Newgarden makes costly mistake at Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

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STEAM CORNERS, Ohio – Josef Newgarden made a major error on the final lap of Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio and that mistake proved costly in his quest for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

The Team Penske driver was set to finish fourth in Sunday’s 90-lap contest when he saw an opening entering the Turn 2 area of the road course, known as the “Keyhole.” Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Honda was stacked up in pursuit of the lead two cars driven by the leader, Scott Dixon, and rookie driver Felix Rosenqvist.

Newgarden knew Dixon’s lap times were falling off dramatically as his tire grip deteriorated and he believed he could win the race on the final lap.

Instead, Newgarden’s Chevrolet banged into the side of Hunter-Reay’s Honda, sending the 2017 IndyCar Series champion off course. The engine stalled, lost power and Newgarden’s race was over.

“I’m not really sure what Josef (Newgarden) was thinking there doing that,” Hunter-Reay said afterwards. “He tried to go around the outside, and the line through that corner is that you do a diamond and you come back to the apex, so he had to expect I was coming back at some point, and then just shoved his nose in there.

“I don’t know, with the championship like that, leader, totally baffled me. I’m just glad it didn’t cut down our right rear tire after fighting like that all day.”

Dixon went on to win the race followed by Felix Rosenqvist, just 0.0934-of-a-second behind in one of the closest finishes in the history of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Hunter-Reay finished third followed by Team Penske’s Will Power and Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport fifth.

Newgarden finished 14th, the first car one lap down as his car was stranded off course. Add it all up and Newgarden’s 29-point lead in the standings is now just 16 points over Rossi heading into a two-weekend break in the schedule.

“It could have been a really good day and I just forced the issue on something that was real low reward; and high risk,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com after a lengthy consultation with his race engineer, Gavin Newsom. “You see what happened on the risk side of it. It ended up dropping us out of points.

“It was a silly error to make on a day where we could have had fourth-place points. It’s a shame. We go on to the next one.

“It’s always tough when you make an error.”

Newgarden said he had a run on Hunter-Reay and that created an opportunity.

“I thought he was going to go a bit wider when I tried to brake on the outside, I tried the over-under, he didn’t go as wide as I thought and he made contact,” said Newgarden, who led 11 laps in the race. “I lost the engine. It was as simple as that.

“It wasn’t wise. It wasn’t wise for sure. It certainly hurts. It doesn’t help.”

Newgarden said he will re-set and move on to the next race. But that isn’t until August 18 in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

Newgarden is a racer and it’s not in a racer’s mentality to just “settle for fourth.” He saw an opening and went for it.

“My instinct is always to go for it,” Newgarden said. “It’s not always the right instinct, but it is my natural instinct.

“Poor decision, probably. I was just trying to get on the podium. I just got inside of him, and lost power — it pushed me around and I lost power” on edge of track.

“I made a mistake. Don’t do it again. That’s all you tell yourself.

“We still have four races to go. Long journey.”

 

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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