Josef Newgarden scored Team Penske-Chevrolet’s first win of the season in the 10th round, but admitted his rear tires were ragged by the end, as Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda’s Marcus Ericsson stormed to within one second of him at the checkered flag.
“Marcus did not make it easy,” said Newgarden, who chalked up his 19th IndyCar victory. “It seemed smooth at the beginning of the stint. It felt pretty comfortable. Then 10 to 15 laps to go on primary tires, I was chewing up the rears…
“I was just kind of calculating the pace loss, looking at where he was, looking at overtaking [push-to-pass boost], all that. That kept me busy. That’s pretty much what I was focusing on. It’s not the thing you want to be kept busy with. You’d rather be busy looking at the gap growing and taking it easy. That was not the case.
“It was a hard-fought win. I think we definitely had the car to win the race, but it didn’t come easy. These guys made us push for it and work.
“Looking at the numbers lap after lap from 10 to go, it looked fine to me. It looked like, yeah, it’s going to be close, he’s probably going to be there right at the end, but I don’t think he’ll have enough to get by. From my end, that’s what it looked like. I was confident enough.
“But I knew I had to be perfect. It was not easy. He was much quicker at the end of the race. I feel we were quicker in the beginning, but he was quicker at the end. It was how to manage fuel across the stint, but replacing it with grip – How do you manage the grip and time loss we have relative to Marcus with 10 to go?
“I was watching all the way down from 10 to 1. It was touch-and-go. If I made a slipup, he would have gotten by.”
Newgarden looked strong throughout the weekend, and was uncertain why he had such a dearth of rear grip relative to Ericsson in the closing stages.
“Maybe it’s just the balance and the temperature,” he said. “Certainly from Friday with lower temps, and the small bump in temps from Saturday [we were] not looking after the rear-end of the car as good as I thought we were going to. We made some adjustments to that side of the racecar and it wasn’t enough.
“It wasn’t disastrous. I still think we were one of the best cars in the field, certainly very strong in the beginning of stints. It’s just the back end that left us exposed. Next year we need to clean up that weakness.”