Monday June 15, 2015
Ever since scoring his initial IndyCar win in Alabama last April, Josef Newgarden has been trying to regain his mojo. Ditto for CFH Racing. The month of May was an expensive disaster with three big accidents and Texas turned out to be a maddening exercise in futility for Ed Carpenter and Newgarden.
If any team in the paddock needed a turnout it was CFH but what happened Sunday afternoon was hard to imagine. Starting 11th and getting a very fortuitous yellow flag after his first pit stop, Newgarden parlayed his good fortune and good pace into a stunning victory over teammate Luca Filippi to give Ed Carpenter, Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman their first-ever 1-2 finish.
"I think that's the first time we had that kind of luck, where we got out front and it was ours to lose and when it happened we didn't lose it," said Newgarden, who led a race-high 30 laps (along with Will Power) – including the final 14 in his Hartman Oil Dallara-Chevrolet.
"We hit a high at Barber, then had a tough May and a miserable Texas but that's what motorsports is all about. It knocks you down every time you think you're good and this is all about this CFH team. They gave us great cars today."
Filippi, who started sixth in the Fuzzy's Special driven to victory a year ago by Mike Conway, was never out of the lead pack and stalked Newgarden to the checkered flag – finishing only 1.4 seconds behind.
"We needed a good result and we got one today," said the 24-year-old Italian. "This is the first track I've been back to for a second time and I felt good all weekend. I made one run at Josef near the end but I couldn't get him so I settled into second because I didn't want to jeopardize our day.
"I'm just happy for Ed, Sarah and Wink and these two teams. What a great group of guys."
Fisher admitted the result wasn't in her thought process going to the green flag. "Based on qualifying, I never thought it would have happened but I'm so proud of everyone, they never quit fighting.
"Wink and Libba weren't here today and I wish they could have been because it's so unreal and so much fun."
It was surreal in the context that Team Penske looked unbeatable in qualifying and during the first third of the race. Power, Simon Pagenaud and Juan Montoya lined up 1-2-3 with Helio Castroneves slotted seventh in the 23-car field.
Morning-long rains subsided a half hour before the race began, but the tricky street circuit around Exhibition Place was still soaked and it was rain tires for everyone until Marco Andretti bravely bolted on slicks on lap 8.
Power and Pagenaud stopped a few laps later to get dry tires and didn't relinquish their positions and put on a dandy duel for the next 15 minutes. Power led the first 30 laps with Pagenaud right on his gearbox and they opened up a healthy advantage over Scott Dixon, Juan Montoya and Filippi.
But the completion of the race changed on lap 29 when James Jakes slid into the tires in Turn 5. Running 11th, Newgarden pitted on lap 28 and when the track went full-course yellow, he suddenly had fantastic track position as everyone else pitted. Helio Castroneves had nearly spun and pitted out of sequence so he inherited the top spot on lap 31 before giving it up to Newgarden on lap 42.
"We didn't have track position, didn't qualify where we wanted to and it was difficult to get to the front even with a good car," said Newgarden. "But that caution obviously put us up front and once we got out front we showed what we had."
Things got real interesting around lap 63. Castroneves was leading Rodolfo Gonzalez and Newgarden by 23 seconds when he pitted for the final time on lap 67. He exited the pits in third but quickly got passed by the onrushing Filippi.
When Gonzalez pitted on lap 72, Newgarden was back in front with his teammate all over him.
"I couldn't get through traffic and Luca really closed the gap," he said. "He got up alongside of me once but I was able to hold him off and what a day for this team."
Power, driving with a broken left thumb, soldiered home in fourth place just ahead of Sebastian Bourdais, Tony Kanaan, Montoya, Dixon, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato.
With a much-needed week off for the mechanics, Montoya still owns a 27-point lead over Power heading to Fontana for a 500-miler.