BELLE ISLE, Mich – Josef Newgarden doesn’t win Saturday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix without Tim Cindric’s pit call. He’s man enough to admit that. See, Newgarden was quick this weekend, but in terms of all out pace, no one held a candle to Alexander Rossi’s Honda.
Rossi, was over a half of a second quicker than literally everyone in Friday’s Indy Car practice session in Belle Isle. On Saturday, he was a little over 2-tenths of a second quicker en route to the pole for Saturday’s race.
But, the rain was the ultimate equalizer in terms of pit strategy. That is what in turn cost Rossi the win and handed it to Newgarden all because Cindric called Newgarden down pit lane on Lap 18 and there Ed Jones was sliding into the tire barriers in Turn 7 while Newgarden had his No. 2 Chevrolet in his pit stall putting on slicks.
See, at that point of the race, the rain had diminished and the 2.35-mile racing surface on the island was drying. Seven drivers decided to pit early and to put on the Firestone slicks in hopes a caution would fly.
Jones brought those drivers that gift. Newgarden, was one of them.
“He just got lucky with the yellow,” said Rossi of Newgarden. “We didn’t do anything wrong. We were waiting until we were in a window to make it on one stop. The wets were just about to kind of be at the end of their life. The track was about to be dry. Everything was working kind of as we wanted.
“Just the (Ed Jones) car went into the wall right when Josef was in. Nothing you can do about that. That’s just the way races fall sometimes, the way it works.”
Newgarden, admitted that he got a little bit lucky with that sequence but says that in order to be lucky, you have to make it on your own.
“When you talk to Roger (Penske), he’ll tell you that you make your own luck,” said Newgarden after earning his 12th career Indy Car victory and second of the season. “It is true. We were making that call regardless. The yellow certainly helped us. We were sitting in a good position either way. It would have been very fun, very difficult to win the race without the yellow. But the yellow just fell perfectly right into our strategy.
“I think when we pitted was the right time to pit. You could tell the rain tires were starting to go off, the rears were overheating terribly because it was getting dry. You could see (Alexander) Rossi was struggling. Dixie (Scott Dixon) and me were catching him. Dixon looked good that part.
“We pitted at the right time and the yellow helped us even further. It was a great call.”
Newgarden, gives all the credit to his strategist Tim Cindric for the call. Without Cindric being bold there, Newgarden likely finishes a spot behind Rossi instead of in front of him.
“Tim Cindric called the race, in my opinion,” said a happy Newgarden after scoring his 12th career Indy Car win and second of the season. “He got us to win again. We had to execute obviously. I think we were quick. Getting that call from Tim was perfect when we had it.
“Tim is critical. In my opinion, he’s one of if not the best strategists on pit lane. I think Roger (Penske) would tell you that, too. He’s probably the best guy you could have on your stand. I feel lucky that he calls my races. I think we’ve developed quite a good relationship.
“He’s a boss, but at the same time he’s become a friend, a great teammate to me. He coaches me when I need it. Just keeps me going forward. That’s what you need from a strategist. They keep you going forward in the right direction.
“He’s very good at what he does. A lot of pressure with the team president. I don’t know, I look at it that I’ve got the best guy on my stand and it makes me feel pretty confident in the race.”
That’s all why Rossi was frustrated. He did everything right. He was quick on Friday. He won the pole on Saturday. He controlled his own destiny by leading the first 18 laps. He just couldn’t control the caution.
“It’s annoying,” said Rossi after his second straight runner-up on the season “I mean, it’s now three times, COTA, Indy and here. It’s part of it. It ebbs and flows. Yeah, I mean, it’s out of our control.
“I think as a team; we did everything right. We executed. We got on pole. We controlled the race in the wet. Had a great pit stop, huge execution moment for the boys in the pits. They did a good job there to ensure we stayed in front of Scott and Will (Power).
“Yeah, a flawless day for the team. Ultimately didn’t go our way to be on the top step.”
Rossi, tried to keep it close in the end and put a ton of pressure on Newgarden, but the Tennessee native didn’t cave. Newgarden, held Rossi off and never put a wheel wrong which allowed him to beat Rossi for the second closest finish of the year.
“Josef (Newgarden) did a good job, didn’t make any mistakes there on the last stint,” said Rossi after his fifth top five of the season. “I tried to push him into a mistake. We were flat out. But he’s a great driver and isn’t going to make mistakes. Ultimately with a one-groove racetrack like that, couldn’t go offline because it’s wet.”