By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
From crashing out on the opening lap at Barber to finishing second at St. Petersburg, it was a strong rebound for Josef Newgarden. The same can be said about Colton Herta, who ended up winning Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by 2.4933 seconds.
Ironically, it was Herta who crashed into Newgarden last Sunday, resulting on their tough start to their seasons. Now with each getting a top-two result, Newgarden was satisfied putting themselves on the board.
“Congrats to Colton. Great rebound for both us,” said Newgarden. “I felt bad about what happened last week, so I’m really happy that he got back on it today. He had a very deserved victory. I wish we could’ve fought him a little bit more, but we were lacking a little bit.”
At one point, the gap between the two was over 10 seconds that it wasn’t even a contest. Newgarden ran the last 41 laps on red tire compounds, hoping it’ll help his cause.
Then a big break fell onto his lap when the caution came out for Jimmie Johnson. Little was gain on the restart until Ed Jones brought out the final caution laps later.
Despite having multiple shots on hunting down the 21-year-old, it just wasn’t meant to be. Therefore, no three-peat at the 1.8-mile street circuit.
“We lost too much ground on the second stint to capitalize with the reds,” Newgarden on his performance. “Then we the caution which almost gifted us another chance.”
The two-time series champion added he didn’t want to overextend himself today. This was a result of not wanting to put himself in another bad spot in this young season.
At the same time, he admitted that while he might’ve had something on Herta, his No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet wasn’t on par to the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
“Colton was really good and doing a great job on the restarts. It was tough to get tire temperatures,” Newgarden commented. “I pushed really hard on those two initial restarts. Didn’t have quite the runs I needed, so I didn’t want to risk everything, but a good day.”
With a superb turnaround, Newgarden gained 13 spots in the championship standings and sits 10th in points. He’ll go into the Texas doubleheader trailing points leader Alex Palou by 20 points.