By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor
Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden seemed poised for another podium to open the Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Then the Tennessean did something that’s been rare for him in recent years.
He made a mistake.
Newgarden was battling Sebastien Bourdais for third on Lap 56 of the 85-lap INDYCAR Grand Prix when an ill-advised dive under the Frenchman in Turn 12 led the Team Penske ace into a spin that resulted in a full-course yellow and a drop to the back of the field.
Afterward Newgarden took blame for the incident.
“I just forced the issue with Bourdais,” he said. “It’s my fault.
“I think I got too greedy. I had two or three runs on Bourdais. I just got frustrated and too greedy. I thought he was going to give me a little more room. He gave me some, but it wasn’t enough.”
Newgarden also confessed to making the mistake of looking ahead with his bold pass attempt.
With Team Penske teammate Will Power and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Robert Wickens driving off in the distance, Newgarden knew he needed to complete a pass quickly if he was to have any hope of making a trip to victory lane.
“I was trying to get Will,” he said. “That was my mistake.
“We probably should have just focused on the podium, because that’s where our car was. The guys did a good job, and we kind of threw it away unfortunately from my part.”
The 27-year-old tried to restart his machine after the accident, but ultimately proved unable to manage it. Only the full-course yellow saved him, allowing the veteran to get a push from a safety truck and rejoin the tail end of the field.
Newgarden dropped back to 21st as a result of the crash, with just 25 laps remaining by the time the race went back to green on Lap 61. Mounting a serious charge back to the front would prove impossible, but the seventh-year driver was able to rebound to a reasonable 11th-place result at race’s end.
While his recovery may have been good for points, Newgarden found little solace in his salvaged result.
“It’s better than 20th, but when you throw a podium car away it’s always a tough, frustrating day,” he said.
“We’ll have to move on, try to learn from the mistake and do well in the 500.”
Despite his issues, Newgarden escaped the Indy road course with a slim two-point lead in the standings. He’ll look to rebuild that advantage with a strong result in the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 – a race he feels more motivated to conquer than ever.
“After this run it really motivates me,” he said. “I’m ready to get on the oval and see what we’ve got.”