Every rookie IZOD IndyCar Series driver has to earn his racing stripes through hard work and patience, and Josef Newgarden received a lesson in the latter at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Sunday.
Newgarden started from the 13th position and immediately began saving fuel to work toward a race strategy that would put him near the front on a circuit that makes passing difficult.
Unfortunately, the streets of Belle Isle Park had different plans for Newgarden’s No. 67 SFHR Dallara/Honda/Firestone car.
Under the stress of 25 IndyCars pounding on its pavement, the Belle Isle streets began to deteriorate. Newgarden drove over a piece of loose track and sustained a tire puncture that forced him to pit on lap 27, earlier than his strategy called for.
Newgarden fared better than two other drivers however, who ran over loose pieces of asphalt and cement that caused them to lose control of their cars and crash.
The race was eventually red flagged on lap 45 to undergo track repairs.
“After you get into your race mode and have everything going, the last thing you want to do is stop, which was difficult,” Newgarden said.
Track officials poured new cement onto the circuit and after a nearly two-hour hiatus the green flag flew again.
Newgarden re-started the race in 13th, but before completing a lap he sustained contact from behind from the No. 78 car of Simona de Silvestro. He spun and was unable to re-start his car without assistance.
“I feel bad we got clipped from behind at the end, especially since we had already had bad luck during the race,” Newgarden said. “We had a great strategy going but it didn’t get a chance to play out as we had hoped.”
After the incident, Newgarden went a lap down, but rallied to tick off quick laps and make two solid passes before the checkered flag.
“All we can do is keep doing what we’ve been doing and things will turn around for us,” Newgarden said.
Newgarden and SFHR ended the day in 15th position. Due to the lengthy red flag, the race was shortened to 60 laps.
Scott Dixon, of Ganassi Racing, led every lap of the race to claim the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix victory. His teammate Dario Franchitti finished second.
Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports, Will Power of Team Penske, and Oriol Servia of Panther/Dreyer and Reinbold Racing rounded out the top five.
The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to action Saturday, June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway.