LEXINGTON, OH – Heading into this weekend, Josef Newgarden had plenty of momentum in his No. 2 Chevrolet. He led 245 of 300 laps in a dominating victory last weekend at the Iowa Speedway. He went from four points up in the championship to 29. The championship was back to his to lose.
But, this weekend could be a week that Alexander Rossi closed the gap again. He led 66 of 90 laps from the pole last year in a victorious effort. Despite that, Newgarden was right there with Rossi all weekend long at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Rossi, qualified second, Newgarden third.
As long as Newgarden can stay with him, his lead would evaporate much.
Josef Newgarden in his No. 2 Chevrolet at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – INDYCAR Media Site
But, he was gifted with the right strategy on the right tire combination on the first stint while Rossi was on the opposite. With Rossi starting on Firestone Reds and going to a two stop strategy, he was going to be lucky to salvage a top five in the end.
Meanwhile, Newgarden was on his way to a podium, a top five at the very least. Then, two costly errors happened – one by his team, the other by him.
On his second pit stop, the fuel hose had an issue costing Newgarden precious time on pit road. That allowed the Chip Ganassi Racing duo to open up a lead on him. Still, he was in place for a third or fourth place finish from then on.
He’d be just that. Until the last lap.
Newgarden, was pushing way too hard on the final lap and tried to pass Ryan Hunter-Reay for third place in the key hole. They’d make contact which sent Newgarden spinning towards the grass. Unfortunately, he’d stall his car following his spin as he’d go from a gap of 34 points over Rossi on the final lap down to 16 after his spin.
“I’m not really sure what Josef was thinking there doing that,” Hunter-Reay said of the incident. “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.”
Newgarden, agreed with Hunter-Reay saying that he made a huge mistake when trying to attack too much.
“I just forced the issue,” Newgarden said of the incident. “I was trying to get on the podium there. 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.”
Rossi, would go from sixth to fifth while Newgarden went from fourth to 14th. Instead of gaining five points on Rossi, he lost 13 on the day but 18 on the final lap. It could be a most that costs him the championship in fact.