LEXINGTON, Ohio — A last-lap lunge for third position caused the NTT IndyCar Series' championship fight to tighten up.
Running in fourth place on the final lap of the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Team Penske driver and standings leader Josef Newgarden hit the brakes on Ryan Hunter-Reay’s outside as the pair approached the keyhole, which is Turn 2 on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course. After moving to the inside, Newgarden locked up the brakes on the No. 2 PPG Chevrolet and spun off course.
Instead of finishing fourth, the series points leader finished 14th.
Instead of possibly leading Rossi by 35 points -- or more -- heading to the season's final four races, Newgarden leads by 16. Simon Pagenaud and race winner Scott Dixon also are closer to the series lead than they would have otherwise been.
“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 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 started third and led 11 of the race’s 90 laps. The Tennessee native had a pit stop fueling issue that also cost the 2017 Mid-Ohio winner valuable time but time is the biggest thing Newgarden has right now.
The next NTT IndyCar Series race is the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 18, a track at which Newgarden’s worst finish is eighth place. The 2015 and 2017 Pocono runner-up will reflect and then put Mid-Ohio behind him.
“I think you just reset, you know that’s what we’ll do,” said Newgarden. “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.”