Watkins Glen, NY – The box score may show that Alexander Rossi won Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen from the pole. You may also notice that he led over half the race, leading a race-high 33 of the 60 laps in Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Watkins Glen International.
But, the road to victory lane wasn’t as easy as it may seem.
First off, the race was deemed a “wet start” by the series. That meant that everyone had to start on wet tires. But, the rain that fell on upstate New York stopped quicker than most would have thought and the track dried even quicker.
That led everyone down pit road on the opening lap. On the stops, Helio Castroneves got by Rossi for the lead as the Andretti Autosport driver would run second for the entire first stint. But, a caution flag would fly on Lap 14 for Takuma Sato, bringing most of the leaders down pit road. Five cars had previously just pitted, so Rossi would restart seventh on Firestone alternate tires.
By Lap 20, Rossi would charge to second. Then, after taking the lead on Lap 23, he would have to pit one lap later as the team didn’t get his car full of fuel.
He would come out 16th and be off strategy. But, the luck of a caution from Sato again on Lap 27 brought him back to a similar pit strategy. Then, Josef Newgarden’s potentially championship altering pit road incident on Lap 45 brought out the final caution and allowed Rossi who was leading at the time be great on fuel from then on out.
He’d lead the final 14 laps en route to his second career IndyCar victory and fifth straight top six effort in his No. 98 Honda. In fact, three of those five top sixes all came on the podium too. Rossi, is now sixth in the standings, 84 points out heading to the season finale at Sonoma.
Scott Dixon would bring his No. 9 Honda home second for his second straight runner-up on the season and 10th straight top 10 effort. In fact, Dixon has now finished in the top 10 in 15 of the 16 races this season and now trails Newgarden by just three points heading to the last race of the year.
So, it may have seemed like the front row finished where they started, but it was far from the truth.
Ryan Hunter-Reay brought his No. 28 Honda home third for an all Honda podium. It was Hunter-Reay’s fifth top 10 finish over the last six races and fourth top five of the season.
Helio Castroneves was the lone Chevrolet in the top five with a fourth place effort in his No. 3 Chevy while Graham Rahal rounded out the top five in his No. 15 Honda.
The race was full of strategy from the drop of the green flag. Spencer Pigot and JR Hildebrand pitted on Lap 8 for four tires and fuel, while Max Chilton pitted for fuel only. Marco Andretti and Jack Harvey would then short pit the first sequence and pit on Lap 14. Those drivers mixed with Rossi were then off sequence the rest of the way.
Newgarden, exited his pit too hot on Lap 45 and got into the outside pit wall exiting pit lane. Sebastien Bourdais couldn’t slow down in enough time and got into the back of him. Newgarden, would suffer his worst finish since a 19th place run in the Indy 500, coming home 18th today.
The series has a week off before heading west for the season finale at Sonoma in two weeks.
INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen Results
- 98 Rossi
- 9 Dixon
- 28 Hunter-Reay
- 3 Castroneves
- 15 Rahal
- 12 Power
- 83 Kimball
- 8 Chilton
- 1 Pagenaud
- 14 Munoz
- 4 Daly
- 20 Pigot
- 19 Jones R
- 7 Harvey R
- 21 Hildebrand
- 27 Andretti
- 18 Bourdais
- 2 Newgarden -2
- 26 Sato -4
- 10 Kanaan OUT
- 5 Hinchcliffe OUT