FORT WORTH, TX – The new NTT IndyCar Series rivalry is born. I wrote about it after the first race of the doubleheader race weekend in Belle Isle last week. Well, after Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600, we have a fight for the championship between two very talented Americans.
Josef Newgarden held off a furious battle with Alexander Rossi just seven days ago in the streets of Detroit to earn his second win of the season. On Saturday, he did it again. Rossi, made his move on Newgarden several times over the final 12 lap shootout but could never get by.
Newgarden, held Rossi off for the second time in three races, this time by just 0.816-seconds. It was Newgarden’s 13th career Indy Car victory, 10 of which coming with Team Penske. He becomes the ninth driver to win 10+ times for the Captain.
Newgarden, has five top two finishes in 2019 and seven top fours in his No. 2 Chevrolet. But, Saturday was just his first top five finish of his career at Texas and only his second top 10 in eight career starts on the 1.5-mile track.
It would have happened though if Tim Cindric didn’t make another pit call to get the Tennessee native another victory. See, under the first caution of the race for Zach Veach spinning on the backstretch on Lap 135, Newgarden was one of nine cars to hit pit lane. That proved to be the winning move.
Newgarden, was now off sequence and had nothing to lose in hitting pit lane. He was running eighth when only 11 cars were on the lead lap. So, when the main leaders pit for their second to last time on Lap 163 and on, Newgarden didn’t need to. His tire fall off was minimal which helped him get the positioning he needed.
The leaders pit again for the final time on Lap 188, 190 and 191 respectively, Newgarden inherited the lead. He didn’t have to pit for his final time until Lap 199. By then, his tires were still holding up which meant his lap times were 6-7 mph quicker than the others. That’s why her inherited the lead again on Lap 203 as he’d never look back.
James Hinchcliffe crashes on Lap 218 with a similar incident to Veach’s earlier. That bunched up the field. Then, on Lap 228, Colton Herta and Dixon crashed in Turn 3. Just like that, three of the top six cars that would be the main challengers to Newgarden were out.
It was down to Newgarden vs. Rossi.
For Rossi, it was his third runner-up in the last four races on the 2019 season. His worst finish since the Indy 500 has been fifth last Sunday in Belle Isle 2. Last year, Rossi finished third in this race. This year, it’s a second place run as he now trails Newgarden by 25 points as we move into the second half of the season.
“The second lane never came in. It’s disappointing. He was really no where. They called a great race. Ultimately, once he had track position, there was nothing I could really do. He drove it like he should and covered the inside. It was obviously a good day though.
Graham Rahal finished third in his No. 15 Honda for his fourth straight top six finish at Texas. He came from the ninth starting spot and had the pace to contend in the end. Rahal, now has six top seven finishes in his last eight starts on the year.
Rookie Santino Ferrucci earned his best career finish with a fourth in his No. 19 Honda while Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top five in his No. 28 Honda.
Dixon’s Title Hopes Dashed With Crash With 20 To Go
Scott Dixon thought that his championship hopes may have been dashed when he made a rare mistake in his crash in the first race on the streets of Belle Isle last Saturday. He’d head into the second race at Belle Isle 92 points down.
But, by virtue of Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and even Rossi have some misfortunates in race No. 2, mix that with Dixon winning, and the door was kicked back open. He gained 40 points that day.
On Saturday, he looked like the one to beat. But, with 20 to go, a battle with Herta saw both touch in Turn 3 and send both into the SAFER barrier as a result. His night ended with a disappointing 17th place finish.
Belle Isle was his first DNF since the 2017 race at Texas. Saturday, was his second DNF in three races and his fifth in the last eight years on the 1.5-mile track. He’s now a wide 89 points out with only eight races remaining in 2019.
“As I looked down on entry, I saw his shadow down on the apron. I was pushing to get the most out of it. I’m sorry if it was my fault.”
Sato’s Pit Road Mistake Could Cost Him Championship Too
This was shaping up to be a good weekend for Takuma Sato. He was second in both Indy Car practice sessions run this weekend to go along with earning his second pole of the season on Friday evening. Sato, would lead the first 60 laps of the race before hitting pit lane for the first time.
Unfortunately, that’s when his night changed. Sato, got into one of his crewmen and slid too close to the wall as a result. It would be a disastrous pit stop which ended in a penalty too.
Sato, went from being in a league of his own to last, three laps down. He’d never make up for it and finish only 15th. This was the first time he failed to finish in the top 10 at Texas since 2016 as he’s now 95 points out of the lead as a result of tonight’s bad run.
Hinch’s Crash Ends Another Top 5 Run
Last week in Belle Isle, James Hinchcliffe was heading towards a top five run, if not a podium. He exited the pits on Lap 32 with the lead among the leaders and was going to cycle into the top spot if he could maintain it. See, he had to hold off Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi while exiting pit lane. The latter were at full speed. They all made moves on one another heading into the braking zone which didn’t end well for Hinch and Newgarden.
On Saturday night, Hinchcliffe quickly climbed into the top five. He’d remain there all race before clipping the Turn 2 SAFER barrier on Lap 218and bringing out the second caution of the night. He’d finish 19th as a result.
Penske Nets All 3 Cars In The Top 10
Newgarden stole a win away on Saturday that’s for sure. Honda’s dominated the weekend but here Newgarden was in front after a great pit call. Sound familiar?
Same thing happened in Belle Isle last Saturday too. But, it wasn’t just him in the top 10 at the end of the night either.
Simon Pagenaud finished sixth in his No. 22 Chevrolet for his 102nd career Indy Car top 10. It was also his seventh in nine tries this season as he sits third in the standings right now. The sixth place run was Pagenaud’s sixth in eight tries at Texas.
Will Power had a disappointing night after falling a lap down by the end of the first pit sequence. But, there he was in ninth when it was all said and done for his 140th career top 10 result and fifth in the last six races of the season.
ECR Struggles Again
Everyone thought that Ed Carpenter Racing would be the ones to beat in the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500. They put two of their three cars on the front row and the third car starting in fourth. Unfortunately, none of which finished in the top five with Ed Carpenter leading the group in sixth.
At Texas, they had another miserable night.
Spencer Pigot started sixth but quickly fell outside of the top 10. He’d only finish 14th.
Carpenter, started 13th but fell to 20th after a handful of laps. He’d come home 13th. Definitely not the night that we thought for ECR.
Rough Night For AJ Foyt Racing
AJ Foyt Racing returned home this weekend for the annual stop to the Texas Motor Speedway. See, the team’s headquarters is listed as Waller, Texas. So, the DXC Technology 600 is considered Foyt’s home race.
After all, his nickname is “Super Tex.”
But, with how this team stands leaving Saturday night’s race on the 1.5-mile track, team owner AJ Foyt has had enough. He spoke to NBC Sports during qualifying on Friday night and voiced his displeasures on the direction that this team is heading.
“I can’t stand for what we’re doing and I think my son Larry (Foyt) feels the same way,” a disgusted Foyt said prior to qualifying. “It’s no enjoyment getting blowed off like we are and we’re just not going to tolerate it any longer.”
How did the team respond?
Tony Kanaan scrapped the outside SAFER barrier in Turn 2 and didn’t complete his run. The famed No. 14 Chevrolet will start last on their own turf (22nd). His teammate Matheus Leist will only start one row in front in 20th.
Two of the last three starting spots belong to Foyt. Two of the last three spots in the points standings belong to Foyt drivers.
When was enough, enough?
Sounds like it’s now.
Leist dropped out of the race early on and finished last in 22nd. It was his third straight DNF on the season.
Kanaan, fell down a lap early and then had a restart violation on the lone restart of the race and was penalized. He’d fall back to a 16th place result.
This organization hasn’t won a race since the Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2013. In fact, that’s their lone victory in the series since Airton Dare’s win in 2002. Remember when Kenny Brack won the 1999 Indy 500? Yeah, Dare and Takuma Sato’s wins are the only trips to victory lane since.
That’s two wins in the last 311 Indy Car races.
What’s even more troubling is that they’re not even competitive. They have just two top five finishes since the 2016 season, none coming last year. Over the last decade?
The most top fives in a season by any driver for Foyt was two by Sato in 2013 and again 2014. The last time one of their drivers earned more than two top fives in a single season was Eliseo Salazar with four in 2001.
Their last pole came back in 2014. Sato’s two poles that year and his single pole in 2013 are their only poles since Billy Boat’s pole in 1999.
This season, Kanaan has started 20th or worse in six of the nine races. His best starting spot is 16th for the Indy 500. He has just two finishes inside of the top 15 all year, one being a ninth place run for the ‘500 too.
Leist, has qualified 20th or worse seven times already in 2019 including six straight. He’s finished 15th or worse in all but one race including four finishes outside of the top 20.
The team is reeling. The problem is, they’ve made so many wholesale changes over the last few years, they’re on the brink of needing to do so again.
In 2017, they switched from Honda power to Chevrolet. They switched drivers as well as the engineering department. In 2018, they brought in two new drivers. So far in 2019, they don’t look any better than 2018.
This frustrates Foyt to no end. After all, no one has as many championship as Foyt as a driver (7). No one has as many trips to victory lane (67 either). No one has more Indy 500 wins (4) than him. He sits third in the career poles list (53), second in most career starts (369), third in career laps led (6,692), second in podiums (119) and third in top five finishes (149).
So, for someone with so much success behind the wheel, you can see why the frustration
DXC Technology 600 Finishing Order
19 Ferrucci R
7 Ericsson R
12 Power -1
98 Andretti -1
59 Daly -1
10 Rosenqvist R -2
20 Carpenter -2
21 Pigot -2
30 Sato -3
14 Kanaan -3
9 Dixon OUT
88 Herta R OUT
5 Hinchcliffe OUT
26 Veach OUT
23 Kimball OUT
4 Leist OUT