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Newgarden claims first IndyCar Series win not far from home

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – Josef Newgarden held off a hard-charging Graham Rahal on Sunday in the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama for his first IndyCar Series victory.

Newgarden got his milestone win at Barber Motorsports Park a few hours from his hometown of Hendersonville, Tennessee, with most of the major drama coming behind him.

Rahal finally slipped past Scott Dixon on the final lap after several tries, giving the American drivers a 1-2 finish.

Dixon had his sixth podium finish in as many years in Alabama at No. 3. He picked up the 36th win of his career last week at Long Beach, moving into sole possession of fifth place in the series. He still couldn’t quite break through in Alabama.

Newgarden had posted second-place finishes in each of the past two years before finally finishing up front for CFH Racing, a merger of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing. He’d gotten off to a good start with a seventh-place finish last weekend at Long Beach.

Rahal’s strong finish Sunday, meanwhile, gave Honda a boost after Chevrolet fielded the seven fastest cars in qualifying, with Team Penske sweeping the top three.

Rahal flirted with his first victory since becoming the youngest IndyCar winner in 2008 at 19 years old and picked up considerable ground in the final laps.

He made an outside pass of Ryan-Hunter Reay with 10 laps to go, went by pole-sitter Helio Castroneves and then took on Dixon, the veteran from New Zealand. Rahal finished 2.2 seconds behind Newgarden.

Two-time defending champion Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, made a big surge after starting 18th. He finished fifth, while Team Penske’s Will Power was fourth and Carlos Munoz took sixth.

Castroneves fell back to 15th after having to make a late pit stop for fuel, one spot ahead of Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who came in with the series points lead.

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