Josef Newgarden battled through to claim his first win of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season on Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway, rolling the dice on strategy late on before surging past Robert Wickens for the lead with four laps to go.

Defending IndyCar champion Newgarden started seventh at Phoenix and held position for much of the opening stint, with pole-sitter Sebastien Bourdais leading the way for Dale Coyne Racing.

A botched pit stop dropped Bourdais out of contention for victory, while Andretti's Alexander Rossi also hit trouble on his first service, allowing Penske's Will Power to move into the lead with teammate Newgarden now running second.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers Wickens and James Hinchcliffe were able to leapfrog both Power and Newgarden with an off-piste strategy, joining the fight for the win ahead of the final round of pit stops. While Power crashed out with 97 laps to go, Newgarden was able to stay in the lead pack.

A caution called following Ed Jones' crash with 22 laps remaining left many of the lead drivers facing a dilemma over whether or not to pit again. Penske opted to gamble, bringing Newgarden in from the lead to fit him with a fresh set of tyres, allowing Wickens and Hinchcliffe to move back into the front two positions.

Newgarden took the restart fourth with eight laps to go, and immediately swept around the outside of Rossi, who had recovered from his earlier setback, and Hinchcliffe at Turn 1. The American went wheel-to-wheel with Wickens two laps later, duking past to seize the lead which he retained to the chequered flag.

"We had everything, we had the whole package with Team Chevy power. We had the fuel mileage from Team Chevy that we needed," Newgarden said.

"Just being able to have Verizon on the car finally and get victories for them feels so good. They've done so much for the sport and for Team Penske. It's a Team Penske win tonight, I'll tell you that. It wasn't me. This was a team effort tonight that got it done."

Wickens was left to settle for P2 in just his second IndyCar start, coming three weeks after his late defeat at St. Petersburg on debut, while Rossi managed to round out the podium for Andretti.

Scott Dixon took fourth for Chip Ganassi Racing ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe, with Ed Carpenter finishing seventh on his first start of the season for his eponymous team. Tony Kanaan finished eighth for A. J. Foyt Enterprises, while Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud completed the top 10.

The IndyCar season continues with the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15.