The second Verizon IndyCar Series 2018 race was run at the ISM Raceway oval, formerly known as Phoenix Raceway.
Sebastien Bourdais had claimed Pole Position ahead of Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, while Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe just pipped oval-rookie Robert Wickens, who once again surprised everybody with his speed.
The pulse raised quite a bit extra for the Pole man, since he stalled on his way out of the pits, and had to get outside assistance to get the car fired again. Luckily they managed to do so, so he could regain his leading position.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was lightning fast off the green flag, and took the high line around Turn 1 and 2. That gave him two positions, so he moved into P6.
Rossi and Power had also swapped positions early in the race, before the race fell into a rhythm, where there wasn’t many changes going on, until the lappery started.
The race went green all the way until the 41st lap, where Pietro Fittipaldi ended up in the Turn 4 wall. He had gone a bit off the line and slid up into the wall. There wasn’t major damage to the car, but enough for him to retire.
The first yellow flag period made everybody dive for the pits for their first pitstops. When Sebastien Bourdais turned into his pitbox, he hit one of his mechanics. Luckily it was very soft contact, and the mechanic was able to complete the tire change without any problems. The same thing happened for Alexander Rossi, who slid out on the concrete lining the pit boxes. But both episodes fortunately ended without any injuries. Both drivers received a drive-though penalty for the incidents.
Simon Pagenaud had an issue with one of his wheel-nuts, and that cost him so much extra time in the pits, that he dropped far back the field.
So Will Power was handed the lead on a silver platter, while Josef Newgarden was running second ahead of Robert Wickens.
Another long green flag period started, and once again Ryan Hunter-Reay was climbing the field. From P6 right after the pitstop to P4 only a few laps later.
The second pitstop round was done under green flag, so there wasn’t much traffic or panic in the pits this time around.
Matheus Leist exited his pitstop without the rear wheel-nut tightened, which the mechanic instantly waived off. But he had left the box but didn’t get very far before he became a three-wheeler. Luckily the car didn’t hit anybody, and the mechanics could drag the car back and put on a new wheel.
James Hinchcliffe had taken the lead of the race ahead of Robert Wickens while Ryan Hunter-Reay stayed third. The two Penske drivers Will Power and Josef Newgarden were all the way down in 5th and 6th.
Wickens took the lead on lap 149, when his teammate Hinchcliffe was blocked by Gabby Chaves during putting a lap on Chaves, resulting in Hinchcliffe losing a lot of speed.
Five laps later it was Will Power’s turn to be in problems, when he scraped the wall, right after being overtaken by Alexander Rossi. Power slid up a bit too high and got into the marbles and ended up in the wall. Race control decided to stay green, since there wasn’t any debris plus Power was able to drive his car back to the pits.
176 laps in the race saw Kyle Kaiser scrape the wall, but he too got the car back to the pics, avoiding another potential yellow flag.
The final pitstop round of the day started out with Josef Newgarden being the first in the leading group to pit. That gave him an advantage, bringing him to the front of the field, after all the other competitors had pitted.
Hunter-Reay overtook teammate Rossi with a quite aggressive manoeuvre, and took 5th by doing so.
The race was on the road to finish without further interruptions, but with 22 laps to go, Ed Jones ended up in the wall. He was about to put a lap on Spencer Pigot, but ended up in the wall himself after getting into the dirt off-line. That ended a potential podium run for the young Chip Ganassi Racing driver.
A number of drivers decided to pit, including Josef Newgarden. Robert Wickens, James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi all decided to stay out on their old tires. Newgarden in P4 was the first driver on fresh tires.
The races restarted with 7 laps to go.
It was a wild restart, where there was huge speed differences between new and old tires. Newgarden overtook the first two drivers going around the outside in Turn 1, and then started hunting down Wickens. 3 laps later Newgarden managed to take the lead back. Wickens did put up a fight, but couldn’t fight against the new tires.
Hinchcliffe had a whole train behind his car, where Ed Carpenter challenged him, while Carpenter was under pressure from Tony Kanaan.
But it was Josef Newgarden who ended up winning the race in dominant style ahead of Robert Wickens and Alexander Rossi.
With this victory, Team Penske is only two wins away from 200 Indycar victories. An impressive statistic from the Captain and his team.
The Championship standings have Josef Newgarden leading the Verizon IndyCar Series, with Alexander Rossi, Sebastian Bourdais and Graham Rahal on the following places.
The cars are already back on the track next weekend, where the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will run at the classic street circuit.