By David Morgan, Associate Editor
For the second week in a row, Josef Newgarden has led the most laps in an NTT IndyCar Series race, only to see the win snatched from his grasp at the last moment.
A week after losing the lead late at Detroit to eventual winner Pato O’Ward, the Team Penske ace had seemed to put the disappointment behind him, winning the pole for Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America and setting his sights on finally winning a race this year and getting into the hunt for a third IndyCar championship.
Things were looking good for Newgarden for most of the day on the 4.014-mile road course, leading 32 laps and doing his best to keep a hard-charging Alex Palou at bay as the finish drew nearer. That is until the caution flag flew on lap 52, forcing a restart with three laps to go.
When the green flag dropped for the restart, Newgarden charged up the hill toward Turn 1 when his No. 2 Chevrolet slowed dramatically, allowing Palou to blast past him into the lead, while Newgarden continued to drop through the field as he limped around trying to diagnose what kind of mechanical issue had befallen him and his team.
Newgarden would eventually fall all the way to 21st place, finishing as the last car on the lead lap.
“Down the front straightaway as soon as I got to fifth gear and tried to shift to sixth, it didn’t take the selection, so I was stuck in fifth,” Newgarden explained. “I was trying to get it up to sixth gear, but it wouldn’t go. And then I was stuck in fifth in Turn 1 and finally got it to go down and just could not get it to upshift after that. So, I got down to first essentially and was just trying to stay out of the mayhem and just couldn’t get the thing to upshift. Not sure what happened. It’s obviously disappointing for all of us.”
“I know we had a great car. We had a good car all day. We were doing everything we needed to, surviving yellows, surviving the fuel game. I felt like our car was a rocket ship. Team Chevy did a great job for us. We had such amazing fuel mileage and good power. Super pleased for all of that. Really proud of our team, proud of our partners. I guess it wasn’t meant to be again, you know?”
Now 0-9 on the season, Newgarden sits fourth in points, 88 points behind new points leader Palou heading into the next race at Mid-Ohio in two weeks’ time. Despite the disappointment, he remains upbeat that his team can overcome and get back in the fight for the championship down the stretch.
“I think we’ve got fast cars. It’s just not working out for some reason right now. So, we’re going to claw. We’ll claw back, believe me. Not what I was planning for coming out of this day. I would have liked for us to have been a little bit closer. What are we 88 (points back)? It’s just a different challenge for when we go to next week. So, we’ll get after it.”