Photo: Riley W. Thompson/ASP, Inc.

Opening Lap Contact Hampers Newgarden and Rosenqvist at Barber

By Phillip Schmitz, Staff Writer

Things went from bad to worse for Josef Newgarden almost as soon as the green flag dropped on Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park.

Opening lap contact with the No. 7 NTT McLaren Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist was the beginning of the problems that faced the Team Penske driver as the day played out on the 2.3-mile road course. After starting the race in seventh, he would wind end up finishing in 15th place by the time the day was done. 

The right-rear contact that Newgarden had with Rosenqvist would leave his No. 2 PPG Penske Chevrolet wounded for the duration of the race.

“Right after this hit, it felt like I had a right rear going down. I radioed in, hey check right rear pressure,” Newgarden explained. 

Though he didn’t have a tire puncture after the contact, the car didn’t have the same balance as it did in the warm up session earlier in the morning, leaving him to try and make the best of the hand he had been dealt.

“If we had the car like we had in warm up, we would’ve been just fine. It was just an evil handling car. It felt off, definitely different rights to lefts. Like asymmetry off, but drivable on new tires.” 

While new tires helped mask the issues that Newgarden had to deal with inside the car, once the tires began to wear, he struggled to keep pace with his competitors throughout the tire stint. 

As for the contact with Rosenqvist, the McLaren driver took responsibility for it at the end of the race.

“I was just braking too late, so that one’s on me. It wasn’t intentional.” 

Rosenqvist spun off the track due to the contact and was in last position after the opening lap. After pitting early to go onto the three pit stop strategy, Rosenqvist went on the charge. 

“We turned last into passing a lot of cars in the first stint,” Rosenqvist explained. “We pitted early, and were able to spend the next two stints in clear air. That’s where we got back in the race.”

The caution for Sting Ray Robb changed the potential of what Rosenqvist could’ve finished at the end. Instead of possibly finishing near the Top 5, Rosenqvist finished in ninth place.

“The last yellow didn’t play into our favor, so, potentially, there was a top-five in this car. It was a good recovery to basically go from last to P9. It was a super good car today and a fun race.”

Both Newgarden and Rosenqvist will look to shake off Sunday’s race as they focus ahead to the Month of May with the GMR Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Newgarden was fastest during the open test held last week at the speedway. Rosenqvist has two career pole positions for the GMR Grand Prix.

The GMR Grand Prix will be held on May 13th on NBC, followed by the Indianapolis 500 on May 28th.

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