Texas Motor Speedway proved too tough to tame for many IZOD IndyCar Series veterans in the Firestone 550, but rookie driver Josef Newgarden kept his head above water and brought his car home to a 13th-place finish.
Newgarden’s No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone car started from the 25th position due to an engine swap that prohibited him from making a qualifying attempt.
With a quick jump on the green flag, Newgarden passed Katherine Legge and James Jakes on lap one. Unfortunately, stability issues became apparent shortly into the run.
On lap 62 Newgarden and SFHR went one lap down to then-leader Scott Dixon. However, a caution period caused by a single-car crash involving Charlie Kimball just two laps later enabled Newgarden to win his lap back.
Following more adjustments from his SFHR crew, Newgarden began reeling in cars in front of him. He was unable to hold off the hard-charging leader Dixon, however, and went one-lap down for a second time.
On lap 138 Newgarden entered pit lane with heavy traffic for service from the SFHR crew. He overshot his pit box, which prevented Helio Castroneves from entering his own pit. INDYCAR race control issued a drive through penalty for the No. 67 car, which he served on lap 140.
After the penalty Newgarden found himself two laps down, which he was unable to earn back.
Newgarden rallied with consistent laps and brought his car home in 13th.
“I think this was a very difficult track for all of us to race on tonight,” Newgarden said. “It was difficult for us to get a grasp on things tonight, but we finished the race, which was great.”
The Firestone 550 proved to be a long race that tested Newgarden’s patience as a rookie, but he is eager to press on with his team.
“The fact that we were able to finish the race shows how hard SFHR worked as a team,” he said. “We’re going to continue to work hard and our time will come eventually.”
Justin Wilson snuck by Graham Rahal, who tapped the wall while leading in the closing laps of the race, to win the Firestone 550. Rahal finished in second place, which made the Firestone 550 the third race in a row where Honda-powered cars finished first and second.
Ryan Briscoe, James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand rounded out the top five finishers.
Scott Dixon led the most laps of the race (133). There were nine lead changes and the race was slowed by 32 caution laps.
The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to action June 16 for the Milwaukee IndyFest. The race will be broadcast live on ABC at 1 p.m. ET.