Reigning IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden accepted it was a night to “swallow your pride” after suffering handling issues throughout the opening race of the season at Texas Motor Speedway.
The Penske driver beat Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon earlier in the day to claim pole position but soon ran into problems shortly after the green flag, suffering vibrations at the rear of his No.1 Xpel car.
Firestone mandated a 35-lap limit on the tyres on safety grounds, ensuring Newgarden’s problems were partially alleviated, but the Penske driver suffered from a loss of performance as the stint wore on.
“It’s one of those nights you just got to kind of swallow your pride,” said Newgarden. “We knew we just weren’t good enough tonight.
“I just tried to finish as high as possible. That was what we did. The team really put me in a position to do that. We had amazing stops.
“We kept fighting and trying to create a strategy to keep me up front even though I wasn’t very good throughout a tire stint.”
Newgarden conceded he was “hanging on” to stay in the race, let alone contend towards the sharp end of the field.
“Scott was way better than me tonight. It’s as simple as that,” he added. “He had a good run, was able to stay pretty tight fresh on tyres.
“Honestly, tonight for me was a night of hanging on. I was doing everything I could just to try to stay up front.
“When he came up alongside me on the front straightaway there, it was not really much I could fight. He was coming with a head of steam.
“It would have been foolish for me to try to bury the car into Turn 1 and fight him. I think he was far enough ahead, he was going to pass me either way.”