It’s a good feeling to be disappointed with second. For Josef Newgarden, it’s been a long time coming.
The promise and potential he’s been able to show flashes of over his first two seasons in the IZOD IndyCar Series hasn’t yet been converted into a result, save for a pair of fifth place results this year (Brazil, Pocono). One finally came today, an elusive first podium for the 22-year-old who won the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights championship in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.
Newgarden started fifth from a career-best qualifying effort (Ed: His best start is second, at Long Beach 2012, after grid penalties were applied), and moved to fourth early but ran wide at Turn 12 as the first signs of brake wear began to emerge. Additionally, what had been a solid opening six or seven laps on the Firestone red alternates went south quickly as the tires began to fall off.
He fell as low as 17th after he got caught up in an accordion effect accident at Turn 1, as he nosed into the back of Helio Castroneves.
But through a mix of cars needing to pit ahead of him, other cars having contact in Turns 1 and 3 and not needing another late pit stop, Newgarden was able to re-emerge in the top five.
“There was like six races worth of incidents, with so many things that happened,” he said. “That (first) one, yeah, I went into Turn 1 and thought it was clustered on the inside, so I followed Helio on the outside. Then the outside wound up being clustered too, and ran into the back of him, then I heard on my radio from Mike, take the runoff. He said right when I turned in. I could have turned around! But then there was another incident where I did take the runoff and gained positions. Then we got everything back. We got lucky.”
In the last 10 laps, Newgarden was consistently able to take out four to five tenths of a second on leader Simon Pagenaud. But the brake issue emerged again towards the end – Newgarden hung on for dear life to save what brakes remained and avoid contact – and he had to ensure he brought the car home in second place.
“We wanted to challenge Simon but we had a bit of a brake mishap at the end,” he said. “We were trying to keep the pedal solid. It’s hard to keep the cars cool. That definitely bit us at the end.”
Newgarden’s podium is the second for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team overall (Ed Carpenter’s win at Kentucky, 2011) and first ever on a road or street course. With the podium, Newgarden is the 18th different driver to score an IZOD IndyCar Series podium this season.