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FORT WORTH — Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden checked a major box off his open-wheel resume — and erased the memory of a horrific, high-speed crash here — with a victory in Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The NTT IndyCar Series point-leader, Newgarden held off Alexander Rossi over the final 10 laps around TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval to record his first superspeedway victory. Newgarden became the series’ first three-time winner in 2019 with his fourth win on an oval, but first on one measuring 1-mile or more.
“This win goes down to the team, they keep putting me out in front,” said Newgarden, alluding to a pit stop for four fresh tires and fuel on Lap 198 under green called by Penske President Tim Cindric.
“I was like, ‘Man, we’re going to have good set of laps.’ I knew we had a rocket ship, I just knew we had to get to the front.”
Newgarden’s margin of victory in the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Chevrolet over Rossi was 0.8164 seconds, with Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing rounding out the podium. The top finishing rookie was Santino Ferrucci of Dale Coyne Racing in fourth, reprising the run that led to his selection as Rookie of the Year at the 103rd edition of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.
Newgarden surrendered the lead under green when he pitted on Lap 198, but mistake-free work by his Penske crew allowed him to retake the point from Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing on Lap 203. Once defending event-winner Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing was eliminated in a Turn 3 crash on Lap 229 involving rookie Colton Herta of Harding Steinbrenner Racing, the race came down to a one-on-one between Newgarden and Rossi.
Rossi tried to pass Newgarden several times on the outside heading into Turn 1, where the track is banked at 20 degrees.
“He was fast, ran a great race,” Newgarden said of Rossi. “Both him and Dixon ran me fair at the end. [Rossi] was good, just hard to hold off, he was so good in dirty air. You saw the speed I had on the front stretch to hold him off, thanks to Team Chevy.
“Glad we finally figured this place out. We’ve been close here before and not been able to make it happen. But I knew we could win a race here.”
Newgarden’s best finish in seven previous starts at TMS was eighth in 2013, when he drove for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Newgarden escaped career-threatening injury during a grinding, frontstretch crash here in June 2016, a race that was postponed by rain and eventually run in August. Newgarden suffered a broken collarbone and wrist injuries in that crash, but rallied to close his career with Ed Carpenter Racing. The 27-year-old Tennessee native joined Roger Penske’s juggernaut in 2017 and promptly won the championship.
Newgarden, one of seven drivers to pace the race, led twice for 54 laps en route to his 13th career victory.
Rossi said he was shocked to see Newgarden emerge as a player down the stretch. “It sucks, I didn’t see him up-front all day,” said Rossi, driver of the No. 27 GESS/Capstone Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport.
“He was really nowhere. They called a great race [in the pits] and once he got track position there was nothing I could do. I could get halfway around Turn 1 and then there was nothing I could do.
“The difference came in the last four laps, I fell off on him. I couldn’t keep the challenge on him. I kept trying to go high in [Turns] 1 and 2… I tried it like six times. Wasn’t meant to be.”
John Sturbin is a senior writer at RacinToday.com, based in Fort Worth. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.