By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
DETROIT — Turn 3 was calamity corner during Sunday’s part of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader weekend at Belle Isle and for one driver it’s where everything went wrong while trying to extend the points lead.
NTT IndyCar Series points leader Josef Newgarden was trying to defend what would effectively be third place after the second round of pit stops. Alexander Rossi was right behind him on Lap 33 and James Hinchcliffe had just come out of the pits when Newgarden had to go down a gear. Rossi made a move on Newgarden who had made a move on Hinchcliffe but the Tennessee native went a bit too deep into the corner and spun, collecting the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in the process.
“(@AlexanderRossi) eliminates two of his competition with one move, without hitting anybody!”
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) June 2, 2019
Rossi spun into Hinchcliffe but was able to get going again quickly. Newgarden was stuck in the tires and the crew affected repairs to his No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet but the 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion would only finish 17th.
“I can’t blame anyone,” said Newgarden. “It’s my fault, it’s ultimately my fault with the way this happened. I thought (Hinchcliffe) didn’t have to come straight across the track and I got held up. It’s still my fault; I should have made a better decision there. Obviously, it’s not the right thing that I did, and that’s on me. I feel bad, and it hurts in the moment. I feel sorry for my guys, sorry for my team, sorry to Chevrolet. We had a good day yesterday and thought we were going to have a good day today.
“I actually thought we were fine and then I picked up too much marbles on the inside, and (that lane) was too slick and as soon as I tried to turn the rear, I lost the rear. I just picked up too much debris. It’s a mistake. I should have analyzed that a little better, should have gone left (around Hinchcliffe), not right. It’s on me.”
Rossi managed to stay on the lead lap and eventually finished fifth but it was a day of missed opportunities for the Andretti Autosport racer after starting second.
“It was three of us going for it and I was all the way on the inside,” said Rossi. “It was getting pretty dicey so I just bailed out and I guess it was the right decision.”
In Hinchcliffe’s case, it was a situation where his team helped move him to the lead but others’ impatience brought him out of it.
“We got two guys in the first round of stops, got into the lead on our strategy in the second round of stops, and ultimately, was taken out by a guy with not enough patience,” said Hinchcliffe. “I feel gutted for the guys who were legitimate contenders for the race. The podium was in the cards and we really needed that right now. We needed a good result to boost us up. The pace is up. One of these days, our luck is going to change and we’ll find ourselves in the top step.”
Newgarden still leads the NTT IndyCar Series points after that incident with 316 points but the gap is only 15 points back to Rossi and 25 points back to 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud. The next NTT IndyCar Series race is the DXC Technology 600 on Saturday June 8th at Texas Motor Speedway.