Will Power and his No.12 Verizon Team Penske car looked to have the race won. Leading from the start, Power was sitting on the point with 14 laps left in the 90 lap Honda Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America's First at Barber Motorsports Park leading his Penske teammate Josef Newgarden's No.2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet and Scott Dixon's No. 9 NTT Data Honda when his crew told Power that he was loosing air pressure in one of his rear tires.
Power hung on to the lead for as long as he could, finally pitting with 13 laps to go to replace the ailing tire but also giving up an hope of winning.
"It was such a great effort all around" said Power "But the car was awesome. It was so fast. I feel bad. I could feel it starting to bottom and then started having issues in some fast corners. I held on as long as I could but I knew (the tire) was going down - you could feel it. We'll move on to the next one. I'm thankful to my crew, Verizon, the whole team - they put a great effort in and that's how racing goes sometimes."
With Power in the pits the race lead fell to Newgarden who had made an aggressive move earlier in the race to pass Dixon and put himself in position to take advantage of any ill wind blowing Power's way.
The early portion of the race had Power leading followed by Dixon and Newgarden. On lap 63 Spencer Pigot's car rolled to a stop on course after Pigot had spun. A full course yellow was needed to remove Pigot's stricken racer allowing the field to pit a final time in the race. During those stop's Dixon's crew managed to get Dixon out out the pits behind Power but ahead of Newgarden.
Then on the lap 69 restart, Newgarden made the move of the race passing Dixon for second place and the eventual race win.
"What a great race here at Barber." said Dixon "Another second-place finish for the 9 car. I think that's our fifth runner-up here. One of these days we're going to win here. We had a great NTT Data car and we were right up in the mix for the win at the end. We just didn't have enough there, but all in all a good points day for the team. I saw (Josef Newgarden) late coming into (Turn) 15 or 16 on the last restart and I tried to turn down but the car was just so neutral I just didn't have the rear grip to pull it off. Kudos to Josef - he drove a hell of a race and the win was well deserved. The NTT Data car was strong in the race. I think we actually had the speed - I think if we would have had clean air in that race we would have checked out. I feel bad for Will Power too - I think maybe a flat tire there or something. It was definitely a good fight."
Newgarden's win by 1.0495 seconds over Dixon is his second on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course and comes two years after he secured his first career Verizon IndyCar Series victory at the same track. It also is the 26-year-old American's first win since joining Team Penske, which took three of the top four finishing positions in the 90-lap race. By comparison, it took Power five races, Castroneves seven and Pagenaud 19 to get their first wins for the team. The Team Penske now has 188 Indy car wins the most in IndyCar history.
"That was an awesome day." said Newgarden "This is what we work for as an entire group. We always want to get one of these cars in victory lane. And, for (teammate) Will Power, I feel so bad for those boys on the 12 Verizon car - they were on it today and I feel like it would have been a great battle between Will, myself and Scott (Dixon). But it ended up just being Scott and myself. It's a group effort here (at Team Penske) - all four of these guys work together. I'm thrilled for the (No.) 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevy guys but this is a team effort with all four cars. So whoever is in victory lane - we just want to get someone there with Team Penske."
Simon Pagenaud, last year's Barber race winner and Verizon IndyCar Series champion, placed third.
"You're racing and you just want to go as hard as you can, but we couldn't do it." said Pagenaud "The Menards Chevy had tremendous pace at the end. We struggled a little bit at the starts, and we adjusted the car during the race. I was very happy with the reds and on blacks at the end, it was good. We lost a lot of spots when Josef (Newgarden) hit me and I went in the grass in (Turn) 5. That's where I think we potentially lost the race win, but it is what it is. It was a good day overall. We transformed a tough start this season into good results and I think that's the key for the championship."
Fourth was the No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, just ahead of teammate Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet.
"With a little bit of luck with the yellow, Will (Power) cutting the tire and (James) Hinchcliffe going off, we were able to get back into the top four." Castroneves said "The AAA Chevy was really good, actually. It was just unfortunate with the black tires which actually had good balance, but were a little bit slow. When you had the Firestone reds, it was fast but it was too loose to control. Saving fuel toward the end was a little bit hard. Congrats to Josef (Newgarden) on his first win (with Team Penske). He's not the rookie anymore. That's why Roger (Penske) keeps hiring young talent and we keep pushing."
Alexander Rossi, winner of last year's historic 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, gained the most positions from start to finish of any driver, going from 18th on the grid to wind up fifth in the No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda.
"We knew based on our starting position that we had to come up with something different." said Rossi "We knew we were stopping early, then it was about how fast we can go while saving fuel. The team did a good job and gave me a good car. Considering we started 18th, a top five is really good. We worked really hard overnight and tried to understand where we made mistakes this weekend. We'll use it as a learning experience and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Sebastien Bourdais, in the No.18 Sonny's BBQ Honda, finished eighth in the race to retain the championship lead. Bourdais has accumulated 117 points, with Dixon second at 111, Newgarden third with 110, Pagenaud fourth with 106 and James Hinchcliffe fifth at 102.
"I'm really happy for the whole crew." said Bourdais "Everybody did a really good job, we had solid pit stops. We didn't have a great weekend at all. Performance wise we were average the whole time and I was very unhappy with the car so to salvage a top 10 and P8 like that in circumstances where there really wasn't much going on, you have to feel pretty good about it. I think we learned a few things this weekend for the road course which we haven't had many opportunities this year with the testing restrictions and it's going to help us to get the car better for the rest of the season, so that was key to understanding what was doing what. I'm not sure we understand everything yet but today was a pretty big step in validating some of the things we understood. Now on to the next one."
Barber officials announced a three-day attendance of 82,745, which equated to a ticket revenue increase of more than 10 percent from last year.
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the iconic 1.022-mile Phoenix Raceway oval April 29 for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix under the lights. Race coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
1. (7) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 90, Running
2. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 90, Running
3. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 90, Running
4. (2) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 90, Running
5. (18) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 90, Running
6. (6) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 90, Running
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 90, Running
8. (12) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 90, Running
9. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 90, Running
10. (8) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 90, Running
11. (5) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 90, Running
12. (9) Max Chilton, Honda, 90, Running
13. (21) Graham Rahal, Honda, 90, Running
14. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 90, Running
15. (15) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 90, Running
16. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 90, Running
17. (16) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 90, Running
18. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 90, Running
19. (19) Zach Veach, Chevrolet, 90, Running
20. (17) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 89, Running
21. (13) Marco Andretti, Honda, 87, Running
Winner's average speed: 108.809 mph
Time of Race: 1:54:08.7076
Margin of victory: 1.0495 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 7 laps
Lead changes: 8 among 5 drivers
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Bourdais 117, Dixon 111, Newgarden 110, Pagenaud 106, Hinchcliffe 102, Castroneves 84, Hunter-Reay 65, Sato 65, Jones 62, Rossi 60.
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