By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden qualified 16th thanks to a bad qualifying draw for Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. He managed to salvage a sixth place finish by gradually climbing a mountain of cars in his No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet.
The Tennessee native didn’t crack the top 10 until Lap 68, getting to ninth after passing both James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon.
Newgarden continued his rise, getting to his eventual finishing position on Lap 109 and he spent most of the race there but it wasn’t his highest running position.
The final sequence of pit stops allowed the 2011 Indy Lights champion to lead Lap 256 before making his final pit stop, but after falling back to 12th he was able to claw his way to sixth, spending the last 30 laps in that position.
“We didn’t get all the way to the front, I think today was a track position day,” Newgarden said.
“It was hard to go through anybody, even the leaders. They couldn’t really move through people much so if we would’ve started up higher I think we would’ve been better.
“Just difficult to go all the way from the back, but still a strong effort for us on the 2 car, I thought our guys did a great job, we still had a great team effort and obviously won the race with Helio, just needed to be higher up at the start,” Newgarden added.
Last year, Newgarden dominated the Iowa Corn 300, leading 282 laps, but this year was a different animal. He’s with a new team with more teammates, he has a new setup and a lot was different that he couldn’t control.
“I think the whole event changed. The tire was different, the track temp was different so it was a very different animal compared to last year.”
Only one thing might’ve made a difference in Newgarden’s finishing position.
“I think if we would’ve qualified later that was probably the biggest thing that would’ve helped us, track position was king today.”