Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden in the No.1 Verizon Chevrolet for Team Penske started Saturday night’s Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway from 7th place on the grid.
A clever strategy from strategist Tim Cindric helped Newgarden take advantage of an early caution on lap 41 for Pietro Fittipaldi saw Newgarden pit on lap 43. At the restart, the Tennessee native was second and held a top ten position for most of the race. On lap 198, Newgarden passed Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Robert Wickens for the lead and never looked back claiming his first Phoenix win.
Speaking following the race, Newgarden commented by saying:
I think the thing is, Tim (Cindric) really knew what was going on. We kind of got undercut on the second pit stop sequence. A lot of guys got in front of us because we went long. I think our team, they knew what happened there, so we just flipped the script and basically jumped everyone on the last stop and that got us ahead. Then we had the fuel mileage from Chevy, which was awesome, able to finish it off. Good strategy calls tonight, and great in the pits. The pit stops are really what won this race as well, the execution there.
Will Power in the sister No.12 Verizon Chevrolet endured a disappointing race starting from 3rd place on the grid the Australian made a good getaway however, on 153 while challenging team mate Josef Newgarden for the lead of the race Power hit the wall and was forced to retire from the race.
Speaking following the race, Power commented by saying:
I was having a good race, actually. I felt like we had a pretty good Verizon Chevy. (Alexander) Rossi ran up on the inside of me pretty late and I got on the brakes once I saw him go to the inside because I knew the marbles were pretty bad. I was going pretty slow and still got up into the wall because it was like being on ice. Disappointed for the guys but we will just have to move on, have a couple of good races and get back in the hunt. I am determined for Long Beach, Barber, the Indy road course and the Indy 500. Happy to see Josef (Newgarden) in Victory Lane tonight though.
Simon Pagenaud who won the race here last season started event from second on the grid and went on to finish the race in 10th place in the No.22 Menards Chevrolet.
Speaking following the race the Frenchman commented by saying:
We practiced on pit road all weekend long and, I don’t know, for some reason it was super slippery tonight. I was honestly taking it easy on pit road because I knew that I had good track position and a good car. There was no need to push the limits. There was nothing I could have done differently in that situation. In fact, I’ve been replaying over in my head and I would have done the same thing every time. It is what it is and we got shuffled back and had to make the best of it, but the car had too much understeer. I couldn’t get rid of it. It was better at the end of the race, but it was too late at that point. Congrats to Josef (Newgarden) and Team Penske on getting a win early in the season. A little disappointed and frustrated though because we had a good Menards Chevrolet this weekend.