He made it look easy, but Josef Newgarden said winning the KOHLER Grand Prix was anything but that on Sunday.
The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion led all but two laps to claim victory at the iconic Road America circuit. Driving the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Newgarden won by 3.3759 seconds over Ryan Hunter-Reay to pick up his third victory of the 2018 season and 10th of his seven-year career.
"It was a hard-fought day; it was not as easy as it looked," Newgarden said. "I was looking at my mirrors half the day at Ryan closing in on me. I think that Team Chevy engine made the difference. I had the fuel mileage that I needed, good power, good reliability - everything that you'd expect from Team Chevy. At the end of the day, to me, that's what made the difference."
Starting from the pole position after winning the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying on Saturday, Newgarden led the first 13 laps on the 14-turn, 4.014-mile permanent road course until making his first pit stop. Scott Dixon, the points leader driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, led two laps before also stopping, with Newgarden reassuming first place and never relinquishing it the rest of the way.
Newgarden wound up leading 53 of the 55 laps to give Team Penske its fifth win at Road America and victory No. 202 for the team in 51 years of Indy car competition. The race ran caution-free for the ninth time at Road America and first since 2000, with Newgarden's speed average of 132.101 mph establishing a race record.
"It was a day of executing. Team Penske did a great job," Newgarden said. "You're trying to juggle fuel economy and driving fast and the tires are wearing out, so you're nearly wrecking towards the end of the stints in all the high-speed corners. It's really difficult to manage the whole thing but our car was phenomenal. Our car was great on Firestone reds (alternates tires). I was loving the reds today so that's why I kept choosing them."
Hunter-Reay, in the No. 28 DHL Honda, secured his best Road America finish in five tries with the runner-up finish. It moved the Andretti Autosport driver into second place in the championship after 10 of 17 races, trailing Dixon by 45 points.
"I thought we had the pace for (Newgarden) early on," said Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion. "But after we took that second-to-last set of reds and then at the end with him on the new reds, I could keep up with him for a bit but then in the dirty air I just couldn't do anything with him. That's about all we had today.
"Good, fun day. One position short."
Dixon, the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2017 winner at Road America, recovered from his worst starting position in five starts at the track (eighth) to finish third.
"Had we started a little further up, we could have had a good shot at trying to fight for the win today," Dixon said. "Speed-wise, we were right there. Had a bit of a crack at Hunter-Reay on his out lap on the last stint there, but cooked it too much going into (Turn) 14, got a bit loose, lost momentum. That would have been really the only chance of passing him.
"All in all, great points day for us, lead in the championship, which is important."
Two championship front-runners suffered issues that saddled them with disappointing finishes. Will Power, winner of the 102nd Indianapolis 500 last month, had a mechanical issue at the start, completing just two laps in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and finishing last in the 23-car field.
"Literally from as soon as I started warming it up, there was something amiss," Power said. "I have no clue. They replaced the exhaust and it still didn't take, so the Chevy guys will take deep look at it."
Alexander Rossi was running fourth when he was forced to pit with a front suspension issue on the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda with 17 laps remaining. The Andretti Autosport driver finished 16th.
"I think we had a car definitely to fight to be on the podium," Rossi said. "It wasn't enough to win today, but halfway through the third stint we had some camber shims fall out of the left front tire which made it pretty undriveable. It's disappointing when something unlucky like that happens."
The standings after 10 of 17 races have Dixon in the lead with 393 points, followed by Hunter-Reay (348), Rossi (348), Newgarden (343), Power (328), Graham Rahal (278), Robert Wickens (274), Simon Pagenaud (255), Sebastien Bourdais (235) and Marco Andretti (232).
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to action Sunday, July 8 with the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. The race from the 0.894-mile oval airs live at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
INDYCAR, Road America announce three-year race extension
INDYCAR and Road America have agreed to a three-year extension for the Verizon IndyCar Series to continue racing at the historic permanent road course in east central Wisconsin.
George Bruggenthies, Road America president and general manager, made the announcement prior to Sunday's KOHLER Grand Prix, which was the 28th Indy car race on the circuit dating to the first event in 1982.
INDYCAR, which returned to Road America in 2016 following a nine-year hiatus, will continue to stage its event through at least 2021. The 2019 race weekend is scheduled for June 21-23.
"Ask any driver, from nearly every discipline, especially open-wheel, and they love this place," Bruggenthies said. "The track is designed to make full use of the natural terrain, with elevation changes and undulating turns that allow for intense speeds that test driver skill to the maximum. Combine that with our park-like atmosphere, open seating and great spectator locations and it all equates to IndyCar Series racing at its best.
"We are very pleased to continue this relationship with INDYCAR and we look forward to many more incredible events at America's National Park of Speed."
The agreement continues the heritage of Indy cars competing at the track listed by most INDYCAR drivers as among their favorites on the schedule. The list of past winners at Road America contains many of the all-time champions in the sport. Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi and Michael Andretti collected three race wins each. Other Indy car champions with Road America victories include Danny Sullivan, Paul Tracy, Jacques Villeneuve, Alex Zanardi, Dario Franchitti, Cristiano da Matta, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power and Scott Dixon - with Josef Newgarden adding his name to the list on Sunday.
"Road America represents everything good about INDYCAR racing, from the on-track action to the viewing opportunities to the fans and staff here," said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "We welcome the chance to race here for years to come."
The complete 2019 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule will be announced at a later date.
Franzoni, Kirkwood win Mazda Road to Indy races
Victor Franzoni drove to a resounding victory in the second Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race of the Road America weekend on an emotional weekend for his Juncos Racing team.
A week after his Pro Mazda teammate from 2017, Jeff Green, died in a vintage racing crash in Canada, Franzoni led 18 of 20 laps and won by nearly nine seconds to secure his first Indy Lights victory and become the latest in a select group to win races in all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy.
"This has been a difficult weekend for us," said Franzoni, the 22-year-old Brazilian who won the Pro Mazda title last season when paired with Green at Juncos. "We came here with two kinds of pressure: to get back into the points fight and to make a good showing for Jeff.
"I got the pole (Saturday) but had one of the worst races of my career, and today I had the best race of my career - and I'm glad that I could give that to Jeff. He's the one who got me into Indy Lights and to give him this victory means so much."
Colton Herta of Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing saw his four-race win streak end but finished second. Herta leads Andretti Autosport teammate Patricio O'Ward by 17 points after eight of 16 Indy Lights race.
In the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda Kyle Kirkwood of Cape Motorsports passed Lucas Kohl of Pabst Racing on a last-lap restart and went on to win by 0.4663 of a second to sweep the Road America doubleheader weekend. Kirkwood has won four straight USF2000 races and five overall this season.
Kirkwood holds a commanding 94-point lead over Alex Baron halfway through the 14-race USF2000 season.
KOHLER Grand Prix Driver Quotes
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "What a day. I don't know what to say, I'm worn out. I was doing everything I could to keep Ryan (Hunter-Reay), I knew (Scott) Dixon was close, too, so it was a day of executing. Team Penske did a great job. Tim (Cindric, race strategist) gave me the strategy I needed. The guys were perfect in their pit stops. I don't know what to tell you. It was a hard-fought day, it was not as easy as it looked. I was looking at my mirrors half the day with Ryan closing in on me. I think that Team Chevy engine made the difference. I had the engine mileage that I needed, the power, good reliability - everything that you'd expect from Team Chevy. At the end of the day, to me, that's what made the difference."
MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "Today was a really tough race. We've just been struggling a lot finding the right car setup. We can't quite figure out the best setup for tracks like these. All we can do is prepare the best we can for Iowa."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): "Eventful day for us. We kind of got snuck around on the start with (Will) Power having his problems; I was at the wrong place at the wrong time and lost a few spots. Ultimately, we had really good pace in our first stint. We were taking care of the Firestones really well and were able to make up positions as we cycled through. We had a problem with fuel on the first stop, which cost us a ton of time, and without a caution flag to kind of reset the field, it was a really, really tough race driving back through the field. We were great on the reds (Firestone alternate tires), and stops after the first one were flawless. To drive back up to a top 10 from where we were, really proud of the Arrow Electronics boys today. We would have liked a little bit better than 10th - I think we had a better car than that, but given the circumstances, it was a good day."
ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): "It was a tough one for us today. We had a great start... I think something happened to Will (Power) so we moved up there. I made a move on (Alexander) Rossi in Turn 5, and suddenly I was P3. I thought it was all happy days from there, but Alex got back on the inside of me in Turn 6 - I gave him space, he pushed me off, and I fell back to sixth. It was kind of a struggle from there. We had a great car, but we didn't have the track position to make a three-stop strategy work; there was no real flexibility on the strategy side. Everyone was pitting on the same laps, so in terms of trying to do something clever... I did see Scott (Dixon) was able to jump all of us there, so hats off to him, he deserved it. I think all things considered today, fifth place is a decent day. We struggled with a few things, so to come home fifth was good. We wanted the Lucas Oil car to be on the podium, but it wasn't our day today. If we keep on hammering these top fives, eventually we'll start having things go our way."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "The PNC Bank car had a ton of speed, at the end there it was just track position. Had we been able to crack in front of (Josef Newgarden or Ryan Hunter-Reay), I think we could have stayed in there, no problem. To try and close that gap, I made a really big run on Hunter-Reay coming into the last corner on Turn 14 during his out lap, and I just cooked it too much and got loose and lost momentum. I think that would have been the only chance I had to try and snag second (place) there. But good job by Josef and Ryan, it was a tough race and good points for us."
ED JONES (No. 10 First Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It was a tough start to the race. We kind of got sandwiched in when one of the cars had an issue, so my line got stacked up and I had nowhere to go. We dropped back, but the First Data car was good and we were able to pass a lot of cars and gain the ground back. That cost us a ton of track position which was hard to get back, but the team did a good job in the pits and we'll keep fighting in the races to come."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): (About what happened to cause him to retire early): "Literally from as soon as I started warming it up, there was something amiss. I have no clue. They replaced the exhaust and it still didn't take, so the Chevy guys will take a deep look at it." (About his up and down season): "It is unbelievable the amount of DNFs I have had this season. I have never had this many in my career in such a short period of time. Yep, that's racing. Goes one way and then the other. As quickly as it is down, it can swing the other way quickly in a good way. When I think about it, we came into the Month of May, I think, fifth in points and left as the leader, so it can change, man."
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "We missed on the setup. No excuses. We need to get better."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 GEHL Honda): "We were decent. We went to the new reds (Firestone alternate tires) on the third stint and probably just went on them too early, probably needed to keep them for the last stint. Overall, the car was decent -- not great -- we have to continue to work on it. We can be a top-five, top-six car but how do we win? We went to new reds on the third stint and it catapulted us up into the group with Robbie (Wickens), Takuma (Sato) and everyone, but I think we needed them at the end. We just have to go back and review that because we definitely needed new reds to close out the race. At the end of the day, it was a great day in the GEHL machine with another consistent result. How about that crowd? It's unbelievable when you drive around the track and see that many people, so thank you to everyone for coming out and supporting us. It was just like our other races. I shouldn't be disappointed, but we want to win. We have finished in the top-10 in every race this year but one, but at some point, we need to improve enough to win these things. We'll go enjoy the Fourth of July and then come back to battle at Iowa."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): "The SealMaster Honda was so strong again. We were holding with the lead group and I felt like the guys in front of us were starting to lose their tires faster than we were. The prospects were looking good, then I lost all shifting for about 30 seconds. It started to work again when I got on pit lane. We rebooted, but at that point, the race was basically over, as there was never a yellow to reset the field. Because we pitted early we had to save a massive amount of fuel, so that was pretty much a double penalty, the time lost and the amount of fuel I had to save the rest of the way. As usual, when you need a yellow it never comes. It's a shame. A really solid run that turned into no result. It is what it is. We will just keep at it, and hopefully, catch a break every now and again the rest of the season."
ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): "I had a decent start, but I made a mistake at the end of the first lap and that put us back. We just kind of stayed where we were for the first stint. Our pace was much better in the middle of the race, and things were looking good as we were heading into the final stint, but then, unfortunately, we had an electrical issue with the engine and that cost us at the end."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet): "No, definitely not. The start was pretty eventful for us. Obviously, Will (Power) had an issue and I got boxed in and the field was just kind of streaming past me on the inside. We fell back a bit on the first lap, but we were able to pass a lot of guys and move up. But the Direct Supply Chevy was really good for us, and the guys did really good on pit lane. It was a little frustrating to get passed by Simon (Pagenaud) there on the last lap, but we did the last stint there on used reds (Firestone alternate tires) and we were just hanging on there and he just got me. Overall, it was a great race and I had a lot of fun. There were a lot of really good battles, and a clean race, but a lot of hard driving."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a good weekend. Qualifying was a real shame. We definitely had a good car. We made big improvements throughout the weekend, but we over-balanced and barely missed Q2 where we could have adjusted and probably contended for the pole. It would have changed the whole race because the Menards Chevy was really good in the race. We managed to have a really good fuel saving during the race, so strategy was really good. Tires - when to have to the reds (Firestone alternate tires); when to have the blacks (Firestone primary tires). Made a lot of passes on track. We had a blast today. Coming from starting 14th to finish seventh on a track like this with no yellows is pretty outstanding. Very proud of my team. It was a really exciting race. I would like to have been up front more, but it was pretty good where we finished."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): "It's been a character-building weekend for everyone here at Carlin. I'm proud of the guys for trying something different on strategy for the race today. We knew that it was a possibility that the race would go full green here, which meant that our strategy for the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet might not work as well, but we felt like that was a risk worth taking. We'll go back and look at all of the data, keep learning, and keep taking steps forward. I'm looking forward to going to Iowa in a few weeks. We had good race pace on the last short oval we raced on in Phoenix, so we're optimistic about our starting point there."
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): "We had something come loose on the steering racks. Basically, one of the lock nuts that keep the toe-links in their position with the steering racks came loose. At the start, I had a good start up to P8 into Turn 1, and then the steering wheel started going left-hand down further and further to the point where I was going down the straightaway with my hands at seven and two (o'clock position), so it was kind of strange. Our fear was it was going to put us in the wall so we stopped, luckily. My crew did a great job - they found it and fixed it, but from that point on it set our fate to have no yellows here at Road America. We keep showing people we belong in the top 10 and we keep having performances to get us there, but little things keep taking us out of it. I think people are noticing the speed that we have - we just need a little bit of luck."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): "I definitely think we had a car to fight for a podium finish. It wasn't enough to win today, but halfway through the second stint, we had some camber shims fall out of the left front tire which made it pretty undrivable. It's disappointing that something like that happened. It's the way the world and racing works sometimes, but we're still second in the championship and we'll move focus to Iowa."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "Hats off to Josef (Newgarden) there, he did a great job. I thought we had the pace for him early on, but after he took that second to last set of reds (Firestone alternate tires), and then at the end, for him on the new reds, I could keep with him for a bit, but then in the dirty air, just couldn't do anything with him. It's about all we had today. I thought the car was really good. I was hoping to make it a better show for the fans, I was hoping to get up there and make it interesting, but I gave it 110 percent the whole way. Big thanks to the No. 28 DHL team again, rock stars in the pit lane and continued consistency."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): "We had a fast car. It's a shame that we missed the podium, but we need to find a little more speed. Thanks to the fans for all the support. It was another great event at Road America. We struggled at the beginning of the season and lost too much ground, but Graham (Rahal) and I are working close with the engineering side and shared a lot of stuff and picked up speed. I made a good start at the beginning and it was really fun. At one point, I was side-by-side (with Rossi) and pushed hard, and obviously, not very happy with that, but in the end we got the spot back and close to the podium. In high-level, professional racing, you shouldn't really be bumping each other. Obviously, I gave him room enough and he came inside. He just couldn't stop and came into me and bumped me. He did exactly the same thing to (Robert) Wickens at the start and I'm surprised the stewards didn't take action. I'm OK with side-by-side, just don't touch me. The guys did a tremendous job over the weekend and we hope to carry momentum to Iowa."
ALFONSO CELIS JR. (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): "I finally have my first race under my belt. It was a lot of learning and a lot to take in. It was important to finish no matter what, so that's good. I made some mistakes during the race. I had contact in Turn 1 at the start of the race, so we had to replace the front wing during the first pit stop. I am happy to finish the race and look forward to moving on from here."
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): "We made such an improvement in today's race from where we started this weekend. I very much enjoyed that race - it's such a pleasure to drive this Road America circuit. Obviously, it was a really clean race with no yellows and ended up being a fuel mileage race. We picked the right strategy and we had great stops, but we just didn't start off in the right place to fully maximize everything we did right. I feel like I extracted everything out of the car that I could and it's a shame that we can't do qualifying again and see where we'd end up after seeing how we did in our race today. I'm looking forward now to Iowa - I've had some success there, so hopefully, it'll translate into a good result for the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet in a few weeks."
GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): "It felt like we made some good changes overnight and we were able to pass some cars, be aggressive and have fun out there in the first few stints. Unfortunately, we had an issue with one of the air guns, I'm not quite sure what happened, but we ended up running over one of our air hoses. That cost us a drive-through (penalty), which obviously, on a long pit lane basically ended our day. Anyways, it's been a very positive change to challenge a bit more and race some cars! We were unlucky at the end, but we made a lot of progression which was the goal. Really looking forward to Iowa now."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): "I made the call to go to blacks (Firestone primary tires) at the end when we should've gone with reds (Firestone alternate tires) - so, I think that cost us a top-10 finish. I just completely lost the front and went off the track. I made an error there at the end of the race. I think I cost us a top 10 today."
KOHLER Grand Prix results
Results Sunday of the KOHLER Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 4.048-mile Road America, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 55, Running
2. (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 55, Running
3. (8) Scott Dixon, Honda, 55, Running
4. (7) Takuma Sato, Honda, 55, Running
5. (5) Robert Wickens, Honda, 55, Running
6. (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 55, Running
7. (14) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 55, Running
8. (10) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 55, Running
9. (12) Ed Jones, Honda, 55, Running
10. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 55, Running
11. (15) Marco Andretti, Honda, 55, Running
12. (13) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 55, Running
13. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 55, Running
14. (18) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 55, Running
15. (20) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 55, Running
16. (4) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 55, Running
17. (22) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 55, Running
18. (19) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 55, Running
19. (23) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 54, Running
20. (21) Alfonso Celis Jr, Chevrolet, 54, Running
21. (17) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 54, Running
22. (11) Zach Veach, Honda, 54, Running
23. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 2, Mechanical
Winner's average speed: 132.101 mph
Time of Race: 1:40:16.4165
Margin of victory: 3.3759 seconds
Cautions: 0 for 0 laps
Lead changes: 2 among 2 drivers
Newgarden, Josef 1 - 13
Dixon, Scott 14 - 15
Newgarden, Josef 16 - 55
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings:
Dixon 393, Hunter-Reay 348, Rossi 348, Newgarden 343, Power 328, Rahal 278, Wickens 274, Pagenaud 255, Bourdais 235, Andretti 232.