Josef Newgarden took his first podium finish as a Team Penske driver in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, but felt that a late caution period denied him the opportunity to go for the race win.
Newgarden, along with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, were using the more aggressive three-stop strategy as opposed to the two-stop strategy utilised by eventual race winner James Hinchcliffe, and was hopeful of using fresher tyres and the ability to race at full speed without saving fuel to his advantage.
However, the caution period to remove Ryan Hunter-Reay’s stricken Andretti Autosport machine from the short straight between turns three and four ruined that for Newgarden, and he was forced to settle for third, although he did admit that the race was more entertaining as a result of drivers running different strategies.
“I think it got a lot more mixed up with the strategy today,” said Newgarden. “Dixon and me were on something different than the front guys, Hunter-Reay, (James Hinchcliffe), (Alexander) Rossi.
“I thought that added a dynamic that was more fun than last year. Everyone was on the same strategy last year, which let the race play out to not much action, unfortunately. This year was a lot more mixed up.
“I did way more passing than I’ve done in the past couple years. I thought it was an exciting race. For us on Team Penske, it was a good day. The Verizon Hum car, we had a strong car underneath us all day. I felt about it good in warm-up.”
The caution period denied Newgarden his first Penske win, but he knows strategy and luck does come into play in IndyCar, and he is now focused to build on this result heading forward.
“We had a car that was capable of challenging for the win if everything fell correctly,” said Newgarden. “Our strategy didn’t play out with that last yellow. It just allowed everyone to catch up on fuel a little bit. We were on the same strategy at the end fuel-wise.
“Our strategy of trying to run those guys down at the end and be fast wasn’t really able to play out, which is unfortunate, but that’s how racing goes. You have to choose one strategy and hope it plays out for you. Today it got us close. Third place is something we can roll with, try to get a win.”