FORT WORTH, Texas – Josef Newgarden led 123 of the 250 laps in the PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway for his 26th career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series.
But in the middle of the race, the win was slipping through his fingers.
“I knew I needed something to catch back up,” said Newgarden as Pato O’Ward took the lead and lapped the field up to third in dominating fashion. “Because that stint where he got by me, and ripped a gap, that was my worst stint. I think we went the wrong way with our adjustments, which was my decision. I was the one asking for it and then I wanted to reverse it. But like I said, when we needed the car at the end, it was absolutely there.
“So, I was worried if we didn’t get help to catch back up that he may run away with it and we lost our chance.”
114 of those laps Newgarden led came in the first 130 laps of the race. On Lap 129, Pato O’Ward had closed a seven second deficit to reclaim the lead. He then took the next hour of the race to not only gap himself from the Team Penske driver but eventually lap the entire field up to third place around the 1.5-mile oval.
“We were getting beat pretty significantly in the middle of the race,” Newgarden admitted. “I thought (at the) beginning of the race we had him, like, super covered. The car was good, track gripped up. I asked for some progressions on the setup. They were not right for the way the track was trending.
“I think Pato went the right way. He did the exact opposite of what I was doing. They were telling me what he was asking for. We were bad in the middle. He snuck back up on me. I had a big gap. He snuck up on me, was walking away.”
However, a caution on lap 178 was flown when pole sitter and O’Ward’s teammate Felix Rosenqvist made contact with the outside wall on the exit of Turn 4. Not only did the safety car bring the field to rest but reset the entire complexion of the race.
“The caution 100% brought us back into it,” said Newgarden with a sigh of relief. “That’s how quickly the race can change and one stint can walk you back. That’s essentially what happened to us.”
When the restart came with 57 laps to go, it was full throttle and full commitment between the two for the win. While others brought themselves into the mix by benefitting from the wave-around to bring a total of eight cars back on the lead lap, they were ultimately no match for Newgarden and O’Ward.
And for seven of the eight final laps, the two fiercely fought side-by-side at more than 210 miles per hour with mere inches to spare.
The early leadership of Newgarden was a thing of the past and the pure dominance of O’Ward was quickly forgotten as the only thing heard louder than the 12,000 RPM roar of the twin-turbo V6 engines was the standing ovation from the grandstands.
As the two competitors were rounding the circuit to take the white flag for the final lap, Romain Grosjean crashed into the outside wall on the exit of Turn 2 to bring out the caution, ending the race early.
On the bright side, Newgarden won back-to-back races at Texas, both of which have now come on last green flag lap passes. He wouldn’t deny the roller coaster of emotions, however.
“Strategy-wise, I have no qualms with what we did,” he reflected. “It’s hard to say (if the mid-race yellow saved us). I think we could have run him down. It would have been tough. I would like to think on the flip, if I could have gotten that advantage on him in the middle, I would beat him pretty straight up with no yellows. He probably would have done that to us. It would have been hard for me to catch up.
“I’m proud of the team honestly. Obviously personally it’s satisfying, but I think it’s more gratifying, just continue to repeat and echo, but it’s really gratifying for the people that are on the car. There’s a lot of new people on the 2 car specifically. I know each individual and what they can do.
“Just coming back and repeating is big validation for all of them, I think gives them a lot of belief. So we’re going to leave here in a good spot.”
Some may say the fans were robbed of a finish, but most will say they saw the race of a lifetime.
NTT IndyCar Series – PPG 375
Texas Motor Speedway
Fort Worth, Texas
Sunday, April 2, 2023
- (4) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 250, Running
- (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 250, Running
- (7) Alex Palou, Honda, 250, Running
- (9) David Malukas, Honda, 250, Running
- (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 250, Running
- (15) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 250, Running
- (10) Colton Herta, Honda, 250, Running
- (16) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 249, Running
- (17) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 249, Running
- (21) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 249, Running
- (26) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 249, Running
- (19) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 249, Running
- (18) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 249, Running
- (11) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 248, Contact
- (13) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 248, Running
- (8) Will Power, Chevrolet, 248, Running
- (22) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 247, Running
- (28) Jack Harvey, Honda, 247, Running
- (27) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 247, Running
- (25) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 246, Running
- (14) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 246, Running
- (3) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 243, Running
- (12) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 221, Contact
- (24) Graham Rahal, Honda, 219, Contact
- (23) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 208, Contact
- (1) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 177, Contact
- (20) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 97, Contact
- (6) Takuma Sato, Honda, 46, Contact
Winner’s average speed: 169.917 mph
Time of Race: 2:07:07.2653
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 5 for 52 laps
Lead changes: 26 among 8 drivers
Lap Leaders: Dixon, Scott 1 – 2; ; Newgarden, Josef 3; Dixon, Scott 4; Newgarden, Josef 5 – 65; Palou, Alex 66 – 67; Newgarden, Josef 68 – 108; O’Ward, Pato 109 – 114; Rosenqvist, Felix 115; Robb, Sting Ray 116; Newgarden, Josef 117 – 128; O’Ward, Pato 129 – 169; Rosenqvist, Felix 170 – 172; O’Ward, Pato 173 – 194 ;Palou, Alex 195 – 198; Newgarden, Josef 199 – 200; Palou, Alex 201 – 202; Herta, Colton 203 – 206; O’Ward, Pato 207 – 208; Palou, Alex 209 – 219; Grosjean, Romain 220 – 221; O’Ward, Pato 222 – 238; Palou, Alex 239 – 241; Newgarden, Josef 242; O’Ward, Pato 243; Newgarden, Josef 244 – 246; O’Ward, Pato 247 – 248; Newgarden, Josef 249 – 250
NTT INDYCAR SERIES Point Standings (after 2 races):
- O’Ward 82
- Ericsson 75
- Dixon 67
- Newgarden 66
- Palou 60
- Malukas 53
- Ilott 52
- McLaughlin 48
- Power 40
- Rossi 40
- Herta 37
- Canapino 36
- Rahal 34
- Lundgaard 33
- Grosjean 31
- VeeKay 28
- Castroneves 27
- Daly 26
- Harvey 20
- Kirkwood 20
- Robb 20
- Pedersen 20
- Marcus Armstrong 19
- Pagenaud 18
- Rosenqvist 18
- Carpenter 17
- Ferrucci 15
- DeFrancesco 12
- Sato 5