Josef Newgarden battled his way to victory in the NTT IndyCar Series season opener in St. Petersburg after seeing off the challenge of Team Penske teammate Will Power, defending champion Scott Dixon and debutant Felix Rosenqvist on Sunday.

Despite running fourth following the first cycle of pit stops, Newgarden was able to run long through his second stint and get the jump on his rivals, who were left stuck in traffic, en route to his 11 IndyCar victory.

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On debut for Chip Ganassi Racing, Rosenqvist made a splash early on by passing Newgarden on the run to Turn 1 and then disposing of pole-sitter Power on the restart following an early caution period.

Power was able to get back ahead of Rosenqvist at the second round of pit stops, with a slow service for the Swede also costing him a place to teammate Dixon.

Newgarden stayed out longer than his rivals in a strategic move that catapulted him into the lead as his rivals struggled to pass alternate strategy runners Spencer Pigot and Marco Andretti, costing them time. Dixon made the most of Power's loss in pace to move up to net second, but Rosenqivst could not follow suit.

A rapid stint on the softer Firestone red tyres saw Newgarden build an eight-second lead over Dixon ahead of the final round of pit stops, giving the 2017 series champion a healthy buffer entering the final stint, only for traffic to bite him in the closing stages.

A failure to lap cars quickly allowed Dixon to close up on the rear of the Penske driver, sitting just one second off at points, but he never got close enough to attempt a move to wrestle victory away from Newgarden.

Power managed to pull out a gap on the cars behind to secure third place and complete a double-podium for Penske, leaving Rosenqvist to settle for fourth on a nevertheless-impressive IndyCar debut.

Alexander Rossi finished as the leading driver outside of Penske or Ganassi, taking fifth for Andretti Autosport ahead of James Hinchcliffe in P6. Hinchcliffe was Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' sole finisher in St. Petersburg as ex-Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson retired early on.

Simon Pagenaud took seventh for Penske ahead of series rookies Colton Herta and Santino Ferrucci in eighth and ninth respectively, while Jack Harvey recorded his best IndyCar finish in P10 for Meyer Shank Racing.

Joining Ericsson on the sidelines were Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais - both of whom suffered failures on their Honda engines - plus Matheus Leist and Ed Jones, the latter suffering a broken finger after crashing in the early stages of the race, with Leist hitting the stricken car. Takuma Sato also failed to finish the race.

The NTT IndyCar Series continues with the IndyCar Classic at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on March 22-24.