"There is still much to be desired. We will keep at it one step at a time," Josef Newgarden said following the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Spoken like a true competitor.
Newgarden, driving the Honda-powered No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car, claimed the initial top-10 finish of his 16-race IZOD IndyCar Series career. He finished ninth, advancing a field-high 13 positions.
"It was a huge team effort," Newgarden added. "In IndyCar, with it being so tight, everything has got to go right, everyone's got to do their part, and when that happens I think we're going to put good results together and that's really what you saw."
Newgarden's previous best finish was 11th in his series debut on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2012. Next up is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19-21, where Newgarden recorded his best road/street course qualifying (seventh) of his rookie season. He started on the front row because of engine penalties to other drivers.
"It just gives us a really good feeling going into Long Beach, Brazil and then Indy," team co-owner Sarah Fisher said. "We really need to keep this momentum going and I think we can."
Also making big gains in the race were Simon Pagenaud, who moved up seven spots to finish sixth in the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car, and Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 7 Dragon Racing car and JR Hildebrand in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car. Both advanced seven positions; Bourdais finishing 16th and Hildebrand 17th. Tony Kanaan charged to 13th in the No. 11 Mouser KV Racing Technology-SH car, gaining six positions.
"We were definitely expecting for there to be more yellow flags as the race went on, and with it being so tough to pass we were trying to get off-sequence (with pit stops) with the group of cars that we were around," Hildebrand said. "Early in the race we had the pace to get away from a lot of those guys. In our effort to get off-sequence it was always so close, but never ended up working for us and that's the frustrating part.
"We had to run a long stint there at the end and we lost a few positions, but we were able to fight hard to keep our spot in the last few laps and I think at the end of the day we need to continue moving forward and working with what we have to get better. These last two races if we would have started up front we would have stayed there, so that's the aim going into Long Beach."