INDIANAPOLIS – Josef Newgarden came so close, but yet so far in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor oil.
Starting from the middle of Row 1 in the No. Preferred Freezer Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, Newgarden never ran out of the top nine all day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and looked poised to challenge for the win late.
He was running second with 30 laps to go and led 12 of the last 22 laps while battling Tony Kanaan and Carlos Munoz. Like most of the other frontrunners, however, Newgarden was forced to make a late stop for fuel with five laps to go. Alexander Rossi, who was able to run the final 36 laps without pitting, pulled off the surprise win with Munoz second and Newgarden a happy but disappointed third.
“I was going to wing it at the end,” Newgarden said following his best Indianapolis 500 finish in five appearances. “My priority was staying up front, going flat out, trying to get as much speed out of the car at the end of the race as possible. I thought we had to trim this thing to win it.
“My sole focus was, ‘Let's get to the last three (to) five laps and be up front, then I'll do whatever I’ve got to do at the end to win the thing.”
Despite leading the Indy 500 for the first time and claiming his first podium in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” Newgarden walked away wanting more.
“It's really heartbreaking, to be honest,” he said. “The reason is because I think we had a car to win. I'm not saying we should have won the race definitely because we had the best car, I just think we had a car that could have won.”
Despite having a win in the Indianapolis 500 slipped from his grasp, Newgarden is focused on what is ahead.
“I don't think I have a pity card to play,” he said. “You could probably go through the list of guys that have nearly won this thing or that should have won the thing. This is really the first time I've ever felt like I could have won that race and it just didn't happen.
“So it's tough. I hope I have more opportunities to try to win it. You kind of feel special when you have a car that you think you can win (with) and you’ve got a shot to win the thing at the end. That's kind of rare to get that opportunity and be in that spot. I'm thankful for that.”
Newgarden will also be pleased with the jump he took in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings. The combination of qualifying points and double race points vaulted the Tennessee native from eighth place to fourth in the standings, with 211 points. He trails leader Simon Pagenaud by 81 points heading to the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit from June 3-5 at Belle Isle Park.