Josef Newgarden, Penske, IndyCar, St Petersburg, 2024

Newgarden claims commanding win in IndyCar season-opener

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Josef Newgarden controlled proceedings from start to finish in the IndyCar season-opener at St Petersburg.

The Penske driver led 92 of the 100 laps and took the chequered flag over eight seconds ahead of Pato O’Ward. The McLaren driver prevented Penske sweeping the podium, crossing the line with Scott McLaughlin and Will Power on his tail.

Reigning champion Alex Palou climbed from 13th on the grid to finish sixth behind Colton Herta. Felix Rosenqvist, who shared the front row of the grid with Newgarden, slipped back to finish seventh in his first race for Meyer Shank.

Rosenqvists’s former team mate Alexander Rossi was the second McLaren home in eighth, followed by Scott Dixon for Ganassi and Rinus VeeKay for Carpenter.

Newgarden maintained his lead from pole position at the start and led a relatively static opening stint pursued by Rosenqvist, Herta, O’Ward and Marcus Ericsson. The latter, last year’s race-winner, was doomed to retire with a technical problem shortly after half-distance.

On lap 27 Marcus Armstrong, the leading Ganassi driver running in 10th place, snatched his front-left brake heading into turn 11 and hit the tyre barrier, suffering race-ending suspension damage.

The leaders piled into the pits under the first caution period of the race on lap 28. Meyer Shank performed a superb stop for Rosenqvist, which moved him into the effective lead behind Linus Lundqvist, the only driver not to pit at that point.

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Newgarden fell to third behind Herta. But once the racing resumed the Penske driver quickly regained the position, his alternate compound tyres offering greater grip against the primary-shod Andretti machine. O’Ward followed him by, and on lap 33 they both took Rosenqvist.

Once Lundqivst pitted under a second caution period triggered by Sting Ray Robb’s retirement, Newgarden was back in the lead. He maintained that position when the field pitted again during green flag running, and briefly had his lead up to four seconds before the race was neutralised again.

This interruption was caused by Romain Grosjean nudging Lundqvist into the turn 11 barrier. The former F1 driver, in his first race for Juncos Hollinger, had started fifth but slipped down the order early on. He was penalised for the collision and later retired with a technical problem.

After the final restart Newgarden pulled away from O’Ward while McLaughlin and Power worked their way past Herta and Rosenqvist to take up position behind him. Palou made his usual unobtrusive progress forward, eventually taking sixth from Rosenqvist.

When the chequered flag dropped Newgarden was comfortably clear of the pursuing trio, who were running nose-to-tail as they finished. Following Palou’s emphatic championship win last year, this was a statement of intent about Newgarden’s desire to beat his rival to a third IndyCar title.

IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race results

P. No. Driver Team Engine
1 2 Josef Newgarden Penske Chevrolet
2 5 Pato O’Ward McLaren Chevrolet
3 3 Scott McLaughlin Penske Chevrolet
4 12 Will Power Penske Chevrolet
5 26 Colton Herta Andretti/Curb-Agajanian Honda
6 10 Alex Palou Ganassi Honda
7 60 Felix Rosenqvist Meyer Shank Honda
8 7 Alexander Rossi McLaren Chevrolet
9 9 Scott Dixon Ganassi Honda
10 21 Rinus VeeKay Carpenter Chevrolet
11 14 Santino Ferrucci Foyt Chevrolet
12 27 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Honda
13 6 Callum Ilott McLaren Chevrolet
14 4 Kyffin Simpson Ganassi Honda
15 30 Pietro Fittipaldi RLL Honda
16 15 Graham Rahal RLL Honda
17 66 Tom Blomqvist Meyer Shank Honda
18 78 Agustin Canapino Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet
19 18 Jack Harvey Coyne Honda
20 45 Christian Lundgaard RLL Honda
21 20 Christian Rasmussen Carpenter Chevrolet
22 51 Colin Braun Coyne Honda
23 8 Linus Lundqvist Ganassi Honda
24 77 Romain Grosjean Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet
25 28 Marcus Ericsson Andretti Honda
26 41 Sting Ray Robb Foyt Chevrolet
27 11 Marcus Armstrong Ganassi Honda

Update: Newgarden and McLaughlin were subsequently disqualified for using their push-to-pass systems outside of the permitted times. O’Ward therefore won the race

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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9 comments on “Newgarden claims commanding win in IndyCar season-opener”

  1. It just showed that Newgarden and engineers found the secret sauce during quail and the track conditions on race day stayed similar as quali. Newgarden seemed totally pumped up and had the car to send it. Well done!

    But the race was a bore, who picks these single file narrow racing tracks tracks and also creates race situations where fuel saving is the only real option?

    1. Yeah, Newgarden’s race pace was super impressive.
      During the race I also thought about how inappropriate the track layout was. Those cars are too fast for such a tiny mickey mouse track. Also, a lap time under a minute shouldn’t be a thing.

    2. I like the track, it’s “distintively Indycar” for me. I don’t understand what makes races “fuel saving” ones, is it tyre availability or what?

      1. That being said, maybe they could make the last harpin narrower as to allow cars to bunch up and try different lines into the airstrip

        1. I do love what the tracks look like and the perception of speed it gives. Like you said, it is “distinctively Indycar”. But it’s not great for racing, that’s what it is.

          Yeah, the last hairpin allowing for more different lines would be great. And if they could prolong the straight that comes into it even just by 10m, it would help. That section reminds me of Montreal.

      2. CD (@clipperdael)
        11th March 2024, 12:01

        Yeah, there’s wasn’t a whole lot between the compounds so with little degradation even on the softer tyres everyone decided on as few stops as possible. Without extra caution periods that meant fuel saving mode for most of the race.
        I feel like an easy solution would be to return to a 110-lap race as that would force teams to go with three stops and shorter stints without coasting.

      3. Depending on race length, teams may decide to do a fuel saving strategy from the start and try to have 2 pit stops rather than 3. Depending on crashes during a race this can derail that plan. During the race, teams may try to save fuel to get to a certain pit window because of tire wear, or use it as a strategy to overcut, where a driver remains on track longer than a rival in order to try and gain a position in the pits. The real difficulty with this is to maintain a good pace while trying to push the car further. Dixon is a master at this.

  2. Newgarden has definitely given ‘a statement of intent’, that was a very clean and precise race by the look of it.

    And let’s not forget the win at the Daytona 24 (with Cameron, Campbell and Nasr)!

    He’s definitely come into this season on a high. Hopefully he can give Palou a bit more competition than the latter had last year.

  3. Mark in Florida
    12th March 2024, 1:14

    I’ve been to this track several times and its a great venue to watch a race from. Turn 10 is chaos corner, there’s a lot of overtake attempts and crashes sometimes. The top speed on the main straight is about 175 mph. Yes in some spots its narrow but you can pass here in a Indy Car! If this was F1 there would only be DRS passes in turn 1 or turn 10 maybe. So the criticism of it being too small isn’t valid in my opinion. Monaco doesn’t qualify as a good racetrack either but nobody is trying to get rid of it.

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