Josef Newgarden’s magical 2019 season continued at the unlikeliest of venues Saturday night.
Newgarden, who had never finished higher than eighth in his first seven NTT IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, held off Alexander Rossi to win the DXC Technology 600.
The win was the third of the year for Newgarden, who extended his point lead and has won two of the last three IndyCar races.
Newgarden, who started seventh, put himself in a position to win with a quick pit stop under yellow that gave him a fuel edge as he exited before the other lead-lap cars that had pitted. That got his No. 2 Team Penke Chevrolet much-needed track position to catch up with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon, the drivers with the dominant cars for most of the race.
After the third and final caution of the night, which was brought out by an incident between Dixon and Colton Herta, Newgarden fended off several charges by Rossi before beating him to the line by 0.8164 seconds in a race that went green for the final 13 laps.
“I knew we had a rocket ship it was just about getting it out front,” said Newgarden, whose 13th career win was his first on a superspeedway. “We were better in the front than were in the back. I knew if we got some track position we’d be OK. It was a good day to capitalize on some points.”
Newgarden, who led the final 45 laps, increased his lead to 25 points over Rossi, who tried his best to catch Newgarden but couldn’t make it happen. Newgarden knew the key on restarts was having the inside lane. It worked on restarts against both Dixon and Rossi.
Rossi knew he’d have his work cut out for him won the final restart.
“The second lane never came in,” Rossi said. “It’s disappointing. He [Newgarden] was really nowhere. They called a great race. He had a fast car obviously. Ultimately once he had track position there was really nothing I could do.”
With the fuel edge over the field because of the pit stop under yellow, Newgarden knew he had the car to beat. Even though Newgarden has momentum on his side, he knows it’s too early to think about the championship.
“You’ve got to stay consistent throughout the season,” Newgarden said. “You’ve got to stay on top of your game. I’ve got the best crew for it. It’s a little early to predict what will happen.”
Newgarden was able to capitalize on a night when many contenders struggled. An incident in the first pit stop doomed pole sitter Takuma Sato, who hit a crew member and wound up 15th after leading the first 60 laps.
Ryan Hunter-Reay also had a car that could win, but he pitted during the final yellow for tires and wasn’t able to make up ground on the track and finished fourth despite leading a race high 90 laps. And then Dixon incident with Herta finished both drivers as they were running second and third behind Newgarden at the time of their crash.
That opened the door for Team Penske to win its 10th race in the series’ last 14 oval races.
“It was a team effort tonight,” race strategist Tim Cindric said. “We had to have good pit stops all night. Track position was key. It was the fuel we needed to run those extra laps and we made something out of it. We only had three or four cars behind us on the lead lap so I thought a couple of those guys would come. It worked out just right.”