Even with the aches and pains of driving a grueling Verizon IndyCar Series race Sunday at Road America nursing a fractured clavicle and right hand, Josef Newgarden thought he could have done better.
Pretty amazing, considering the Ed Carpenter Racing driver climbed more spots than anyone from start to finish (12) in the 50-lap race to place eighth in the welcomed return of Indy cars to the historic 4.014-mile road course for the KOHLER Grand Prix.
Newgarden had lingering disappointment over his qualifying performance Saturday, when he was penalized for bringing out a red-flag stoppage in his group when he spun in the No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet. The 25-year-old Tennessean
"I think if I didn't mess it up (in qualifying), we would have had a really good race,” Newgarden said. “We did still have a good race. I just think we had a podium car if I could have qualified the thing properly.”
Nonetheless, Newgarden’s drive to eighth place was impressive. Starting 20th, he was able to squeeze an extra lap out of his fuel tank through each of the first two stints. It allowed Newgarden to leapfrog into 11th place by the halfway point.
He moved into the top 10 for the final 10 laps of the race and waged a memorable give-and-take battle with Juan Pablo Montoya in the closing stages.
“We got good points, we gained points on the guys we needed to in the championship,” Newgarden said. “I'll try and heal up a little better for Iowa (the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway on July 10) since that will be harder than this one.”
Pigot notches career-best finish
Meanwhile, Spencer Pigot, Newgarden’s teammate in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, drove to a career-best ninth and was the top-finishing rookie in the 22-car field.
Opting for a different strategy that saw him pit early on Lap 8 and run in clean air much of the day, the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion found himself in 11th position after the final round of stops. He passed Carloz Munoz for 10th on Lap 47 and moved by the faltering car of Simon Pagenaud for ninth on the white-flag lap.
It was Pigot’s best finish in six Verizon IndyCar Series races this season split between Ed Carpenter Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
“It was a really fun race, the 22-year-old from Orlando said. “For the first half of the race, we were kind of by ourselves, but towards the end – after the restart (on Lap 44) – to be around (Juan) Montoya and Simon (Pagenaud) and guys I’ve been watching for so many years, to be racing against them so close was really cool.”
While a newcomer to Road America in an Indy car, Pigot raced five times there in USF2000 in 2011-12.
“I think having raced here in the past definitely helped getting up to speed with the car and the track here throughout the race,” he said. “Knowing where to pass and if you overshoot a corner where you can kind of get away with it and where it’s going to bite you.”