lepage 180423 brm 22906

lepage 180423 brm 22906

It started in a downpour, restarted in the dry, ended in the wet and took two days to complete, but when it was over, Team Penske's Josef Newgarden completed a sweep from pole by winning a wild strategy game at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

Late showers and a master call by Newgarden's race strategist Tim Cindric turned the tables on Sebastien Bourdais with less than 10 minutes remaining as the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan driver tried to survive on Firestone's slick tires.

Moved to wet tires earlier than was optimal, Newgarden saw a massive lead in the dry and a two-stop plan go south for a brief period as Bourdais looked to leapfrog the American with a one-stop plan.

With the track damp but far from drenched, Bourdais pulled away from Newgarden as his slicks had enough grip to generate speed. The crossover came a few minutes later as increasingly heavy rain made the Honda driver's slicks a liability, and with the worsening track conditions, Bourdais' one-stop strategy was abandoned as wets were needed to survive the final laps.

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

The timing of Newgarden's early switch to wets, coupled with the big margin he held to the drivers behind Bourdais, allowed the Tennessee native to cruise home with almost 10 seconds in hand over Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' James Hinchcliffe.

SPM rookie Robert Wickens came home in fourth, two seconds behind his teammate, and due to his last-minute stop for wets, Bourdais crossed the finish line in fifth.

"Everyone did a great job," said Newgarden, who became the first repeat winner of 2018 and took the points lead with the victory. "That was more eventful than I wanted it. That rain crept in and I couldn't believe how long everyone stayed out, and I'm glad we made the choice to stop so soon. It kept getting worse and worse every lap. We put the rain on early to protect, but I fried the fronts early."

Coming off a dismal race at Long Beach, Hunter-Reay was thankful to reach the checkered flag without incident or misfortune ruining his day.

"This is the first weekend we haven't had any problems and we finished second," he said. "I'm relieved with the result, but we need to get back to winning."

Hinchcliffe was proud to lead a 3-4 result for SPM.

"Solid weekend for us," he said. "Two cars in the top 10 in qualifying, two cars in the top five for the race."

Bourdais, who moved to third in the drivers' standing after Barber, was not particularly pleased with losing the strategy gamble to Newgarden.

"We did everything we could, and it was seemingly good enough because I'd saved a ton of fuel but the sky opened and that was that," he said. "We tried to go for the win, and I gave it my best, but it bit us in the end."

Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, whose team also tried to complete the race on a single stop, drag-raced Bourdais to the line and completed the top six, a scant 0.08 seconds behind his fellow four-time Indy car champion.

With 23 of the 90 laps completed Sunday on a water-logged track, drivers had 75 minutes to finish the race Monday morning. An overnight decision was made by the Verizon IndyCar Series to allow each car to start with a full tank of fuel and a full complement of push-to-pass.

The dry race finally went green on lap 28 after Max Chilton's car stalled on the formation laps, and with clear road ahead, polesitter Josef Newgarden marched away with ease. By lap 32, the Penske driver was more than four seconds ahead of Bourdais and nearly five seconds clear of Hunter-Reay.

By lap 36 the margin over the DCR driver was over six seconds as the Frenchman, Hunter-Reay, his Andretti teammate Alexander Rossi, Hinchcliffe and Andretti's Zach Veach lost big chunks of time with each tour.

With the top six running in formation, lap 42 brought a change of position as Wickens dropped Veach down to seventh. Dixon took seventh from Veach on lap 46 at the same time Newgarden's lead over Bourdais hit the 10-second mark.

As the clock wound down to 43 minutes remaining, the only movement of interest in the lead pack was coming from Wickens, who started with an eight-second deficit to his teammate in fifth. Lap 48 saw Hinchcliffe take fourth from Rossi, and behind the Long Beach winner, Wickens drew down the gap to a half-second. Wickens demoted Rossi on lap 49 and resumed his hunt for Hinchcliffe as Newgarden pitted on lap 50.

With 41 minutes left to run, Bourdais took the lead and tried to stretch his tires and fuel for their one-stop plan. Newgarden's fresher Firestone primary tires were almost 1.0s faster per lap, and the battle of all-out speed versus conservation was on.

Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe stopped on lap 54 and returned nose to tail as Bourdais and Dixon stayed out. Bourdais finally stopped on lap 56 – with 33 minutes to go – and Dixon pushed his pit lane visit one lap father. Once the stops were done, Newgarden held a massive 23s lead over Bourdais, but had a second stop in his future as the clock dipped below the 30-minute point.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Rossi, and Wickens filled out the top six as Dixon's extended one-stop gamble left him 41s arrears due to running longer on tires that were well past their prime. Behind the top six, Ed Carpenter Racing's Jordan King was impressing once more as the rookie pursued Wickens from seventh. King also faced pressure from behind, as Dixon took eighth from Penske's Simon Pagenaud, and behind him, A.J. Foyt Racing rookie Matheus Leist wasn't far behind in 10th with 22 minutes to go.

A call for Rossi to pit on lap 65 with rain drop starting to fall put the American on Firestone slicks. Rossi would return in 12th, as Dixon passed King for seventh with a neat move into Turn 5. An off-track excursion and a another stop for wets would relegate Rossi to 11th at the finish.

As rain started to fall more consistently, Newgarden maintained a 25s gap to Bourdais as teams wondered if a stop for Firestone wets would be required before the two-hour time limit was reached.

Newgarden was first in on lap 72 – with 14 minutes to go – to take wets as Bourdais stayed out. The Penske driver resumed with a 7.0s deficit to Bourdais and fell back on wets that, at the present level of rainfall, were approximately 5.0s per lap slower than Bourdais on Firestone slicks.
Hunter-Reay took second from the compromised Newgarden, but pitted shortly after the pass. Most of the field, barring Bourdais and Dixon, shot into the pits for wets as the race fell below the 10-minute mark.

Down to eight minutes, and with the rain falling harder, Newgarden cut Bourdais' lead to almost nothing as the Coyne driver was forced to pit for wets. With the gamble working in the polesitter's favor, Newgarden cruised home to an easy 9.9s win in his Chevy over the Honda duo of Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe.

Fastest in the dry and fastest in the wet, Newgarden and Team Penske ruled the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Will the trend continue as the series moves to its second consecutive natural terrain road course for the Indy GP on May 12? If Barber Motorsports Park was an indicator, the front-running Bowtie drivers could be preparing for another trip to Victory Lane.

Barber results

Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud and Harding Racing's Gabby Chaves completed the Honda Indy Grand Prix at Alabama ensconced in a curse-laden argument on pit lane in front of a few journalists.

The argument, stemming from Pagenaud's assertion that Chaves made it excessively difficult to pass while the Harding driver was down at least one lap, devolved rather quickly.

"Get the f**k outta here," Chaves said as the confrontation grew.

"You we're two laps behind," the ninth-place Pagenaud said of the Harding driver's 17th-place entry.

"As soon as you got next to me, I let you by," Chaves continued.

With a few more insults added in during the exchange, the two parted ways and put and end to their rainy and unsatisfying days.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Ferrari's treatment of Kimi Raikkonen should serve as a warning to Daniel Ricciardo as he weighs his future.

Ricciardo is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with a move to either Mercedes or Ferrari next year with three of the four seats technically still open for 2019. After an impressive win for the 28-year-old in China, Horner pointed to Ferrari's use of Raikkonen – compromising the Finn's strategy to aid Sebastian Vettel – as a warning against Ricciardo joining the Scuderia.

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}
"If you look at Kimi's race, I didn't understand that strategy," Horner said. "I think Daniel's happy in the environment. If we can give him a car like we did [to win in China], why would he want to be anywhere else?"

When it was put to Horner that Ricciardo has been having a tough time at Red Bull prior to his win last time out, Horner replied: "[The win] was great for him.

"He had the energy store failure in Bahrain, he had a turbo failure [in FP3 in China], losing him important track time. You get to a point where you think 'what next,' but it's a great confidence booster for him, to get this result now in this point in the year. Everything is wide open."

And Horner says Ricciardo is the perfect partner for Max Verstappen at present, as the Australian is the more complete driver at this stage of his F1 career, with Verstappen coming under increased scrutiny after a number of incidents this season.

"[Daniel] is a very rounded driver now. He's absolutely at the top of his game and I think he has been for the last couple of years. He's hit that balance of experience and pace.

"He's one of the best overtakers in the business and his judgement is impeccable in terms of judging a gap, getting the car stopped and getting it rotated. I feel he's in a different part of his career to where Max is at the moment, who is still very young and fresh and going through that experience."

Kevin Magnussen's strong start to the season is in part down to the stability of having two years with the same team, according to Haas team principal Guenther Steiner.

Having scored a podium on debut for McLaren in 2014 and impressed in his rookie season, Magnussen lost his race seat for the following year before joining Renault in 2016. Last year he switched to Haas, making this the first time the Dane has raced for the same team in consecutive Formula 1 seasons. Steiner sees it as an important factor in his strong form so far this year.

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}
"He likes the car and the car is good and that combination has given him confidence," Steiner said. "He doesn't have to overdo things. He believes in himself that he can do a good job with a good car.

"I think being with us for two years now has a lot to do with it. The first year, he figured out everybody. He knows who is who. He likes the atmosphere around the team. He hasn't had this before and, now, coming into the second season is something new, and it's helped pull the talent out of him."

Magnussen has scored back-to-back top-ten finishes and is already over halfway to last year's points total of 19, and the driver himself believes the results are a combination of the car's pace and his own experience.

"The main thing is that we have a good car, a better car this year," Magnussen said. "I also think it makes a big difference that I'm with the same team for a second year, having that continuity. You have a totally different preparation and some experience to rely on."

Having finished seventh in last year's chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Magnussen is hopeful of a repeat result as he feels this season's car will be much more suited to the Baku City Circuit.

"Well, I think we were very lucky to find ourselves in third position in last year's race – it wasn't at all our natural position. We finished seventh, and even that wasn't our natural position. We were pretty uncompetitive at last year's grand prix in Baku, but we capitalized on other people's mistakes. I'm sure we're going to be more competitive and, hopefully, we'll be as lucky as we were last year, as well."

Sergio Perez is hoping Force India will start getting luckier in races – starting with this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix – after noticing progress from the team since the first race of the season.

Force India heavily updated its car at the opening race and was still learning about its upgrade in Melbourne, failing to score points after dropping out in Q2. Bahrain saw a step forward but contact for Perez on the opening lap prevented him scoring, although teammate Esteban Ocon picked up the team's first point in tenth. After another solid showing in China again didn't yield a top-ten finish, Perez believes the team should have more to show from its recent level of competitiveness.

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

"The first few races haven't gone very smoothly for me," Perez said. "I think I've been unlucky, especially in Bahrain, but I know it sometimes happens in racing. The last race in China was really disappointing because I lost out on lap one and there was no way to recover to the points. Our pace was competitive and we took another step forward with the car performance, but things just didn't work out on race day.

"The progress we have made since Melbourne was visible in Shanghai and I'm feeling happier with the balance of the car now. We are catching up and getting back to our normal position. I think Baku will be interesting because it's all about good top speed and being confident on the brakes. I love the challenge of street tracks and I really enjoy driving in Baku."

With more small updates in Baku, Ocon agrees that points have to be the target for both cars after Force India rectified a correlation issue between its simulation tools and the track.

"Baku is definitely a great chance for us to score points," Ocon said. "The car is improving with each race and I can see how hard everybody is working to find more performance. At every race this year we've had new items to test and it's the same this weekend.

"It's still early days in the season and if we can unlock the potential in the car I think we can be up there fighting consistently at the front of the midfield."

With the Riley/Multimatic Mk. 30 P2 chassis it raced at Daytona up for sale, BAR 1 Motorsports owner Brian Alder says his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team is busy searching for a direction to follow.

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}
"We made a gamble on the Prototype class with that car and I believe it's really good," he told RACER. "Mazda's going very good with the chassis as their DPi, so I know it has a lot of potential. But our only showing was Daytona and we didn't have any pro drivers to show that potential, so the car's owner has decided to sell it."

Listed with an asking price of $395,000, the ex-Keating Motorsports Mk. 30 made its debut at last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans before being acquired by one of Alder's clients. At Le Mans, and again at Daytona in January, the car's top speed limitations prevented a competitive outing, but it's believed the chassis has potential to at circuits where low-drag aerodynamic setups are not required.

"I wish we had more time to work with the car, but since it's being sold, we're working on what's next for our team," Alder continued. "Nothing for us to report at this moment, but there are some talks taking place that could lead somewhere interesting."

Had Sunday's Honda Indy Grand Prix at Alabama continued for a few more minutes – IndyCar's original minimum goal of a one-hour race given the expected dreary forecast – Josef Newgarden theoretically could have collected valuable points with a win that could impact his place in the championship come September. But would it have been fair?

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

When asked about the value of fair competition versus running laps until the race was called, Newgarden said he didn't want to just run out the clock.

"Look, I was calling for us to not run," said the pole-sitter, who avoided an incident with a save on the lap 17 restart that saw teammate Will Power crash into the pit wall.

"For me, I was in the easiest situation. I was leading the race, had the best viewpoint. We do another 14 minutes under caution, we call the thing halfway from a distance standpoint, or time standpoint, sorry, we pick up the win. It's more advantageous for us to get it in. I didn't want to do that. I didn't think the conditions were right.

"The weather tomorrow is going to be a lot better and we'll get a full race in. I actually don't know what the procedure is. We'll get rest of the race in. It will be a good show and be if a fair fight for everyone."

After a 37-minute red flag the race was restarted under caution, but most of the drivers still couldn't see.

"Absolutely nothing is what I was seeing, which wasn't great," said Alexander Rossi, who was running fourth. "Under that first yellow there, we were asked to go green again. I didn't think it was the right thing to do. We did. Obviously the result of that was the car hydroplaning off.

barber rain abbott"I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It's a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It's never the result that you want. But safety is obviously a priority.

"I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we're all in one piece and try again later."

Newgarden agreed the decision to postpone the race was tough but the right call.

"We want to put on a good race. We want to put in a show," he said. "So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it's tough, it's tough to do that.

"But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were okay. You could run at that level of rain. Then it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns one and two, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form.

"Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It's got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It's this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We've run here in the rain before. It intensified to the point where you're starting to get in a situation where it's going to take it out of the drivers' hands.

"What happened with Will I don't think is a driver error. I don't know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too."

The remainder of the Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama has been postponed to Monday due to untenable track conditions caused by persistent heavy rain, wind and darkness.

Josef Newgarden has led all 22 laps. The race will resume at noon ET/11 a.m. CT (pre-race at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN). The race is scheduled for 90 laps or two hours, whichever comes first. When lead-lap cars cross the start/finish line for Monday's resumption, 23 laps will be complete and about 75 minutes will remain on the race clock.

Teams can choose to restart on either the Firestone primary or alternate dry-condition tire compound unless INDYCAR declares a wet-weather restart, in which case the rain tires must be used. Teams may also choose the quantity of fuel in the car for the restart.

The race got underway 35 minutes earlier than originally scheduled because of the weather and started under the caution, going green on lap 2. On lap 3 Marco Andretti, who had been chasing teammate Alexander Rossi, spun going downhill in the museum corner, dropping him to 21st but only bringing out a local yellow.

Newgarden opened up a four-second lead while the rest of the field did their best to try and see the track around them.

By lap 9 Power cut the gap to 2.3 seconds, and while the drivers mostly stayed on track drivers began communicating that visor fog prevented them from seeing much of anything.

Charlie Kimball brought out a full-course caution on lap 12 after contact with Ed Jones broke his front wing and his car went into anti-stall mode at Turn 6.

The leaders chose not to pit, and under caution several drivers radioed that streams from Turn 1 into Turn 2 could cause issues on the next restart.

So when the green came out on Lap 17, Newgarden got really loose and made a great save, but immediately behind him his teammate Will Power hit the throttle, hydroplaned and spun, hitting the pit wall but narrowly missing Ryan Hunter-Reay.

A red flag was shown on lap 19.

"I couldn't see a thing, and I had one car in front of me," a dejected Power told NBC Sports. "I just aquaplaned, just spun. I just can't believe they went green on that, how bad it was with the amount of standing water. Very disappointing but to me very dangerous.

"You could see it was getting really bad. I kept saying to Roger I can't see a thing in front of like the lap before, I can't even see my hand in front of my face.

"I don't know what you do in that situation because if you completely back off you get hit from behind, and if you try to keep throttle in it, like I did, you spin."

barber visibility

"With the new car the underwing is pretty powerful, it's just throwing water absolutely everywhere," Graham Rahal told the NBC Sports booth. "I think the Firestone rain tires have done a good job and the car seems to be half decent, just gotta keep it safe. I'm not kidding you, on the front straight I can't see my own nose cone."

Newgarden told NBC Sports' Townsend Bell that Barber's elevation changes created the rivers that led to the restart mess.

"It was manageable at the beginning, and then towards the end before we got to that [lap 12] caution, it started getting worse, and you started noticing more pooling water, getting wheel spin on the front stretch," he explained. "And then that caution it just got really bad, everything started pooling in. ... Unfortunately what you get at a track like this with a bunch of elevation, one of the coolest tracks you can come to to race at and watch, but it just gets very difficult when you get a lot of rain."

After a 37-minute red flag the race restarted under caution, ran five laps before the second red flag was thrown for track conditions, rain and wind at 3:27 p.m. local time.

IndyCar officials postponed the rest of the race just before 5 p.m. CT. 

"I love racing in the rain and I love this track but we couldn't see and it was just impossible conditions," said Newgarden.

Sebastien Bourdais holds second place, Hunter-Reay third, Alexander Rossi fourth and James Hinchcliffe sat fifth as the cars were stopped on pit road.

Barber report

Lucas Oil Off Road Racing


Subscribe to Racer



Mazda Team Joest's Growth

Scott Dixon on the IndyCar Deflector test

See more than 50 On Board videos.

Race Car For Sale

Radical SR-3 RS


close icon
Mobile Advertisement