able to jump Will Power and team-mate Rosenqvist to hold on to the runner-up spot and kick off his title defence in a strong position.
Power led the first half of the race with Rosenqvist in close proximity throughout, the Swedish driver never let Power out of his sight throughout the race but had to settle for fourth on his series debut.
Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi was never quite able to keep up with the lead quartet in his #27 NAPA car, the Californian driver finished fifth after team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay's DHL Honda expired early on.
After a torrid qualifying session, James Hinchcliffe was able to quietly come through the field without trouble to clinch sixth-place for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports ahead of the third Penske of Simon Pagenaud who was able to follow the Canadian's pace.
Colton Herta was able to cross the line in eighth after starting in 11th place due to losing his place in the Fast Six in qualifying, just behind him was fellow rookie Santino Ferrucci for Dale Coyne Racing who had started towards the back after dropping his car in the barrier in qualifying.
After his program was expanded for the 2019 season, Jack Harvey kick-started his campaign with a solid top 10 finish for Meyer Shank Racing.
Next race is the inaugural IndyCar Classic at the Circuit Of The Americas on March 22-24.