Team Penske put two NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers on the podium of Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park. The team’s other driver soldiered on with a damaged car.
Josef Newgarden wasn’t sure what was wrong with his No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet in the opening couple of corners of the 90-lap race -- he thought it was a right rear tire losing air pressure – but television replays clearly showed contact from Felix Rosenqvist.
Rosenqvist’s left front tire initiated the contact in tight quarters, and he accepted responsibility.
“Braking too late,” the driver of the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet said after the race. “That’s on me.”
The beating on Newgarden’s right rear suspension affected the handling of the car’s left rear corner given that the rear was out of balance. The two-time series champion did the best he could with it, but he eventually had to give way from his chance to finish in the top five with the three-stop strategy he was on. He settled for a disappointing 15th-place finish.
“When there were new tires on the car, it was drivable,” Newgarden said. “Then, (the tires wore) and it was definitely different, like asymmetrically off. … the left rear was getting destroyed.
“We just couldn’t hang on at all. It was bad – evil.”
Meanwhile, teammates Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 Good Ranchers Team Penske Chevrolet) and Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) finished first and third, respectively. All three of Roger Penske’s drivers were on the same pit strategy.
Newgarden still considers himself a championship contender, and he should be in better position right now. He’s sixth in the standings after four races, 25 points out of the lead, despite winning the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway. But he had a pair of difficult street-circuit showings at St. Petersburg (finishing 17th) and Long Beach (ninth). And now this.
“Unlucky,” he said. “You know, I hate saying ‘luck,’ but it’s a big part of it.”
Lundgaard Sixth, Happy
Christian Lundgaard continued his upward momentum Sunday by delivering a sixth-place finish, his best so far in four starts this year. It also is the best result for a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver this season.
“We took a big step forward,” said Lundgaard, who started the race in the same position as he finished. “Even just looking at my own (pass) on Scott (Dixon), you know, these are the kinds of moves that we had to get done today, and I knew I had to be aggressive.
“My dad told me (before the race) to think about driving thinking about what you enjoyed growing up, and I was raised to race hard. So, I did that today.”
Lundgaard is eager to get to the Month of May after finishing second to Alexander Rossi in last year’s Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on July 30. Lundgaard also calls Indianapolis his home, as it is where he lives during the racing season.
Rookie Receives Reward
Sometimes, a television interview is just gold.
That happened Sunday when rookie Marcus Armstrong was dumbfounded to receive a trophy just as he went on camera following the race.
“Do I get a trophy for potential loser, or what is that?” Armstrong said.
Told the Jostens Biggest Mover Award was for the driver who advanced the most positions in the race, Armstrong didn’t know how to react, but he forced a smile. He had started 26th and finished 11th, a gain of 15 positions – worthy of an award on this day.
“Oh, I didn’t realize you get a trophy for this,” he said. “Hey, thanks.”
Armstrong said he enjoyed his first U.S. road course race and is looking forward to competing in the upcoming GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the June 18 race at Road America. He also noted how he needs to remind himself that he has a water bottle at his disposal in these INDYCAR SERIES races.
“I haven’t had that before in my career,” he said. “So, unless someone actually reminds me to use it, I don’t use it.”
Armstrong just wished he hadn’t incurred a penalty in Saturday’s qualifying for interfering with Rinus VeeKay. Armstrong, driver of the No. 11 The American Legion Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing, didn’t think it was warranted since both drivers were on their out laps, but it’s a lesson learned.
Still, he leads the Rookie of the Year point standings despite not competing on the oval at Texas Motor Speedway. Armstrong is racing only street- and road-course events this season.
“We had a penalty in (qualifying), so we couldn’t start where we should have, but I’m happy because we obviously were the biggest mover, according to this trophy,” he said, smiling this time with more confidence. “Overall, a good (day).”
Rasmussen Bests Barber
Christian Rasmussen led all 35 laps in the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry to win the INDY NXT Grand Prix of Alabama, taking a 1.9983-second victory over rookie teammate Nolan Siegel in the No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR car.
The win was the third in the series for Rasmussen, who won two races as a rookie last year. The Danish driver also grabbed the series lead by five points over Siegel.
Toby Sowery finished third in the No. 14 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry. It was Sowery’s first series race since 2021 as he was filling in for Josh Pierson, who was racing in the World Endurance Championship sports car race at Spa-Francorchamps.
The next race is the INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix on Saturday, May 13 on the IMS road course (1 p.m. ET, Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE, INDYCAR Radio Network).
Odds and Ends
- Before Sunday’s race, track and series officials announced a renewal of the event through 2027. Proceeds will continue to benefit Children’s of Alabama, one of the busiest pediatric hospitals in the country. The INDYCAR SERIES’ first event here was in 2010.
- Newgarden’s Team Penske crew tried to imitate the driver’s sculpted physique evident in the debut Thursday night of the “100 Days to Indy” docuseries on The CW, showing up on pit road Sunday wearing shirts featuring fake muscles.
- Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) retained the series points lead despite finishing 10th. His margin heading to the Month of May at IMS is three points over Pato O’Ward, who finished fourth in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
- The INDYCAR SERIES is back on track Saturday, May 13 for the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course. Practice and qualifying will be held Friday, May 12 with the 85-lap race set for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET (NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network).