Either would have made for a feel-good story this afternoon, but neither Josef Newgarden nor Tony Kanaan was able to parlay a fuel gamble into a Verizon IndyCar Series victory party in the Poconos.
Kanaan’s was probably the harder luck story. The Brazilian had by far his best run of the season in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, leading a race-high 78 laps in the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco.
After starting eighth, Kanaan opted to go for a full fuel-burn strategy, running flat out while leading as opposed to saving fuel, which the Team Penske trio of Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Will Power all did.
This meant on average Kanaan stopped anywhere from three to six laps sooner on a given cycle. But he was able to catch up when he and Newgarden pitted as late as possible during the lone caution flag period of the race – Lap 161 – in the hope of being able to make it the final 39 laps to the finish without a stop.
The strategy backfired as the race went green from the Lap 166 restart. Newgarden was able to lead from Lap 190 until he pitted for fuel only on Lap 194; Kanaan stretched it to Lap 197 before peeling off for his own splash-and-dash.
Newgarden ended eighth, which equaled his season-best result (Barber, Round 4) while Kanaan fell outside the top 10 to 11th.
Neither result reflected the race they’d run. In Kanaan’s case, it was the first time all year a Target-backed entry looked like a world beater, with Kanaan having advanced from eighth on the grid with a car that had a higher downforce setup and was great in race trim.
Newgarden, meanwhile, drove methodically in picking up positions from 21st and last on the grid after a self-described “weird” qualifying crash. The top-10 is his first top-10 finish since April and that race at Barber, but it was disappointing given what could have been.
Kanaan echoed the sentiment, simply stating, “disappointed.”
Word of the day: disappointed. On to Iowa.
— Tony Kanaan (@TonyKanaan) July 6, 2014