INDIANAPOLIS – It was quite a day for Roger Penske as he welcomed fans to his track for the first time and witnessed his team win Race 1 of the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR doubleheader. Josef Newgarden scored a dominant victory over the 25-car field on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
On the AJ Foyt Racing squad, Charlie Kimball made the most gains in the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet with his 13th place finish after starting 23rd. Kimball ‘s savvy driving combined with smart strategy, three flawless pit stops plus some overnight tweaks to the setup earned him the ‘hard charger’ award.
“First and foremost, it’s great to have fans back here watching us race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Kimball said afterwards. “It seemed like it was a pretty awesome race from where I was sitting in the cockpit, looked like in some of the recaps there was some pretty great racing throughout the field. Big credit, huge credit actually, to the No. 4 team - those guys on pit lane, in all three stops, the strategy from the timing stand. You know at the end it was getting a little dicey, I think the 26 and I were on two different sets of tires coming down to the close, but we were able to hold him off for 13th all the way up from 23rd so felt like it was a really good day for the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet. Big thanks to the AJ Foyt Racing crew for making the car better overnight from yesterday and we get to do it again tomorrow.”
Unfortunately, 4-time INDYCAR champion Sebastien Bourdais did not have as good a day in the No. 14 Sexton Companies Chevrolet. Starting 16th, Bourdais was holding his own in the first stint but he radioed in that his Push to Pass button didn’t work. Then there was a problem on the first pit stop which dropped him to 21st. Midway through the 85-lap race he went a lap down which sealed his fate in the race that went wire to wire without a full course caution. He finished 21st.
Despite the disappointing day in the cockpit for Bourdais, he was quite realistic in
his approach to the weekend because he and the team were still “getting to know” one another. Having to do that in just one 75-minute practice session is a tall order, especially at the end of a season against the strong contingent of competitors in the NTT INDYCAR Series.
“It was a non-race really, tried to do whatever I could,” said Bourdais. “At the start, it was a tough spot because basically I ended up being right behind Dixie [current point leader Scott Dixon] and didn’t feel like I wanted to be there and take any chances [of taking him out] and because of that I just lost a bunch of positions. Then we kind of hung in there for a while but tire degradation for us was quite high. Just not using the tires right, we don’t have the balance – so we’re really struggling. The whole race was a bit of a struggle. It didn’t get any better or worse, it just kind of stayed where it was and I never found anything that seemed to dig us out of there. And it was tough because we didn’t have any push-to-pass, so defending was impossible. The second half of the race we were a lap down and trying to get out of the way of the guys on the lead lap fighting for positions. Our pace wasn’t good enough to challenge for anything. Unfortunately, we’ve got some work to do and we’ve to try to find something to give us a direction for the next time.”
Rookie Dalton Kellett also had a tough day in his No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet. Starting 25th, Kellett had a relatively good first stint but the two middle stints saw him struggle for speed on the used red (alternate compound) tires. He went down a lap to the leaders by lap 33. Of course, Newgarden set a torrid pace, lapping up to 15th place (including his own teammate Simon Pagenaud).
The 27-year-old Canadian, who made his INDYCAR debut at this track in July, summarized his race after finishing 24th.
“The first lesson I learned from the first race here was obviously to make sure to get packed up and ready for the start. I was quite close to Sato in front of us, but it’s
just the way it goes with the accordion effect, everyone’s leaving a big gap so I got kind of hung out to dry off the start but we were there by Turn 4 with the rest of the pack. I was just being smart and sensible, trying to make smart moves. The pace in the first stint seemed relatively good. We were keeping with some guys making passes so I was happy with that. Lost a bit of time as we were merging into traffic and trying to find a spot on track so kind of cycled back there.
“The scuffed reds weren’t really kind to us, we didn’t have a good middle two stints on the black and reds so we lost pace there so that was kind of the story of it. Then as we were pitting out for our last two stints, we were coming out into leader traffic and that always costs you a lot of time as you’re trying not to impede others while being cognizant of your own race, so that was a bit of a bummer. I think we’ve got some good data from today between the three cars and Charlie was obviously much happier with his car so we’ll see what they did and compare notes and see what we can do for tomorrow.”
Newgarden took the checkered 14 seconds ahead of runner-up Alexander Rossi and closed to within forty points of Scott Dixon who has been leading the point standings the entire season. Third through fifth were: rookie Rinus Veekay, Colton Herta and Felix Rosenqvist.
On Saturday morning the drivers qualify for Race 2 which will be 10 laps shorter than Friday’s 85-lapper. The race will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.