No. 1 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet – Josef Newgarden
Finish: 1st (18th-career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory)
Laps Completed: 100/100
Laps Led: 21
Final Points Position: 2nd (-16 pts)
It was a bittersweet Sunday for Josef Newgarden and the No. 1 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet team as they won the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season finale at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg but fell short of winning their third championship as they finished second in the series point standings, 16 points behind series champ Scott Dixon.
Starting the 100-lap event in the eighth position, the team knew it would be a battle to get to the front of the field, knowing it would take a win and championship rival Scott Dixon finishing 11th or worse for a chance to win their third series title.
Newgarden visited pit lane for the first time on lap 29, as he traded his Firestone primary compound tires for alternate compound tires, fuel and a front wing adjustment while running in seventh place.
After teammate Scott McLaughlin was involved in an on-track incident with Rinus Veekay to bring out the caution flag, Newgarden restarted in the fourth position on lap 54. After a series of caution flags for consecutive on-track incidents, Newgarden took the green flag race restart in the third position on lap 78 and seized the race lead with a nice outside move around the two cars ahead of him.
Newgarden led the field at the final restart of the race with just 16 laps remaining in the Firestone Grand Prix. Pato O’Ward battled closely with Newgarden over the closing stage of the race as Dixon maintained the lead in the series championship standings by running third while the final laps of the season wound down.
The native of Nashville, Tennessee scored his fourth win for the 2020 INDYCAR season and his 18th career victory as he held off O’Ward at the finish line. With the win, Newgarden also became the third consecutive repeat winner at St. Petersburg. This victory marked the 219th Indy car win for Team Penske.
Quote: “Congrats to Scott (Dixon) and his guys on his crew. It’s big time to win six championship so I’m sure they’re thrilled. They were great competitors. It’s bittersweet. On one hand, I really don’t know what I’d do different this year and I don’t know what I’d ask my guys to do different. They were flawless – fastest in the pits all year long and they were rewarded for it earlier this weekend by Firestone. I’m extremely proud to drive for my team – not just my car but all the Team Penske cars combined, all the engineers, all the mechanics. They’re an incredible crew that puts in a lot of work. We just came up short and that’s all it is. We just weren’t able to get it done but we’ll reset and we’ll hit ‘em harder next year and I promise you we’ll be in the fight. Thank you to Hitachi and Team Chevy. You know Team Chevy was the engine to beat today and I think all year long so big credit to them. We were just a little short on points but we’ll come back harder next year.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!