Josef Newgarden falls just short of Road America triumph

Chris Owens/INDYCAR

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

After the organization swept the top four in qualifying, Josef Newgarden probably thought (like most of us) that beating his three Team Penske teammates would be enough for the victory at Road America.

Thanks to Scott Dixon’s impressive drive, that wasn’t the case.

With a new bright orange DeVilbiss livery across his No. 2 Chevrolet, Newgarden and race strategist Tim Cindric appeared to play the strategy perfectly in Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, methodically working their way ahead of their Penske teammates to rise into the lead on Lap 20.

The Hendersonville, Tennessee native held the top spot until an untimely yellow put him alongside Scott Dixon on a Lap 31 restart. The Chip Ganassi Racing veteran maneuvered his way around Newgarden in a drag race to the 4.014-mile road course’s first turn, and claimed a lead he would relinquish only during the final round of pit stops.

Newgarden was able to keep Dixon within his sights in the run to the checkered flag. Taking advantage of his slight advantage in remaining Push to Pass and a late caution, the 26-year-old even closed to within half a second of the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series (VICS) champion in the race’s waning stages.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough. Newgarden crossed the line .578 seconds behind Dixon, with a strong but bittersweet runner-up performance.

“You can’t predict (yellow flags) and I think our strategy was spot on,” Newgarden said. We were doing what we needed to do to stay out front there all day, but you just can’t predict those yellows, and some days they fall your way and some days they don’t. Today they didn’t fall our way.

“(Scott) Dixon and the whole Ganassi team did a great job and they deserved to win with the job they did.

The Tennessean tried his best to stay optimistic, but couldn’t stop himself from letting his disappointment seep out – if only a little.

“Tough coming up short, but a great weekend for us at Team Penske,” Newgarden said. “We were strong all weekend. Just didn’t get it done when it counted in the race, so that’s going to sting.

The run elevated Newgarden to fifth in the series standings. He trails points leader Dixon by 61 points as the VICS heads to Iowa Speedway for the Iowa Corn 300 – a track and race he dominated just last season.

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