Newgarden Comes From Back For Second Place
Baltimore, Maryland, September 4 — Thanks to two crashes in qualifying bringing out the black flag, Josef Newgarden (2nd in the American Driver Ranking) had all his qualifying times voided. Thus, he started 14th in the 16 car field.
Josef Newgarden came from the back of the field to finish second.
He worked his way up through the field and then took advantage of other's misfortune to finish second. He quickly got around the slower cars, methodically picking them off lap by lap, but as he approached more competitive drivers, it got a lot tougher, requiring a number of tours around the tight, narrow track to make the passes.
"That was probably the best moment of the year," Newgarden said. "I'm certainly happy after what happened yesterday. Obviously, first would have been the best. The leader went off. The guy in second went off. It was a difficult race for even the top guys. To be able to come from the back like that is a big achievement for the team and for yourself."
At first it appeared Newgarden's teammate, Conor Daly (ranked 4th), would bring a victory for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. The polesitter grabbed the lead at the drop of the green, but had to fight off various challenges by Gustavo Yacaman's yellow car, often going side-by-side.
"It was going good, an interesting start," Daly said. "Gus hit me about six or seven times in the back pretty hard. I knew he was going to try to pass me going into the hairpin in Turn 3, and sure enough he went for it but braked way too late. I got it back, but he tried again, and I got it back again."
Eventually, Daly opened up a comfortable lead only to see it disappear with a full course yellow. He once again opened a decent gap after the restart.
Meanwhile, the third Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver, Esteban Guerrieri, moved into second and started to close the gap on Daly. On the 23rd lap, Guerrieri passed Daly for the lead. At this point, a string of bad luck inflicted the leaders. First, Daly tapped the wall, eventually causing him to drop out. Then, Guerrieri spun into the tire wall and out of the lead. This gave the lead to Anders Krohn, only to see him go down the escape road at the end of the front straight.
Conor Daly (77) led the first 22 laps only to fall back to second and then crash out of the race.
"The car was great and kept getting better, but all of the sudden, I don't know what happened," Daly said. "Turning around the corner I just got a little bit loose every lap, getting a little worse. In Turn 2, there are four bumps and right at the last bump it just snapped away from me and hooked left and right straight back into the wall, straight on with the nose and basically that was it. The upper wishbone was snapped in half."
When it all shook out, Yacaman (who had his pole winning time negated due to the fast lap occurring during a yellow flag zone) was in the lead followed by Newgarden and Victor Carbone. Krohn recovered to finish fifth with Bruno Andrade in front of him.
"I think Gustavo did a good job of holding me off," Newgarden said as he was unable to make the last final pass in his run through the field. "He really deserved that win."
This will be Daly's last Indy Lights race as the remainder of the calendar are ovals. Daly will return to Europe to concentrate on the remainder of the GP3 schedule.
"It's unfortunate for sure," Daly said. "I really wanted to do well here."
Newgarden's march up through the field, even if it fell short, was a huge boost to his commanding points lead, especially since Guerrieri dropped out. Newgarden now leads the Argentine by 90 points with two races (Kentucky and Las Vegas) remaining. There are 106 total points available (50 for a race win and three bonus points per race), but with small fields, even low finishes score a fair number of points (16th place at Baltimore scored 14 points), so the task is nearly impossible for Guerrieri. If Newgarden finishes 13th, he still clinches the championship.
"I'm very happy with the way it ended up," Newgarden said. "It certainly helps for the championship chase a lot more. I think we can seal it off now in Kentucky."
Copyright © 2011 by Russell Jaslow and American Driver Ranking. All Rights Reserved.