until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Everything that happened in IndyCar's Newgarden-controlled opener

by Jack Benyon
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Team Penske's Josef Newgarden delivered a masterclass in race management from pole position to take his third win at St Petersburg in the 2024 IndyCar season opener, leading an all-Chevrolet top four.

The first stint was as boring as they come in IndyCar as the order barely changed after the first lap thanks to heavy fuel-saving, and the highlight of the early running was a lap seven TV interview with Jon Bon Jovi promoting the race.

Marcus Armstrong crashing at Turn 10 with a “costly mistake” on lap 27 of 100 prompted a caution to coax the race into action.

After Newgarden’s early domination, he was shuffled back to fifth while Christian Lundgaard - who pitted for a puncture caused by reigning champion Alex Palou, who was so fortunate to not get penalised - stayed out and led.

But Newgarden showed his credentials by taking just a couple of laps to move past two cars ahead and then another caution at lap 35 for Sting Ray Robb in the runoff meant Lundgaard pitted and handed Newgarden the lead, with Pato O’Ward his new closest challenger.

The second stint was another fuel-saving snoozefest, and at the final stop, Newgarden emerged with a whopping five-and-a-half-second lead, before a second Ganassi car in the barriers at Turn 10 - Linus Lundqvist, punted by Romain Grosjean - with 31 laps to go bunched up the field and meant no need for any more fuel saving, much to the relief of this writer.

Grosjean had qualified fifth on his Juncos Hollinger Racing debut and did fall back on race pace to the back end of the top 10. After an initially really impressive and consistent race performance, just after his final stop, he was adjudged to be at fault for the Lundqvist incident and got a drive-through penalty, and he later retired inside the last 15 laps with a lack of drive. He accepted responsibility for the Lundqvist shunt.

Back up front, Scott McLaughlin and Will Power - the Penske team-mates on the same strategy of finishing the race on the soft tyre - worked past Colton Herta, who was a constant top-five car all day and had some rapid pistops to his Andretti team's credit - on the restart and put the hard tyres-shod O’Ward under pressure for second.

Unfortunately for them, McLaughlin and Power weren’t able to use the advantage of the softs before the hards came up to speed, allowing O’Ward some breathing room and Newgarden to check out into the distance. O’Ward came under heavy pressure again in the closing laps but held on to the end.

After two years of personnel changes close to the start of the season, a pole and a win is the perfect season opener for double champion Newgarden, with O’Ward second for a second year in a row for Arrow McLaren.

McLaughlin and Power made it three Penske cars in the top four - to go with their 12th win at St Pete - and Herta held on to fifth for Andretti, achieving his goal of a strong result to start the season after a tough start to 2023.

A trademark ‘where did he come from’ drive from reigning champion Palou meant a sixth-place finish.

Palou started 13th and was rarely inside the top 10 for most of the race until the final stop, he pitted later than some of his rivals and boosted into seventh, and then he passed Felix Rosenqvist to take that sixth spot.

His rivals will be wondering why he didn't get a penalty for effectively ruining Lundgaard's race at the start.

Rosenqvist had almost the perfect weekend in his debut with Meyer Shank, and although it has been quick on street courses before and that must be a cautionary note to its performance, Rosenqvist executed with second in qualifying and a track record lap.

In the penultimate stint and last stop he lost time to his rivals and slipped back to what is still an admirable seventh-place finish - the team's best since the 2022 Toronto race that July.

Alexander Rossi - in a similar way to Palou - jumped up the order at the last round of stops and turned his 15th-place start into eighth, ahead of Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay.

Santino Ferrucci plummeted down the order at the first pitstop but recovered to 11th showing AJ Foyt’s step forward in pace with its best result on a road and street course since Long Beach in April 2022.

In a substitute appearance for the injured David Malukas, Callum Ilott was 13th for Arrow McLaren, one spot ahead of top rookie Kyffin Simpson at Ganassi - that being a stellar debut for a driver who has had his credentials doubted by many who are familiar with the budget he brings to the team.

Marcus Ericsson’s start to life at Andretti had begun so well by qualifying sixth for the race, but last year’s St Pete winner retired from seventh just after the halfway point with a loss of power.

Race Results

PosNameCarLapsLaps LedTotal TimeFastest LapPitstopsPts
1Josef NewgardenDallara DW12-Chevrolet100921h51m29.595s1m00.680s254
2Patricio O'WardDallara DW12-Chevrolet1000+7.913s1m01.460s240
3Scott McLaughlinDallara DW12-Chevrolet1000+8.458s1m01.392s235
4Will PowerDallara DW12-Chevrolet1000+9.056s1m01.062s232
5Colton HertaDallara DW12-Honda1001+10.258s1m01.474s231
6Alex PalouDallara DW12-Honda1000+11.804s1m01.319s228
7Felix RosenqvistDallara DW12-Honda1000+14.405s1m01.438s226
8Alexander RossiDallara DW12-Chevrolet1000+15.786s1m01.618s224
9Scott DixonDallara DW12-Honda1000+16.297s1m01.179s222
10Rinus VeeKayDallara DW12-Chevrolet1000+18.835s1m01.664s220
11Santino FerrucciDallara DW12-Chevrolet1000+23.044s1m01.838s219
12Kyle KirkwoodDallara DW12-Honda1000+24.588s1m01.437s218
13Callum IlottDallara DW12-Chevrolet1000+28.712s1m01.819s217
14Kyffin SimpsonDallara DW12-Honda1000+29.567s1m00.878s216
15Pietro FittipaldiDallara DW12-Honda1000+32.818s1m01.712s215
16Graham RahalDallara DW12-Honda1000+34.696s1m01.083s314
17Tom BlomqvistDallara DW12-Honda1000+40.473s1m01.923s213
18Agustín CanapinoDallara DW12-Chevrolet1000+42.125s1m01.864s212
19Jack HarveyDallara DW12-Honda1000+49.346s1m02.085s211
20Christian LundgaardDallara DW12-Honda1007+58.735s1m01.181s311
21Christian RasmussenDallara DW12-Chevrolet990+0.000s1m02.030s29
22Colin BraunDallara DW12-Honda990+0.000s1m02.119s28
23Linus LundqvistDallara DW12-Honda970+0.000s1m01.130s27
Romain GrosjeanDallara DW12-Chevrolet820DNF1m01.900s26
Marcus EricssonDallara DW12-Honda520DNF1m01.909s15
Sting Ray RobbDallara DW12-Chevrolet330DNF1m02.290s15
Marcus ArmstrongDallara DW12-Honda250DNF1m01.877s05
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