Teammates duel for first in Indy Lights

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:25 AM ET

EDMONTON - After giving up the lead on the opening lap, Josef Newgarden was of two minds trying to get it back in the Firestone Indy Lights race on Saturday.

The series points leader wanted to win the race, but he didn't want to risk taking out himself or his teammate in the process.

So Newgarden had to settle for second place as Esteban Guerrieri was able to get to the front of the pack early and held on to win the first of two Indy Lights races this weekend.

They'll take to the track again Sunday prior to the IndyCar event.

"It's very tough, it's an interesting dynamic," said Newgarden. "We're good friends, which is great, there's not really any animosity between us. We're one-two in the championships, battling quite hard.

"But you need to be careful, you can't be too aggressive with a teammate. It's not good for the team in general, you have to be thinking about the team and what's best for everybody. But certainly you're not going to be too cautious. If you get an opportunity, I was going to take it. I just wasn't able to get a good enough one to capitalize on."

Newgarden started the race in pole position, but conceded the lead on Turn 5 of the opening lap when Guerrieri and Peter Dempsey were able to slip by him prior to a four-car pileup behind them on the same bend.

Newgarden was able to quickly regain second place following the restart and settled in behind Guerrieri for the remainder of the race.

"I got Dempsey back right away, he squeezed me into the grass though when I went by him," Newgarden said. "I don't know, he's a tough guy to race, for sure. He's a nice guy, we're friends, a good competitor, but he's sometimes very difficult on the track, maybe a little bit too tough."

After passing Dempsey, Newgarden and Guerrieri ran away with the event, with the native of Buenos Aires, Argentina taking the checkered flag and closing the gap on Newgarden at the top of the points standings.

"I don't think there is much of a difference between racing a teammate or anybody else," said Guerrieri, who claimed his second win of the season. "Racing, you are there to win. He wants to win and I want to win.

"I think the level of aggression is always there, being teammates or not. Obviously you don't want to crash with your teammate, but I try to respect everybody, not only my teammate."

Local product Stefan Rzadzinski, making his Indy Lights debut, finished 10th.

Rzadzinski started at the back of the pack in 16th place, but moved up to 10th after a pileup on the opening turn of the race.

The rookie, however could not improve his position from there as he spun out into the infield and needed help to get pushed out of the soggy grass.

Oliver Webb, who started in the 10th spot, finished third, helped by the fact Dempsey locked up heading into Turn 1 on lap 26 of 40 and went flying into the wall after rubbing up against Victor Carbone.

Despite his car flipping over and ending up upside down, Dempsey was able to walk away from the scene.

"The race was good, we stayed clean," said Webb. "I was able to make a couple of moves before the third caution flag. Then the (Dempsey) crash was obviously a bit unfortunate, but it gifted me third place. All in all, first race to get a podium is really good."

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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