BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Josef Newgarden applauded IndyCar’s decision not to risk 16 more minutes on a treacherous, rain-soaked track, even though he could have been the biggest beneficiary.
Other drivers weren’t so happy with earlier calls.
Newgarden will remain up front at Barber Motorsports Park on Monday for the completion of the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Drivers got in just over 44 minutes of a scheduled 2-hour, or 90-lap, race Sunday under heavy rain that caused some cars to hydroplane and affected visibility.
The race was called before it was halfway through, and thus official.
“I was calling for us not to run and I was in the easiest situation,” Newgarden said. “I was leading the race, had the best viewpoint. We do another (16) minutes under caution and we call the thing halfway from a time standpoint, we pick up the win. It’s more advantageous for us to get it in, but I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t think conditions were right.”
The 2-hour limit of total race time will remain in place.
Newgarden started on the pole position and led the first 22 laps of a race he has won two of the past three years. The race restarted after a 37-minute delay because of the track conditions, but only got another few laps in before parking the cars again. The race was called after another 1-hour, 23-minute wait.
Sebastien Bourdais is in second, followed by two-time race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, points leader Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe.
Rossi said at times he could see “absolutely nothing.” He questioned the decision to put up the green flag after the first yellow caution, and “obviously the results of that was a car hydroplaning.”
It was the first time racing in such rainy conditions with this year’s new aero kit.
“This is the first actual wet running I’ve done besides a Sunday morning warmup,” Rossi said. “It was very bad (Sunday). I don’t know if that has to do with the generation of the car or not.”
Two-time race winner Will Power, who started in second and has won twice in Alabama, spun out on the first turn of lap 17 and slammed into the inside wall. He said on the radio: “That’s it.”
Power can continue his race but IndyCar was impounding his Chevrolet overnight so the team couldn’t work on it.
The red flag came out shortly after that incident. Power complained that he couldn’t “believe they went green” with that much standing water on the track.
“It just intensified to the point where you’re starting to get a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands,” Newgarden said. “What happened with Will was something I don’t think was necessarily a driver error. I don’t know how anyone can drive through hydroplane situations like that on the front straightaway.
“I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. Just a tough situation.”
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