Josef Newgarden started off his 2019 season leading a race-high 60 of 110 laps and capturing his first career victory on the Streets of St. Petersburg in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the opener for the 2019 IndyCar Series. Newgarden beat defending series champ Scott Dixon and teammate Will Power to the checkered flag as he claimed his first win of the 2019 season.
It was a tough, technical race that called into question the safety of IndyCar’s emerging philosophy to keep street tracks running under green with only local yellow flags.
As a result, there were several accidents – luckily non injury but machine shredding – after initial accidents occurred as speeding race cars tried to squeeze by. As always pit stop strategy – juggling mandatory tire changes against clean air laps and the threat of untimely yellow flags – was decisive through a combination of luck and planning.
Defending series champion – Scott Dixon started fourth after a jinxed qualifying effort that saw his team scrambling to make chassis setup changes from understeer push to oversteer loose and back again to Dixon’s Honda prior to each round of qualifying.
Dixon finished second at St. Pete for the fourth time. He 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.”
Josef Newgarden started the race in the second position but fell to third early on after a slow start on scuffed alternate Firestone tires. By lap 17, race strategist Tim Cindric called the Tennessean to pit lane for a switch to fresh primary tires and fuel as Newgarden tried to maintain his position at the front of the field. Newgarden was able to stay up front, but his 2 Hitachi Chevy was equipped with new alternate compound tires and fuel on the next stop and he took over the race lead on lap 56. As Newgarden continued to lead, the team made one final pit stop as the Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet took new primary tires and fuel.
IndyCar’s next race will be the Circuit of the Americas, which will be the first time the series has ever competed there.