Newgarden Trims Dixon’s Lead after Victory
in Fast, Furious INDYCAR Harvest GP
INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, Oct. 2, 2020) – Defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden drove the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet to a statement victory in the stretch run of the championship race, winning the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR Race 1 Friday, Oct. 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Two-time series champion Newgarden made a decisive move on Lap 60 of the 85-lap race as he pressured Colton Herta for the lead on old tires. Entering Turn 1, Herta locked up the tires and overshot the corner, handing the lead to Newgarden and putting him in control of the race with just 25 laps to go.
Newgarden ended up beating Alexander Rossi to the finish by 14.2940 seconds in a caution-free race filled with clean but aggressive driving by every athlete in the 25-car field. It was Newgarden’s third victory of the season and first NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory at IMS.
“I don’t think I can think about the race; I’m so excited to be up here on this platform,” Newgarden said. “Thank you to everyone that came out. We had a rocket ship. I knew we did yesterday in qualifying. I was so surprised by how quick the car was. It was a great fight today. It was strategy, it was close combat, it was everything you wanted in an INDYCAR race, and I had the quickest car.”
Rossi scored a career-best finish on the IMS road course by placing second in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda. Pole sitter Rinus VeeKay scored his career-best NTT INDYCAR SERIES finish, third in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet. Herta, who led 29 laps, finished fourth in the No. 88 Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Honda, and Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top five in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Newgarden, who is second in the series point standings, sliced 32 points from Scott Dixon’s lead and sits 40 points behind five-time series champion Dixon with two races remaining in 2020. The next event is Race 2 of this doubleheader, at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, live on NBC and the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network.
Newgarden’s big points haul was assisted by a tough race for Dixon, who won July’s GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course. Dixon was running seventh with two laps to go in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, but pressure from Graham Rahal in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda forced an error. Dixon went off course in Turn 7 and lost two positions, finishing ninth.
“I’m not really sure what happened,” Dixon said. “We just really struggled on the primary tires with the PNC Bank car today. We had a really bad start where Rahal just moved us out of the way. Once that got us out of line, we just started to fall back, and that really hurt. The other stint on blacks just really hurt us again for some reason. We must have lost 15-20 seconds. But that’s the way it goes some days, I guess. It was just really weird, and we need to get it figured out fast before Race 2 here tomorrow.”
Newgarden started the race in second and ran in the top three for the entire race before he capitalized on the Lap 60 mistake by Herta.
After he was passed by Newgarden, Herta came to pit road and started the final pit cycle of the caution-free race. Following the round of pit stops, Newgarden retook the lead and cruised to victory. It was his first win at IMS since he captured the 2011 Freedom 100 Indy Lights race on the 2.5-mile oval.
Newgarden’s previous best finish on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile IMS road course was seventh in July’s GMR Grand Prix. It also marked Team Penske’s first win at IMS since team owner Roger Penske purchased the historic racetrack in January.
“He’s done such an amazing job with this facility, and to see people back here socially distanced in the stands at least getting to watch a race, I’m sure he’s really happy today, and I’m happy to be up here representing him and Team Penske, everyone at INDYCAR, IMS,” Newgarden said. “I’ve always wanted to get up here. I want to get up here during the ‘500,’ but this is cool.”
Although Newgarden led a race-high 34 laps and cruised to victory, the INDYCAR Harvest GP was an action-packed show for the socially distanced crowd in the first race with spectators in 2020 at IMS.
The race began with an epic battle between Herta and VeeKay, the two youngest drivers in the field at age 20. Herta started third, but he made a daring pass into Turn 1 on Lap 1 and passed VeeKay for the lead and led the first lap of the race.
VeeKay went toe-to-toe with Herta on Lap 2 and attempted a pair of daring passes before charging to the lead in Turn 7. VeeKay led the next 15 laps for his first ever laps led in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Following the green flag pit stop cycle, Herta returned the favor to VeeKay with more intense racing. After another pair of exciting pass attempts, Herta overtook VeeKay in Turn 7 on Lap 21.
As the laps wound down and Newgarden cruised to his third victory of 2020, the remaining drivers in the top five duked it out as Rossi and VeeKay charged to the front and Herta and Rosenqvist lost track position on older tires. The second- through fifth-place drivers finished within 4.164 seconds of each other.
‘What They’re Saying’ from the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR Race 1
1st – JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “I don’t know that I can think about the race because I’m just so excited to be up here on the top of the podium. I wish I could’ve been up here in August (Indianapolis 500) for ‘The Captain.’ He’s done such an amazing job with this facility. To see people back here, socially distancing in the stands and getting to watch a race I’m sure makes him happy. I’m happy to be standing up here today representing him and everyone at Team Penske, along with everyone at INDYCAR and IMS. Thank you to everyone that came out here in cold conditions. We had a rocket ship. I knew we did yesterday in qualifying. I was surprised at how quick the Hitachi Chevy was, and it was a great fight today. It was about strategy, close combat, everything you want in an INDYCAR race. I felt like Team Chevy did an amazing job and having Hitachi onboard has been good luck for us this year. I’m just pumped to be up here. I’ve always wanted to get up here during the ‘500,’ but this one is just as cool. If we had a few races back where we caught bad yellows, we would really be in this championship fight. It’s almost a shame to see the deficit we had at times in the points because this team is unbelievable. They’ve been the quickest on pit lane all year. Everyone has done a great job, and they deserve to be in this championship fight. We still have a bit of a hill to climb, but we made it smaller today. I said we needed to have three perfect races to finish. One of them is down, and there are two to go.”
2nd – ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda): “Having some things go right for us, things not go wrong, and I executed. We unlocked a bit of pace in the car. It took us a while to figure out the offset with the Aeroscreen, but I think our off-track development is getting there. Huge hats off to the whole entire Andretti Autosport organization and Honda. This place has never been good to us in terms of performance, so to get a podium here is awesome. We’re disappointed that we got a weird penalty and that we didn’t have a shot to come close to fighting Josef (Newgarden), but be that as it may, we’ll have another go at it tomorrow, and we have a good car. It’s great to be able to have the whole qualifying and race to learn off of, and then take what was good and what was bad and try at it again. We thought we had a good car, and in qualifying we didn’t get to use the red tires, so that’ll be interesting tomorrow morning. But at least we know have a fast race car.”
3rd – RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “Well, pretty good weekend so far. First pole yesterday, first podium today. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I’m very happy with a podium finish. I struggled on the blacks (primary tires), but I had a great last 15 laps on the reds (alternate tires). I wish I could have done a little bit better, but a podium is a podium. Tomorrow is another day, we will have one less set of reds, but it’s 10 laps shorter of a race. Tonight, I’m happy.”
4th – COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Honda): “The start and overall of the race was kind of what I was expecting because of the switch-up of tire choices and how a lot of people were starting on blacks and not so many on reds. I thought it would give a good chance in the second stint to move forward. In the end, we were just too loose. We wore out the rear tires and just didn’t have the pace to make the strategy work. We tried to do all we could and ended on blacks. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the pace at the end, but we’re really happy with the Gleaners car and proud to carry the No One Runs On Empty message today. I hope everyone remembers that you can donate now, $0.88 a month at Gleaners.org, and help save 135 families from hunger.”
5th – FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “P5 ended up being good for us with points in the NTT DATA Honda, but we were up there mixing it up for P2 where we really wanted to be. It felt pretty good, but the tires started to fall off, and we didn’t have any push-to-pass left. We spent a lot of time around lapped traffic, and that hurt, for sure. And with that, I think we had to pass a lot more cars than we should have. That wasted a lot of time, but we want to be better for tomorrow.”
6th – WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Man, that was a tough race. We had some great pace at different points, but we just didn’t have enough to fight for the win at the end. Congrats to Josef (Newgarden). That was a big win for the team and big for the championship. I think we learned a lot on the Verizon Chevy that we can apply in tomorrow race and hopefully fight for the win.”
7th – GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “It was a tough day. I spun early, and luckily it didn’t end up hurting us. We were able to pass a lot of guys today, but in the end, we had to go to blacks, and I think it hurt us and we also ran out of overtake. We still got Dixie (Scott Dixon) back when he made his mistake, but it was definitely hard. (Will) Power was flying hard. His straight-line speed was extremely strong, so it was hard for us to get by him. We’re back at it tomorrow morning. We will try to qualifying up front and give ourselves a better shot to try to win this thing get this United Rentals car up front tomorrow.”
8th – JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda): “I made a mistake in the pit lane and was a little bit too far to the left, and we weren’t able to flow fuel. We’ve never had something like that happen before, so that was a shame. I definitely thought that we had good speed that we’ll take with us tomorrow. There’s really no need to reset; we’ll just get the job done tomorrow.”
9th – SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I’m not really sure what happened. We just really struggled on the primary tires with the PNC Bank car today. We had a really bad start where (Graham) Rahal just moved us out of the way. Once that got us out of line, we just started to fall back, and that really hurt. The other stint on blacks just really hurt us again for some reason. We must have lost 15-20 seconds. But that’s the way it goes some days, I guess. It was just really weird, and we need to get it figured out fast before Race 2 here tomorrow.”
10th – MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think for us it was a decent race and a top 10 after starting from P15. I was wanting a bit better race, but the way it panned out, it just kind of was what it was. On the start, I had to get out of position to avoid the championship leader (Dixon). It felt like maybe we had some damage after that point and it felt strange, but it was a decent result and we have some work to do for tomorrow.”
Remainder of Drivers (alphabetical – with finishing position):
MARCO ANDRETTI (25th – No. 98 AutoNation / Curb Honda): “We were pretty optimistic going into the race. The AutoNation car came out of qualifying well, and we had a good start. I think had we not had to come in for the fire and the resulting damage we would have come home 11th, maybe even inside the top 10. 2020 has been a tough one on us, and we’re ready to get past it, but for now we’ll look ahead to Race 2. The guys have some repairs to do tonight, and we’re hoping to come back strong tomorrow.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (21st – No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): ” It was a non-race, really, tried to do whatever I could. At the start, it was a tough spot because basically I ended up being right behind Dixie (Scott Dixon) and didn’t feel like I wanted to be there and take any chances and because of that I just lost a bunch of positions. Started to go left, right, and that was a bit of a shame. 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 — 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 next time we come back around.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (20th – No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “It’s great to be back in a race car in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Arrow McLaren SP and Chevrolet did a phenomenal job by giving me the tools that I need. Obviously, we were a little off pace. However, it was great to understand what we need to do to learn about the car. We will make some adjustments for tomorrow. That’s the good news: We have another day to do it all over again.”
MAX CHILTON (11th – No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “It was a long day out there – 85 laps of hard racing. I had a pretty good start, but then we had a situation on the first lap where I had to avoid an accident and take a shortcut, which then resulted in a penalty where I had to let a car past. Unfortunately, they made me give up the position in a place where more than one car got past. So that hurt us at the start, but after that we really had pretty good pace all day. I’d say I definitely did some of the best and most overtakes I’ve done in a race all year, if not in a really long time. We were racy out there, and we were able to work our way up from 15th after the unfortunate start to 11th , just missing out on a top-10 finish. It’s a little gutting to not get that top 10, but we’ve shown that the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet is quick, and luckily we get to do it all again tomorrow.”
CONOR DALY (12th – No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “We had a great start, but sadly got driven off by two other competitors in the second half of Lap 1. The 59 car (Max Chilton) and the 18 car (Santino Ferrucci) decided they didn’t want to leave a lane for me, even though I gave them plenty of room. Being sent off the track twice was a shame and really put us behind, but we had a great car and great pace. We started passing cars as soon as we got back going, which was nice. We tried to strategize our way forward. Our pace was really good on reds there at the end. We definitely have improved our car since the last time we were here. We just need to be able to get a fair qualifying session in tomorrow and try to start up front like our teammate – then go for it.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI (15th – No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “We showed today the No. 18 SealMaster Honda had good pace even with a smashed front wing. We were having a really good race, just (Ryan) Hunter-Reay didn’t want to give up the inside going into Turn 2 and well … I wasn’t going to lift. Other than that, I’m really proud of the crew. On the last pit stop, it was nobody’s fault. One of the lug nuts got striped, and that’s that. All and all, I think we are ready tomorrow.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (14th – No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “We kind of did what we could today, without any yellows and strategy to play that way. I think we played the tire game right and put on the right tires at the right time. The Gainbridge car was, honestly, pretty quick. We had a couple issues in the pit stop – I was a little far out, and we couldn’t get the fuel connected. That cost us a bit of time. But we made some stops up on track. Certainly not as much forward progress as we would have liked, but we learned a lot for tomorrow and hopefully we can start, and finish, higher up the grid tomorrow.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (19th – No. 28 DHL Honda): “We had a good start, picked up a couple of spots. Then (Santino) Ferrucci was coming up from behind, as he was on reds and we were on the slower primary tires. He made a late attempt at a pass around the outside and got about halfway up alongside, at best. He was still at my corner and he just decided to keep his foot in, and he went off track. It took us both out. It’s becoming a common theme with him – it happened at the last race at Mid-Ohio when he took out several cars. The good news is, at that point, we switched our focus to Race 2 and saved all our new red tires for tomorrow. So, I’ll be coming.”
SAGE KARAM (23rd – No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet): “Actually, we got a good start and made up a few positions early. Then Charlie (Kimball) hit me off the track around Lap 4. He came over after the race and apologized. I was surprised by it that early in the race. Then we had a couple of weird issues on a few pit stops that hurt us. Our strategy for the race was pretty good when we pitted early (Lap 9). We got off the black Firestones and onto the reds. The Oil2Soil Chevy then ran some pretty solid laps. In the last stint, we put on sticker black tires, and the car really ran well. But we were too far back with the early problems. Now we’ll concentrate on Saturday’s qualifying and the race. The fuel pressure issue on Thursday kept us back from a full practice. That cost us some precious track time. We need all the track time we can get right now as a part time team.”
DALTON KELLETT (24th – No. 41 K-Line USA / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “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. And then 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 (Kimball) 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.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (13th – No. 4 Tresiba / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “First and foremost, it’s great to have fans back here watching us race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 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 (James Hinchcliffe) 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.”
PATO O’WARD (22nd – No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “There is not much to say. It’s probably the worst day we’ve had all year. We just have to regroup tomorrow and try to go win the race. There’s nothing that we can do right now, honestly. For the rest of the year, we have to try to win as many races we can. There’s two more to chase. We will be going for it tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (16th – No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “Congratulations to Josef on the win today. It was a great race out there today. We still have some work to do on the DXC Technology Chevrolet for tomorrow’s race, but we will get there. While things didn’t go our way today, it’s a great result for the team and good for the championship. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s race, and hopefully we can end the weekend with another win for Team Penske.”
ALEX PALOU (17th – No. 55 Guaranteed Rate Honda): “I made a mistake leaving pit lane after my first stop, so that set us back and pretty much cost us our race. There’s not much more to say. It’s a shame because our No. 55 Guaranteed Rate car was good, quite competitive. We discovered what our issue was yesterday in qualifying, so hopefully we can have a better qualifying run tomorrow and that we can start further up for Race 2 and give ourselves a better chance.”
TAKUMA SATO (18th – No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda): “It was a tough day. From where we were starting, we tried to go to a two-stop strategy, which according to the calculation was seven to eight laps short anyway. We hoped we could make some of the fuel number with yellows, but regardless, we couldn’t make it, so we had to shift to the three-stop strategy. But by the time we did, we lost so much time (on track). And then, of course, because we had to go to an aggressive downforce setting to make up places, but maybe we tipped over. The car was extremely tough to manage and also we lost one set of reds from yesterday, which hurt us. All in all, it was a tough race, but it was definitely great data for tomorrow’s qualifying and race. We need to qualify in the top 10. After today, all of the field will move up even tighter because they have all the data. But we believe we can be more competitive tomorrow.”