Josef Newgarden knows all too well the vagaries of racing, which can be either a help or hinderance to a driver.
He was the beneficiary in multiple ways in the second Firestone Indy Lights race of the weekend on the City Centre Airport circuit, earning his fourth victory of the season by a comfortable margin over Andretti Autosport's Stefan Wilson.
It all started on lap 9 of 40 when Esteban Guerrieri overtook polesitter Newgarden in Turn 5 on the 2.224-mile, 13-turn course. In the process, the front wing assembly was damaged. Guerrieri continued until lap 22, when the endplate of the wing began cutting into the right-front tire.
“It was an aggressive move on Josef," said Guerrieri, who won the first race a day earlier. "It was the closest I had been to him since the start. I was very good on the brakes. I dived in and didn't think there would be contact, but I knew it would be difficult for him to open the door. I knew (the front wing) was failing. My engineer told me it was damaged, and I could feel no downforce in the front.
"It was a bit unlucky, but I don't regret it. I had to be aggressive and that's what I did.”
Newgarden overtook his teammate for the lead – and inherited a 10-second advantage over Wilson – when Guerrieri pitted to have the Sam Schmidt Motorsports crew switch front wings. All Newgarden had to do the remaining laps was stay out of trouble and enjoy the ride in the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car.
"You can talk about it all day long, what you're going to do but you don't know actually what is going to happen until you get in the race," said Newgarden, 20, of Hendersonville, Tenn. "You've got to be heads up at all times. Certainly, between Esteban and me, everyone has been asking about it, especially this weekend it seems like everyone is interested in the dynamics between us two.
"We're good friends. The reason we're so quick is that we're working so hard together. We're pushing each other and I think that's why we're doing such a good job. The team has given us an incredible amount of good equipment. Sam has brought in the right people to help us."
Andretti Autosport's Peter Dempsey, who wound up on his top in a Race 1 crash, finished third and and Victor Carbone posted a season-best fourth place in the No. 3 Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. Oliver Webb, making his Firestone Indy Lights debut this weekend, was fifth in the No. 12 Jensen MotorSport car.
"Hats off to the Andretti Autosport team for staying here all night and getting my car ready for today after my incident in Race 1," said Dempsey, competing in his second race with the team.
Guerrieri, who rejoined the race after the pit stop, was issued a black flag on Lap 37 for disobeying orders from Race Control and was credited with 14th place. The result increased Newgarden's championship points lead to 63 heading into the race in Quebec in two weeks.
The starting lineup was set by fastest laps during the first race.