For the better part of Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, Josef Newgarden was a non-entity.
With the first half of the race dominated first by Takuma Sato, and later by Ryan-Hunter Reay, the Team Penske driver was nowhere to be found. But a late-race pitstop got Newgarden to the front of the field, and he led 54 of the final 58 laps to capture his 13th career win, and his first on a superspeedway.
The victory was also Newgarden’s third of the season, and he opened up a 25-point advantage (367-342) over Rossi in the season standings.
“It feels great (to win at Texas),” said Newgarden, who said he was feeling under the weather on Saturday. “We’ve had good cars here, we’ve just not been able to make it happen. I knew we’d get it done here at some point. We’ve had fast cars, it never has materialized. Tonight it happened.”
The first half of the race was run at a furious pace, with the opening 135 laps being run under green until Zach Veach brushed the wall on the exit of Turn 2 to bring out the first caution. Polesitter Sato led the first 60 laps, but overshot his pit box on his first stop and hit one of the members of his pit crew. The time spent in the pits and a subsequent stop-and-go penalty put Sato four laps down, and he eventually finished in 15th place.
Hunter-Reay took it from there and led 90 of the next 100 laps before Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi took turns leading the next 36 laps. Newgarden finally got to the point on Lap 190, and, other than losing the lead briefly during the final round of pit stops, paced the field the rest of the way.
“We were really good out front,” Newgarden said. “I knew that if we can just get the car out front, we can run just as quick as anybody, maybe quicker. Once we got out front, we were pumping out super quick laps.
“It was well executed and well planned. Tim (Cindric) did a great job, the boys did a great job. It was up to them to put me in position, and they did. ”
A Turn 3 crash between Dixon and Colton Herta on Lap 229 brought out the final caution of the night, leaving it up to a 13-lap shootout between Newgarden and the rest of the field. Rossi challenged Newgarden several times heading into Turn 1 in that final stint, but couldn’t make the high line work to complete a pass.
“I thought we had a good car, we could obviously get a good run on him off of (Turns) 3 and 4, but lane two was really never there for me,” a dejected Rossi said. “We could get halfway around the outside, then would have to bail out. We took out a lot of the tire life going in lane two there, so we just didn’t have the rear tires there at the end to stay close to him.”
Rossi, who dominated in winning at Long Beach back in April, has now gone P2, P2, P5 and P2 over the course of the last four races. Those are great results that are piling up points, but for the ultra-competitive Rossi, it’s also a bit disappointing.
“Yeah, it sucks,” Rossi said. “I mean, we’re always there, but we’re always playing the bridesmaid as of late.”
Graham Rahal finished third to pick up his first podium of the season, while rookie Santino Ferrucci was fourth to notch his fourth Top 10 in his last five races. Hunter-Reay rounded out the Top 5.
Photo credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar Media