After a spin on the last lap of Sunday’s 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio dropped him from fourth place to fourteenth, championship-leader Josef Newgarden has shouldered 100% of the blame for the incident that saw him lose vital points in the championship standings to his rivals.
Newgarden joined his Team Penske stablemates in making it through to the shootout for pole position on Saturday. Will Power would ultimately come away from the session with pole position, with Newgarden qualifying in third place just ahead of his remaining team-mate, Simon Pagenaud.
Throughout Sunday’s race, Newgarden never really looked as though he had the pace to contend for the victory, with Chip Ganassi Racing‘s duo of Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist ultimately stealing a march on the field to take a one-two finish. Despite losing ground in the middle of the race after a lengthy pit-stop due to a faulty fuel hose, Newgarden found himself right on the back of Andretti Autosport‘s Ryan Hunter-Reay as the race entered its final laps.
With Hunter-Reay occupying the final spot on the podium, Newgarden was hungry to overtake him and steal a handful of points that could prove vital in the championship fight. His opportunity to grab third-place came just as the pair started the final lap of the race.
As the pair came up to the keyhole hairpin of turn two, Hunter-Reay defended the inside line and forced Newgarden to have a look around the outside of the corner. Newgarden, sensing an opportunity, went deep on the outside of the corner but then cut back to the inside to try and get to the inside of Hunter-Reay on the exit of the corner and down the following straight.
However, when Newgarden jinked back to the inside, there wasn’t really enough of a gap for him to squeeze next to Hunter-Reay. The pair made contact as Newgarden also locked up his brakes to try and avoid further damage. The contact and the lock-up sent Josef sliding into the gravel on the outside of the corner. He would then have to watch as the entire field streamed past him, including his closest championship rival, Alexander Rossi.
To add insult to injury, Newgarden would be unable to complete the final lap of the race as his engine stopped whilst he was stationary in the gravel. As a result, he would be classified one lap down on the race leaders in fourteenth place. All three of Josef’s championship rivals would, therefore, gain ground on him in the championship standings; with his closest rival Rossi moving to within sixteen points with only four races left in the championship.
“I just forced the issue. I was trying to get on the podium there,” a disappointed Newgarden would say post-race, “I got into the side of [Ryan Hunter-Reay], looped it around and lost power. It was my fault trying to force the issue. I wish I could’ve kept the engine running. That was the big thing. We had a great car today with PPG on board. Chevy did a wonderful job. I wish we could’ve done more there at the end. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Later on, Newgarden would go into more detail about his last-lap incident with Hunter-Reay. He would go on to state that, in hindsight, he should’ve perhaps settled for fourth instead of pushing for third. If he had finished in fourth, with Rossi finishing in sixth, Newgarden would currently hold almost double the points advantage over Rossi than he does currently.
“I had a run, there was an opportunity and I went for the opportunity,” Newgarden said. “Then I thought he was going to go a bit wider when I broke on the outside and then I tried the over-under and he didn’t go as wide as I thought. Then we made contact and I lost the engine so it’s simple as that.
“It was a good day, it could’ve been a really good day. I just forced the issue on something that was a really low reward, high risk and you see what happened with the risk side of it. Just ended up dropping us down on points so it was just a silly error to make on a day that could’ve been a fourth-place so it’s a shame. Rolling on to the next one but the guys did a great job as always, Chevy did a great job, it’s always tough making an error.
Newgarden would finish post-race interviews by talking about how he will try to bounce back from the disappointing result in Mid-Ohio to go into the final four races in as good of a mindset as possible.
“I think you just reset, you know that’s what we’ll do,” Newgarden added. “We’ll reset and go to the next one. That’s all you really can do, that’s really the only thing you should do is reset and just go to the next race.
“You’ve got to go to the next one and try to make it a different outcome, it’s as simple as that. You’ve made a mistake, don’t do it again, that’s all you tell yourself.”
The next round of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, the 2019 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, will take place on Sunday, August 18.