Josef Newgarden lamented what might have been. Will Power fumed about what he initially thought shouldn’t have been.
As Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud celebrated victory in the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Newgarden and Power had to accept that they came close but not close enough on Sunday.
Newgarden finished fourth in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet, a respectable but disappointing result for a 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion who like his teammates has been quite expressive about his desire to win this race. His only previous Indy 500 best was third in 2016 for Ed Carpenter Racing, but the 28-year-old Tennessean didn’t hide his disappointment.
“We were just a touch short,” said Newgarden, who also relinquished his points lead to Pagenaud heading to this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader. “It stinks, but we’ll learn from it and we’ll come back better next year.
“It was a game of patience today. We were saving fuel, trying to work on our car. We were lacking something at the beginning. I think we got the car a lot better toward the end. It was just a little off.”
Power, the defending champion, thought his No. 12 5G Team Penske Chevrolet was unjustly penalized for hitting a crewman during a pit stop on Lap 68. INDYCAR ordered the defending Indy 500 winner to the back of the field for a restart on Lap 79 following a caution period, which had Power miffed.
However, after visiting with race stewards after the race, Power watched replays of the pit stop and admitted during Monday night’s Indianapolis 500 Victory Celebration that he did indeed brush a crewman as he entered his pit stall.
Despite the penalty, Power managed to recover from 21st position to get close to the front. He passed three-time pole sitter and 2018 runner-up Ed Carpenter on Lap 195 of 200 to wind up fifth.
“We were really good,” Power said. “We were in that group in the end.”
But Pagenaud was going to be difficult for anyone to catch. The Frenchman led 116 laps and fended off a late challenge from Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner.
In the 50th anniversary of owner Roger Penske first race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the team’s bottom line was met. The boss celebrated his record 18th Indy 500 victory.
“One of us winning is what ‘The Captain’ (Penske) wants,” Newgarden said. “They do such a great job. It’s great to reward the whole group with a victory. Congrats to Simon. It’s still not a bad day, but it hurts a bit when you fall short.”
On the final restart, Newgarden was still hopeful. But he eventually couldn’t hold off 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, who passed him for third place on Lap 188.
“We just fell out of position with 10 to go,” Newgarden said. “Sato got bye me and that hurt us. We needed to be in that top three.”
As he talked through the situation, he amended the previous assessment.
“Really, the top two is where you had to be,” Newgarden said. “You had to be in the top two on the restart, maintain that position. That was the catbird seat for trying to win the race.
“Rossi and Simon really did a great job of defending there. They were methodical. That’s the style of this race.”
A year after Power became the first driver to sweep both IMS races in the month of May, the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the road course and the Indy 500 on the 2.5-mile oval, Pagenaud duplicated that double.
The 2016 series champion now has 260 points, one more than Newgarden, as the teams reset to go to Detroit for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix races. Rossi is third at 228. Power is sixth at 184.
“It was a great battle at the front there, watching those guys go at it,” Power said of Pagenaud and Rossi. “Simon deserved it. He was better than everyone else.”
Practice on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park begins Friday, with all three sessions – starting at 10:55 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. – streaming live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold.
Race 1 action takes place Saturday, with qualifying at 10:45 a.m. (livestream on INDYCAR Pass and delayed telecast at noon on NBCSN) and the 70-lap race at 3 p.m. on NBC.
Qualifying for Race 2 airs live on NBCSN at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, with the race shown live at 3 p.m. on NBC.
Timing and scoring with Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network commentary is available for all the weekend’s sessions at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.