Newgarden crushes IndyCar field for St. Petersburg win

The art of extreme fuel saving was on display during Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was won by polesitter Josef Newgarden.

The art of extreme entertainment conservation was also deployed over 100 laps where not much happened at the season-opening IndyCar race as most drivers spent the afternoon following each other and making a limited number of passing attempts while they engaged the throttle pedal as infrequently as possible.

Despite the long stretches of boredom, Newgarden and Team Penske used the event to show how far the organization has come since the end of the 2023 season. Newgarden led 92 laps and ran away and hid from Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward to win by 7.9s. Teammate Scott McLaughlin was third, 8.4s back from Newgarden, and the Penske trio was completed by Will Power, who rounded home 9.0s arrears.


Together, the quartet delivered a statement of Chevrolet’s intent for the season as the Bowtie went 1-2-3-4 to start the defense of its manufacturers’ championship.

“It did feel comfortable today,” Newgarden said. “I had a lot of fun. Early on in the race, I said I was going. I’m not going to wait around. It’s been a process for us to come back and be better in areas we needed. We cleaned up our game and worked at the level we need to be.”

Andretti Global’s Colton Herta was the top Honda representative on the day, leading one lap on the way to fifth, many corners behind with a 10.2s deficit to the winner.

Elsewhere, Meyer Shank Racing front-row starter Felix Rosenqvist fell to seventh at the finish after enduring a slow pit stop and small drivetrain issues. A.J. Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci was solid on his way to 11th, and among the many rookies, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyffin Simpson was clean from start to finish and was rewarded with the second-fastest race lap and 14th at the finish line.

The race opened with a mostly clean run through the first few corners; Christian Lundgaard was the only driver to suffer when contact from behind cut his right-rear tire and sent the Dane to pit lane for a replacement, which dropped him to last.

Once the field was settled, the 27 drivers went into fuel-saving mode for the remainder of the first stint. Newgarden held a gap over Rosenqvist that sat in the 1.5s range, and behind him, Herta ran a steady 4.0s behind the leader.

The first caution of the race flew on lap 27 when Ganassi’s Marcus Armstrong slid into the barriers and broke his rear suspension while running 10th. The crash prompted the field—minus Lundgaard — to head to the pits.

A slow pit-box exit for Newgarden allowed Rosenqvist and Herta to jump ahead and take the restart behind Lundgaard on lap 31 and Newgarden pounced on Herta—O’Ward and McLaughlin also followed through—as Rosenqvist was held up behind Lundgaard.

Newgarden motored past Rosenqvist on lap 33 to take second on the road and O’Ward took third as Rosenqvist fell to fourth. McLaughlin and Herta completed the top six.

The next caution was needed on lap 35 because of Sting Ray Robb pulling off in Turn 1. He climbed from the car and pointed to the right-front corner as the AMR Safety Team approached. Lundgaard pitted under caution and resumed at the back of the field as Newgarden reclaimed the lead.

The lap 38 restart set another fuel-saving stint in motion and by the halfway point, Newgarden held 1.2s over O’Ward, 2.2s over Rosenqvist, 3.8s over McLaughlin, 4.7s over Herta, and 6.4s over Andretti’s Marcus Ericsson as the leaders were 100 percent successful in their attempts to not pass each other.

Ericsson’s strong run met its end on lap 53 as he pitted and the Andretti crew removed the engine cover. By lap 65 we had the first takers for final pit stops; Newgarden came in at the end of the lap after building 3.6s over O’Ward. Herta stayed out to stop at the end of lap 66 and jumped Rosenqvist and McLaughlin to claim third behind Newgarden and O’Ward.


McLaughlin took the position from Rosenqvist and on lap 69, Ganassi’s Linus Lundqvist—just like teammate Armstrong—crashed at Turn 10, but this wasn’t a solo incident. A hit from behind by Romain Grosjean sent the rookie into the barriers, which broke his rear wing and stalled the car. Running 13th at the time of the hit, Lundqvist was refired and he drove to the pits for repairs. Grosjean, who inherited 13th, was given a drive-through penalty which dropped him to 21st. A transmission issue later in the run parked Grosjean for the rest of the race.

The lap 73 restart saw the leaders hold station with Newgarden in front of O’Ward, but a sliding Herta surrendered third to McLaughlin and then fourth to Power. Lap 76 saw a pass for sixth as Palou demoted Rosenqvist.

The remainder of the race went without changes up front as Newgarden cruised to the win.


Story originally appeared on Racer