Another Near Miss In St. Petersburg For Dixon – SPEED SPORT

Another Near Miss In St. Petersburg For Dixon - SPEED SPORT
Newgarden: Rivals too timid on soft compound tires
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Rule No. 1 regarding job security: If the boss is happy, you’re happy.

“I’d say that’s a pretty good day,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in the pits Sunday afternoon after his latest hire finished fourth in his first NTT IndyCar Series race. “A good, solid day for both the (No.) 9 car and the (No.) 10 car. It’s something we can build on. Second and fourth? I’ll take that.”

Ganassi’s “other” driver, five-time champion Scott Dixon, finished second behind Josef Newgarden, who won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Strong finishes are expected from Dixon, but Rosenqvist was the team’s unknown coming into the 2019 season opener.

Rosenqvist answered the questions loudly. He started by qualifying third fastest Saturday and following it with a clean run through Sunday’s 110-lap race. Considering he had little experience with live pit stops and rolling starts before the race, the 27-year-old rookie impressed

“It’s a lot to take in,” Rosenqvist said. “I’m worn out. These cars are tough to drive. I’ve never driven anything like it, but it’s a dream come true just to be here.”

Rosenqvist, a native of Varnamo, Sweden, won three Indy Lights races in 2016, including one at St. Petersburg. The transition to the top level has taken some adjusting and time, and Rosenqvist admits he still has room for improvement.

“We have a lot to work on,” Rosenqvist said. “I think I underestimated how much the track grips up. Still a lot of things to learn, but P4 is a great way to start.”

After he stepped out of the car, Rosenqvist complained of pain in his right arm, saying it bothered him during the late laps of the 110-lap race. Considering the heat and humidity – and the fact that only two cautions slowed the race – it was a solid rookie effort.

Rosenqvist wowed the St. Pete crowd and those watching on NBCSN when he completed a dive-bomb move on pole sitter Will Power heading into Turn 1 to take the race lead on Lap 24 following a restart. He impressively led 31 laps, second only to Newgarden’s 60 on the day.

“I think I could have done better,” he said. “I have to work on the driving, especially at the end of the race. My right arm was fading at the end of the race. I don’t know why. My seat was pinching into my shoulder. I just really tried to hang on there. The last 20 laps are where I think we could have finished a little bit closer to (third-place finisher) Power.”

In the end, he finished less than two seconds behind Power and 14.5858 seconds off Newgarden’s winning pace. The boss is happy. And if the boss is happy, everyone is happy.

“We kind of had our eye on him for a couple of years,” Ganassi said. “Glad to finally get him in the car.”

Rosenqvist and the rest of the NTT IndyCar Series drivers are back in action March 22-24 in the INDYCAR Classic, the first Indy car race at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. Practices will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. Qualifying airs live at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 23 on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass. The race from the 3.41-mile permanent road course airs live at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 24 on NBCSN.

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – When Josef Newgarden ran longer, harder and faster in a middle stint of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, it paid off with victory at the end.

Newgarden kicked off the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season victorious by 2.8998 seconds over reigning series champion Scott Dixon. It was the 11th triumph of Newgardens eight-year NTT IndyCar Series career but first on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street course that incorporates a runway of Albert Whitted Airport.

I feel like we executed today, Newgarden said. We were very patient in the beginning of the race. We had a right-to-left, different tire strategy again today, and it really paid off. I actually think its what helped us create the opportunity.

The win by Newgarden extended Team Penskes run of success at St. Petersburg to nine victories in the events 16-race history. It was also the 204th win all time by the Indy car team, most in the sport, and returned Chevrolet atop the podium after the engine supplier went winless on temporary street circuits last season.

Newgarden started the 110-lap race second in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet behind teammate and NTT P1 Award pole sitter Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Content to run in the top three early on, Newgarden made the decisive move by extending his second race stint one to five laps longer than the other frontrunners. It allowed the Tennessean to lay down key quicker laps on an open track, so that when he pitted for fuel and tires on Lap 55, Newgarden returned to the action in first place and on a new set of Firestone alternate tires while his nearest competitors were on the harder primary tires.

The 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion led 59 of the final 60 laps, pushing the advantage to more than seven seconds before Dixon trimmed the gap near the finish.

When we went out on brand new reds (alternate tires), we were able to open up a huge chunk, Newgarden said. It was just really good timing and positioning, and once we established that gap, it was about managing it, really. We didnt have to blow it wide open and we didnt need to see it shrink too quickly, but we let it seesaw back and forth how it needed to.

Dixon finished second at St. Pete for the fourth time and has never won the race in 15 tries. The five-time series champion, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, has 41 second-place results in a 19-year career, tying him for second on the all-time race runner-up list with Helio Castroneves. Mario Andretti is first with 56 second-place finishes.

All in all, a great day for the whole PNC Bank crew, Dixon said. Pit stops were phenomenal, great points. Obviously, we were going for a win so we just came one stop short, but congrats to Josef. (He) drove a hell of a race there and great strategy.

Power led 17 early laps before finishing third. Its the 71st time the 2014 series champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner has been on the podium in a 15-year career.

Definitely a lot better points here than Ive done in the past two years, so Im really happy about that, said Power, who finished 10th last year at St. Pete, 19th in 2017 and didnt race in 2016 due to illness. We put ourselves in a really tough position pitting early there.

I just kind of did my best to maintain a third-place finish. I got more points than the last two years so were in the game (for the championship).

Felix Rosenqvist, making his first NTT IndyCar Series start in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, placed fourth after leading 31 early laps. Rosenqvist was among three rookies to finish in the top 10, with Colton Herta (Harding Steinbrenner Racing) eighth and Santino Ferrucci (Dale Coyne Racing) ninth.

Its a lot to take in, Rosenqvist said. Im worn out. These cars are tough to drive. Ive never driven anything like it, but its a dream come true just to be here.

We have a lot to work on, he added. I think I underestimated how much the track grips up. Still a lot of things to learn, but P4 is a great way to start.

The race was slowed by two early full-course caution periods, tying for the fewest in race history. The first came on Lap 20 when Andretti Autosports Ryan Hunter-Reay suffered a mechanical failure in the No. 28 DHL Honda on the frontstretch.

The second caution occurred on Lap 26 when Ed Jones hit the wall in Turn 9 in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Chevrolet and Matheus Leist clipped Jones car while racing past in the No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Both cars were eliminated in the incident and Jones sustained a small non-displaced fracture of the distal fourth metacarpal in his left ring finger, according to Dr. Geoffrey Billows, INDYCAR medical director. Jones had the finger splinted and is scheduled to see a hand surgeon, but it is expected that proper splinting will permit him to continue participating in racing activities.

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