BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Josef Newgarden took a third-place car, where he qualified third, and finished third in Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
It’s not quite the third he wanted – a third win would have been an ideal scenario to match his first at Barber and second in Toronto last year – but a third place still has the potential to kickstart his 2016 campaign after three respectable but not standout races.
“It was a long day,” Newgarden reflected post-race after his first podium of the year, seventh of his career and first podium since ending second at Pocono last August.
“I mean, I thought we had a good race car. It obviously wasn’t enough for (Simon) Pagenaud or Graham (Rahal), but we were close. I think that’s why we were able to get third was that we were close to those guys. I think we were just about as good as (Will) Power if not a little better on blacks. Really our second stint killed us on the new red tires. I just wore them out really badly, and I couldn’t hold onto the thing. Graham got past me, we lost a lot of time, and we were just trying to play catch up after that.
“I think that’s what really hurt today, but it still wasn’t enough for the top two. I think we were a third-place car, and that’s good. That’s nothing to be mad about, but we’ve got to be a little better for the next round and try and get first.
“I think the Fuzzy’s guys are capable of it. We were here last year and we did the job, so we’ve got to find a little bit more, but I think the Fuzzy’s guys can do that going into the next race.”
Newgarden made it onto the podium for the last race in the commemorative livery No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet following a late-race pass of Power at Turn 16, with just two laps to go.
“In Turn 16, for me that was the good place to do it. I think 5 was tough because you just — everyone was braking really deep, and unless someone made a mistake, it was going to be hard to do it,” he explained.
“16 is always a good place. Will looked like he was super loose in 13, so I was watching him those last 10 laps, and I was like, this is the place where it’s going to happen.”
“It was just that we caught that whole train. It was difficult; he just caught me in the last turn there,” Power told NBC Sports post-race, from his perspective.
Newgarden also expanded on how physical the race was, which was a concern from some drivers going into the race.
“I think I’m putting on a big persona right now, trying to act like I’m not tired and exude energy. I feel great, but I’m super tired,” he admitted. “I hope someone drives me to the airport tonight and I can just get on the plane and listen to some music and fall asleep!
“I wish we could convey it more so how physical these cars are. I mean, they’re not easy to drive. This is one of the most physical tracks we go to, and what makes it tough, you’re driving around here averaging 120 miles per hour, some corners you’re doing 150, 160 into the corner.
“You’re pulling five G’s. It’s massive loading on your body. It’s hot, like you said. We have to wear all this fireproof closing. The cockpit of the car gets really hot. You’ve got no assistance on the steering wheel. They’re really beasts to drive.
“When you don’t have any cautions to break it up a little bit, you get thirsty, you get dehydrated, you get worn out, you get short of breath. It’s all this that comes into effect.”
Newgarden moved from 12th to eighth in the championship standings after this result.