IndyCar GP of St. Petersburg: Josef Newgarden wins as Team Penske dominates

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Josef Newgarden dominated the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, leading 92 of 100 laps as Team Penske enjoyed a massive day in the NTT IndyCar Series season opener.

Newgarden won by more than 6 seconds over Pato O'Ward. Penske teammates Scott McLaughlin and Will Power claimed the next two spots in a sweep of the top four for Chevrolet. Colton Herta rounded out the top five as the first Honda driver.

Alex Palou, Felix Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon and Rinus VeeKay rounded out the top 10.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order of the Grand Prix of St. Pete

"I had a lot of fun today, a lot of fun," Newgarden told NBC Sports' Marty Snider. "It’s so deserving for the work that (the team) put in; I know intimately what’s been put into this program in the offseason. It’s Team Chevy, everything they brought this weekend and our team specifically."

O'Ward finished second for the second consecutive year at St. Pete but was satisfied to carry the momentum with IndyCar's next points race five weeks away. The series will race the Million Dollar Challenge exhibition race at The Thermal Club before the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach next month.

"Penske was a little too strong today for us, and I had McLaughlin and Power put in some really good pressure," O'Ward told NBC Sports' Marty Snider. "I was happy with my race car. Just needed a little more to make Josef sweat. I’m super happy with the foundation. It’s a long season ahead. We’re looking forward to it.

"It’s huge because the next points race is like in five years. It’s good to have a really good strong first race to carry that into the Million Dollar Challenge in Thermal and then onto Long Beach. I think we’ve got some good ones coming up, and we’ll be ready."

It's the first victory on a street course in more than two years for Newgarden, whose 30th career victory lifted him to 13th on all-time IndyCar win list (breaking a tie with Rick Mears).

"We worked really hard to close the gap," Newgarden said. "We didn’t have the speed we needed at road and street courses last year, at least on a consistency basis. Today we brought that speed. We had the execution as always. Exactly what you expect from Team Penske. I feel very relaxed right now. I was really excited initially and then kind of calmed down those last 10 laps. We can move on from here and at least enjoy this first victory."

The two-time IndyCar champion also tied Helio Castroneves' record with his third victory at St. Pete (after winning here in 2019 and '20) and the 12th on the 1.8-mile downtown street course for Team Penske.

It also is the third victory in a season opener this year for team owner Roger Penske, whose Porsche sports cars teams won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the World Endurance Championship race last week in Qatar.

After winning his 19th Indy 500 with Newgarden last year, Penske also closed the 2023 NASCAR season with a Cup championship for Ryan Blaney.

Lap 70

Josef Newgarden leads the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with 30 laps remaining after making a pit stop just ahead of the race's third caution flag.

The yellow flew on Lap 69 after Linus Lundqvist landed in the Turn 10 tire barrier. After reviewing the incident, IndyCar stewards penalized Romain Grosjean for avoidable contact with Lundqvist. Grosjean, who was making his Juncos Holling Racing debut, served a drive-through penalty and later retired with 14 laps left.

Newgarden had pitted on Lap 65 during a green-flag cycle that opened on Lap 64 with Alexander Rossi and Grosjean making stops.
Newgarden, who is trying to win the St. Pete opener for the second time after a 2019 victory, cycled back into first after Colton Herta pitted a lap later.

On the Lap 73 restart, the two-time IndyCar champion was ahead of Pato O'Ward, Herta, Scott McLaughlin and Felix Rosenqvist.

Lap 50

Josef Newgarden is in command of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, leading at the midpoint of the NTT IndyCar Series opener.

Starting from the pole position, the Team Penske star has led 43 of the first 50 laps in search of his first street course win in nearly two years.

Pato O'Ward is 1.0816 seconds behind in second, followed by Felix Rosenqvist, Scott McLaughlin and Colton Herta.

Defending race winner Marcus Ericsson fell out of contention when his No. 28 Dallara-Honda lost power while running sixth just past halfway.

There were two yellow flags for one-car incidents in the first 50 laps.

Lap 38 — Second caution

Nearing the midpoint of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, pole-sitter Josef Newgarden has reclaimed the lead of the IndyCar season opener.

The Team Penske driver inherited first place for the Lap 38 restart when Christian Lundgaard pitted from the lead during the race's second caution, which was for Sting Ray Robb stopping in the first turn.

With 60 of 100 laps remaining, Newgarden leads Pato O'Ward by 0.7019 seconds. Felix Rosenqvist, Scott McLaughlin and Colton Herta round out the top dive.

Lap 29

The first yellow flag of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg scuttled the running order as virtually the entire field came to the pits.

After leading the first 28 laps from the pole position, Josef Newgarden left the pits behind Colton Herta and Felix Rosenqvist.

Christian Lundgaard, who had pitted on the opening lap for a tire puncture, inherited the lead by staying on track ahead of Rosenqvist, Herta, Newgarden and Pato O'Ward.

After the Lap 30 restart, Newgarden quickly got past Herta and Rosenqvist into second behind Lundgaard.

The first caution was for Marcus Armstrong, whose No. 11 Dallara-Honda made contact with the Turn 10 tire barriers.

Lap 20

Seeking his first street course victory in nearly two years, Josef Newgarden had led the first 20 laps of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg from the pole position in his No. 2 Dallar-Chevrolet.

Newgarden, whose most recent street course win came at Long Beach in April 2022, is being stalked by Felix Rosenqvist, who trails by a second in his Meyer Shank Racing debut with the No. 60 Dallara-Honda.

Colton Herta, Pato O'Ward and Marcus Ericsson (in his first start for Andretti Global) round out the top five, followed by Scott McLaughlin, Rinus VeeKay, Romain Grosjean, Will Power and Marcus Armstrong.

Newgarden was hampered by weak results on road and street courses last year, managing only one podium finish in the 12 races outside the oval schedule (where he had four victories).

Aside from a tire puncture on the opening lap for Christian Lundgaard, there were no incidents as the race began with 20 consecutive laps under green.

Lap 1

The 20th edition of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is under way, opening the 2024 season for the NTT IndyCar Series.

Starting from the pole position for the first time in nearly two years, Josef Newgarden led the field to the green in a clean start (after last year's race resulted in a first-lap pileup with multiple cars getting airborne).

Christian Lundgaard suffered a puncture in his right-rear tire on the opening lap, forcing the Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver to limp his No. 45 Dallara-Honda into the pits. Lundgaard was able to change tires without damage but returned to the track a lap down in last place.

STARTING LINEUP: The 27-car grid for the St. Pete GP

Rookie Christian Rasmussen had clutch problems that prevented him from joining the parade laps, but the 2023 Indy NXT champion was able to leave the grid in time for the green flag.

IndyCar Series owner Roger Penske told NBC Sports on the prerace grid that the St. Pete crowd is the largest in the race's history.

The 100-lap race is on NBC and being streamed on Peacock.