ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Josef Newgarden looked like he was on a weekend drive through the woods of Wisconsin in Saturday’s opening race of the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR.
He was so far in front of the field, it looked like another blowout victory was in the making as his No. 1 Chevrolet was in front by 9.9777 seconds at one stage.
After leading 25 laps, Newgarden made his second pit stop in the race on lap 27. But his ride to an easy victory was halted when he stalled his Chevrolet engine attempting to leave the pits.
By the time his crew was able to refire the engine, his huge lead was gone. He returned to the race in 16th place and eventually finished 14th.
“That was a tough one,” Newgarden said afterwards. “We had such a strong PPG Chevy and the guys did such a great job putting together such a fast car. We started on the pole and at the beginning of the race, we were just trying to hold track position. I think at one point, we had about an eight second lead (actually, nearly 10 seconds). Unfortunately, we had a problem in the pits and stalled the car.
“It took us a while to get it restarted and that lost all the gap we had built and from there and we were fighting from behind.”
Newgarden’s troubles weren’t over, however. After fighting his way back into the top 10, he locked up the tires going into turn one on a late race restart. He went on to finish 14th.
“Our day went from a great day to pretty bad pretty quickly,” the Team Penske driver said. “But hey, that’s racing – we just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities today. I’m thankful we have another shot tomorrow, because I really love racing at this place.
“We’re going to take a look at a few things tonight to make sure we have a solid plan going into tomorrow’s qualifying session with the PPG Chevrolet. I’m confident our guys will put together another fast car tomorrow.”
Earlier on Saturday, Newgarden scored the 10th pole of his IndyCar career and his second pole position in 2020.
He is fourth in points, 71 behind the leader, Scott Dixon, who won his third-straight race to start the season.
Team Penske’s Will Power finished second to Dixon and Simon Pagenaud finished 12th.