Josef Newgarden holds off Alexander Rossi to win Texas thriller
Josef Newgarden took a third victory of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, holding off Alexander Rossi in a nail-biting DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
While the 28-year-old started from eighth on the grid, it was Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Takuma Sato who lined up in pole position alongside Scott Dixon, leading the field to green for the 248-lap affair.
Holding off an early charge from Dixon, Sato took command of the opening stages of the race, maintaining the lead while successfully opening up a gap over the second-placed Australian, holding a 2.5s advantage.
Pitting on lap 61, Sato surrendered his lead for fresh tyres and a top up on fuel, however, spun in the pit lane, slapping the pit wall and collecting his left-rear tyre man.
Losing time on pit road, Sato quickly fell two laps back while a stop-go penalty further compounded the Japanese racer's difficulties, falling out of contention after dominating the opening stages.
Sato's downfall fell into the hands of Ryan Hunter-Reay who snatched the lead through strategy while Dixon remained in second.
Despite closing in on the leader, Dixon struggled to challenge Hunter-Reay out on track, meaning that the Andretti Autosport pilot maintained first through the next cycle of pit stops while a spin for Zach Veach on lap 135 brought out the first caution of the race.
With Hunter-Reay being the first driver to the pits for the first and second round of pit stops, fuel management was critical for the #28 car while running at the front of the pack was further impacting upon the driver's consumption.
On lap 161 Dixon snatched the lead from Hunter-Reay while Rossi, who had fought through the field from 11th at the race start, took second from the 2012 champion, demoting Hunter-Reay to third.
No sooner had Rossi cleared Hunter-Reay, he was quickly on the back of Dixon, taking the lead on lap 175 before Dixon immediately fought back, regaining his former lead only two laps later.
Remaining out in front, Dixon made his final stop on lap 191 while Newgarden, through a quick stop and a genius strategy call from his #2 Team Penske crew, shot into the lead for the first time in the race.
A mistake from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' James Hinchcliffe on the back straight when battling against Rossi marked a second caution period, with this allowing Hunter-Reay to resolve his emerging fuel crisis by pitting for one final time under yellow.
After racing resumed, the race was once again plunged under yellow flag conditions for a collision between Dixon and rookie Colton Herta, with the prior turning into the 19-year-old with 21 laps remaining.
This ensured a final sprint to the finish, with Newgarden and Rossi fighting for victory. Despite attempting to overtake into Turn 1, Rossi was unable to clear Newgarden, with the driver taking his third victory of the season and maiden win at Texas.
While Rossi took second, Graham Rahal was third to complete the podium positions, followed by Santino Ferrucci, Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud who was sixth, unable to rekindle his Indianapolis-winning form from last month.
Belle Isle podium finisher Marcus Ericsson was seventh while Sebastien Bourdais was eighth, with Will Power fighting from 15th to take ninth while Marco Andretti completed the top 10.