Josef Newgarden wanted to push for his third-straight Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, but decided that a solid podium was much better than crashing out of his second consecutive race.
The Team Penske veteran rebounded from a disastrous opening-round at Barber Motorsports Park to put in a top-tier performance around the winding shoreline streets of Florida.
He would have liked to have taken one more step up on the podium and walked away with his 19th IndyCar victory, but made the decision to secure valuable championship points instead of taking undue risks.
Even with a couple late restarts where he could have forced the issue, Newgarden chose to play the long game and keep his title hopes alive.
“I was really looking for a clear, clear opening,” said the two-time series champion after the race.
“It was very close to being open there, but it just wasn’t quite enough. I was looking for the win, but certainly tempering things trying to make sure we had a solid day.
“I mean, look, if he gave me an opportunity to win the race, I was going to take it, as we all should. It just wasn’t quite there.
“But a good bounceback by the entire crew and the team, and to get some good points is really what we needed today, so we accomplished that.
“Now we can get our season off the ground, get going to Texas and feel good about things. But pretty happy about what we put together.”
Even though he earned a solid second-place finish, Newgarden still sits back in 10th in the points standings on account of his first-lap retirement in the previous race.
He is still only 20 points behind the current leader Alex Palou, and with over 50 points available at each event, the deficit is not as large as it could be.
The series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for a double-header next weekend, which has a full set of points on offer for each of the two races.
The full IndyCar points standings can be viewed here.