STREETS OF ST. PETERSBURG
RACE: FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG DATE: MAR. 5, 2023
JOSEF NEWGARDEN No. 2 HITACHI DALLARA/CHEVROLET
START – 6TH FINISH – 23RD POINTS – 18TH (-38)
RACE RUNDOWN: Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet team were on their way to a top-10 finish in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg until a mechanical failure in the closing laps relegated the No. 2 to a 17th-place finish. Newgarden started Sunday’s event 14th, but was forced to pit lane within the opening laps of the race to refresh his tires. He rejoined the field 18th and benefited from an extended green-flag run that gave him an opportunity to steadily make his way through the field. An onslaught of green-flag pit stops from his competitors beginning lap 28 also opened the door for him to gain more position, and he was scored a race-high third before a seamless stop for four Firestone “alternate” guayule tires and fuel. His climb to the front continued, and by the halfway mark he had the most passes on track. Another scheduled stop on lap 69 aided his forward motions, and Newgarden was scored fifth. Although misfortune struck with only six laps remaining in the 100-lap event, with an engine fire forcing the No. 2 to retire to pit lane where he ended his day.
NEWGARDEN’S THOUGHTS: “Pretty tough day. Just terrible ending. We had something mechanically break unfortunately on the engine side. Had a small fire. Tried to come to pit lane and shut it off, get it back to pit lane and get the fire out. It’s unfortunate because I think we were on for a top-five. I made a mistake on the last restart unfortunately with about 25 to go. We were restarting fifth and I went back to either eighth or ninth. I just got wide. I think for sure a top-10. We were capable of producing a good day which would have been a good start. Unfortunately, we just had to stop early. A real good job by the team. We had a really solid race. Everything was executed just beautifully as always. The Hitachi Chevy felt racy. We made some moves there in the middle. I was proud of everybody. It was a good first race to work together; a lot of new people on the crew. Everyone performed incredibly with really good stops. So I feel really encouraged for the next round. We’ll just get back on it and get this thing tuned up and keep going.”
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN No. 3 DEX IMAGING DALLARA/CHEVROLET
START – 6TH FINISH – 13TH POINTS – 11TH (-31)
RACE RUNDOWN: Scott McLaughlin and the No. 3 DEX Imaging Chevrolet team looked to be in position to score their second consecutive victory in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon before a late-race incident left them with a 13th-place finish. McLaughlin was the only Team Penske driver to make the Firestone Fast Six during Saturday’s time trials, starting the race in the sixth position on the primary Firestone tires. Starting on the primary tires gave race strategist Kyle Moyer the ability to run McLaughlin a bit longer in the first stint to grab the lead when pit stops began. McLaughlin was able to keep the lead after his pit stop by narrowly beating the No. 28 of Romain Grosjean when blending at the end of pit lane. After holding the top spot until pitting again on lap 71, McLaughlin again came out just in front of Grosjean as the two raced hard for the lead after the final pit stops. Unfortunately, the two came together just before hitting the backstretch, with Grosjean receiving the worst end of the altercation and unable to continue. McLaughlin was penalized for avoidable contact and dropped to the rear of the field, but fought back to finish 13th.
MCLAUGHLIN’S THOUGHTS: “Very sorry to Romain (Grosjean). He’s a friend of mine. I know we were both going for the win there. I just made a big mistake. I tried to push on cold tires. I just didn’t have the grip on the inside (on the primary) like I did on the greens (alternate). Locked the rears. Unfortunately, we made wheel contact that time and it took us both out. Look, I don’t race like that. I apologize. I feel I had plenty of good battles with many good drivers. I just got to thank my DEX Imaging Chevy crew. The car was great. My fuel mileage was great. You have your good days, you have your bad days.”
WILL POWER No. 12 VERIZON 5G DALLARA/CHEVROLET
START – 10TH FINISH – 7TH POINTS – 7TH (-25)
RACE RUNDOWN: The 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion, Will Power, and the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet team got their 2023 season off to a solid start with a seventh-place finish in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Power rolled off from the 10th position and gradually made his way through the field during the first stint of the 100-lap race, particularly late in the run when the Firestone primary tires began to overtake the guayule alternates that many of the competitors elected to use for the start. After moving up to the sixth position at the halfway point of the race, Power and the No. 26 of Colton Herta made contact in the same, tricky area as his teammates. Power was also given an avoidable contact penalty and forced to drop to the rear of the field on the subsequent restart. The Australian driving ace was able to use the ample time left in the event to work his way through the field for a top-10 finish.
POWER’S THOUGHTS: “We (Colton Herta) banged all the way in, and I went up the inside, and I had as much luck as I could. I feel bad that it ruined his day, but I thought he for sure he knew I was there. I was up his inside, and I just understeered. It wasn’t like just a big divebomb. I was here, and he kind of hung on the outside. I hate to ruin anyone’s day, I do. I hate that. I like to race these guys clean, and he races me clean, so I feel really bad. He ended up out, and I was able to keep going. Still a very good day for us. I’m really happy to get the Verizon 5G car in the top-10. A very hectic day.”
WHAT’S NEXT: The next event for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will take place at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 2.