IndyCar 2017 – Newgarden takes Barber win as Power suffers late race puncture

Henry Kelsall

Josef Newgarden took his first Team Penske victory in a tense battle in the Grand Prix of Alabama, after late race drama saw Will Power pit out of the lead thanks to a puncture.

Power had taken the pole on Saturday in a Penske 1-2-3 as Newgarden lined up P7, but with an extra set of sticker red tyres for the race. As the race went green Power lead the field away and controlled the race up front, as Newgarden and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon were his closest challengers as Newgarden climbed up the field from P7. The race suffered its first full course yellow just after the opening lap for debris from contact between Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe, but the action soon resumed. Frenetic midfield action ensued as Power continued to lead, Newgarden closed in on the top positions, putting a great move on Simon Pagenaud and muscling him onto the grass.

The first pitstop saw Power retain his lead as initial second place man Helio Castroneves dropped back, allowing Dixon and Newgarden to take over second and third. Newgarden was initially running on the red alternate tyres ahead of Dixon as he and Power ran the primary black tyres. As the stint went on, this allowed Dixon to close up onto the Penske as the red tyres lost grip. A mistake on lap 42 at turn 3 saw Dixon fight past Newgarden who was subsequently brought into the pits by his Penske crew. This put Newgarden on the primary black tyres. Dixon came in for reds and was charging hard behind Newgarden. Newgarden subsequently had to push hard to keep Dixon at bay, which saw him close right up to Power as the top three became covered by just over 1.5 seconds. Power though later pulled away leaving the two behind to squabble among themselves.

However, the race took a twist when Spencer Pigot spun out at turn 6 bringing out the pace car. This brought out a frentic dash to pit road, which saw Power maintain his lead but Dixon getting ahead of Newgarden. Power didn’t lead however as Charlie Kimball had stayed out. The Ganassi driver would lead initially at the restart but pit soon after. That restart came with 22 laps to go, and at the penultimate corner Newgarden dived up the inside of Dixon to wrestle back P3, and he then set about catching Power.  After Kimball made his last stop on lap 75, Power took over the lead but Newgarden and Dixon rapidly caught up with him. The reason soon became clear, a deflating rear right was the cause of Powers issue. He argued with his team over two laps and looked like he would stay out but he then dived to pit road to change tyres, gutting after a good 60 laps in the lead and looking set to take his first win of the year.


This left Dixon and Newgarden to fight it out for the lead. Simon Pagenaud was P3 and unable to join the fight as he was in fuel save mode, with Castroneves P4 and Alex Rossi a brilliant 5th after starting 18th on the grid. The Herta-Andretti driver showed that his Long Beach pace, where he could have won, was no fluke and was keeping James Hinchcliffe at bay. Back at the front, Dixon was closing on Newgarden and the pair engaged in a tense and thrilling duel for the last stint of the race. Dixon though couldn’t get past and Newgarden took the fourth win of his career and his first for Penske ahead of Dixon, who took his 5th runner-up spot in Alabama and 7th podium at the venue, and Pagenaud in 3rd. Championship leader Sebastian Bourdais was P8 and still holds the lead in the title race, but Dixon has brought it down to just a six point lead as the first oval race at Phoenix beckons.

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