All the Verizon IndyCar Series had to bring some extra patience, when Round 4 of the Championship was held at Berber Motorsports Park in Alabama.
The Sunday had a high chance of rain, but the races was still started and some laps were run, but the conclusion of the race wasn’t going to happen until Monday afternoon, local time.
The defending Champion Josef Newgarden started the race from Pole Position ahead of teammate Will Power. Power is the only driver two qualify in the top 6 all year long, so that describes how changeable the grids have been this year.
Sebastien Bourdais started the race in third, ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, and Scott Dixon.
We had to go all the way down to 8th to find the Championship leader, Alexander Rossi.
The rain already fell when the cars were sent on the formation lap, which was the first laps for all the drivers to do in the rain, with the new body kit.
The front guys made it through the first corners without any problems, while James Hinchcliffe lost a lot of positions, just because he was cautious.
Marco Andretti put teammate Alexander Rossi under a lot of pressure, but ended up spinning out on the third lap of the race.
Josef Newgarden was all in command out front, putting more than four seconds on the rest of the field in only three laps. Sebastien Bourdais was right behind Will Power but couldn’t make it past.
Takuma Sato had started all the way back in 18th, but his rain experience from Japan and Europe really paid off, and he worked his way through the field. Only 5 laps in, he was already in P13. Graham Rahal was in P16, and could follow his short, Japanese teammate’s pace.
Gabby Chaves had to pit on lap 10, since his visor was all fogged up. The team gave him a tank full of Ethanol and wiped off his visor, before sending him out again.
Charlie Kimball had an off-course experience, which broke his front wing. He tried to make it back to the pits, but ended up being stranded on the track, so a full course caution was needed to get his car moved. He got a push by Ed Jones, sending him into the armco – but the race was over for Kimball.
Simon Pagenaud took the chance and pitted, to get new tires. Kimball had been restarted on the track, so he could eventually enter the pits. But it turned out not only to be a damaged front wing but an gearbox issue as well.
When the race was restarted, there were troubles right away. Josef Newgarden almost lost the car going over start/finish, and only few meters later, Will Power lost the car in the middle of the straight, and spun directly into the concrete wall. By doing so he broke the front suspension of his Penske car, and another Full Course Caution had to be called, so his car could be removed. He was only centimetres away from taking Ryan Hunter-Reay with him, but thankfully only Power got involved.
The race was red-flagged after 19 laps of the Sunday race, with Race Control trying to restarted after a nearly 40 minutes break. The team only did four laps behind the Pace Car, before the race was stopped again, and delayed until Monday. Graham Rahal even managed to spin while the car were at reduced pace. So no chance to put on a race.
The weather was very different Monday afternoon, when the track had dried up and the sun was out once again.
Part two of the race would be timed to an hour and 15 minutes, and the clock would start as soon as the cars left the pitlane.
Max Chilton stalled on the formation lap, so he had to get some help, to try and restart the car. That didn’t work out, so he had to be towed back to the pits.
The race was started after three laps.
Josef Newgarden led the field ahead of Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay, followed by Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe, Zach Veach and Robert Wickens.
Simon Pagenaud started his march towards the front by overtaking Graham Rahal for 13th.
Spencer Pigot tried a very special overtaking technique on Zachery Claman De Melo, where he pushed the Canadian sideways through several corners, but he ended up losing five positions himself. Claman De Melo was able to continue the race without any problems.
Ed Jones took the chance and pitted as one of the first, to get a full tank and some new tires.
Robert Wickens made a great manoeuvre on Zach Veach in the fight for 6th. Scott Dixon was the next in line to attack Veach, but he didn’t make it past instantly. Only when Veach made a small driving error, was it possible for Dixon to get past. Only a few laps later, Graham Rahal was able to pass Veach too.
With 40 minutes left of the race, both Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi were in for their first pitstop of the day. One lap later, Simon Pagenaud took his.
James Hinchcliffe had caught up with Ryan Hunter-Reay in the fight for second, while Sebastien Bourdais had a comfortable lead.
Bourdais pitted with 33 minutes to go, and the plan was to go to the end. That sent Josef Newgarden back in front, ahead of Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais. Dixon hadn’t taken his pitstop yet, but dived into the pits one lap later. Dixon dropped all the way down to 12th, so he had a long way back to the podium.
Dixon had some electrical issues on his car, so the display on his steering wheel got more and more darkened out. On top of that, was a malfunction of his pit speed limiter, so he had to drive to a certain amount of revs in the pit, in order to stay bellow the speed limit. Luckily he was experienced enough to make that work.
Dixon was really flying and was all the way up in 8th after only a few laps.
Alexander Rossi took his last regular stop with 22 minutes to go, since he didn’t have enough fuel to reach the finish anyway.
Then the rain started to come down again, but only as a slight drizzle, and not enough for anybody to fit rain tires at that point.
Ed Jones had to pit with technical issues on his car. A disappointing end to the podium visitor at Long Beach.
Dixon had made it up to 6th and had Wickens and Hinchcliffe in P5 and P4 within sight.
Newgarden was the first to go onto wets, since the rain intensity increased all the time. One lap later, Simon Pagenaud followed him in.
Newgarden was much slower than the drivers on slicks, and was overtaken by Ryan Hunter-Reay on the straight, like he was only doing half throttle.
Hinchcliffe opted to go for rain tires, too, since some of the teams still believed in that to be the right choice.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Robert Wickens and Graham Rahal also pitted for rain tires, just as the rain got harder.
Alexander Rossi had a trip through the gravel, but he was still on slicks. So he opted for a change as well.
With 7 minutes left on the clock, Bourdais chose to pit, since it was impossible to stay on slicks.
Then it was just plain sailing for Josef Newgarden towards the chequered flag, with more than 20 seconds to Ryan Hunter-Reay and a further 4 seconds to James Hinchcliffe. But Newgarden was still clipping the edge of the grass with 4 minutes to go, but stayed on the track.
Robert Wickens was flying on the rain tires, and caught Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay by more than one second per lap.
Jordan King had a small detour through the gravel, but he made it back on the track again.
Josef Newgarden took his second victory of the year, ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay, and James Hinchcliffe, followed by Robert Wickens, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon. Bourdais and Dixon fought all the way, side by side, towards the finishing line.
Josef Newgarden leads the Championship after today’s race, ahead of Alexander Rossi, Sebastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe.
After three intense weeks in a row, the Verizon IndyCar Series has a small break, before they return on 13 May, for their next round on the Grand Prix track at Indianapolis, and then move onto the oval for the Indy 500.