Newgarden sparks opening lap crash Sunday in Barber which puts him back in the championship and gets worst finish since joining Team Penske

LEEDS, Ala — Josef Newgarden made a rare mistake during Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series season opener. The two-time series champion two-time winner of the race at the Barber Motorsports Park just got briefly off course and when he came back on, he was out of control. His No. 2 Chevrolet eventually did what it had been trying to do for several yards and that’s spin. Unfortunately, he spun in the middle of the racing surface and Colton Herta as well as Herta’s Andretti Autosport teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, had no where to go but slam Newgarden on both sides of his car.

“I got loose coming over the hill and thought I had the car saved but then got in the grass and that turned me sideways,” said Newgarden. “My mess created a bigger mess and I feel bad for all those guys that got caught up in it.”

It ended Newgarden and Hunter-Reay’s days early while Herta later went back out to turn a few laps before calling it a day.

Felix Rosenqvist and Max Chilton also were collected as Chilton would continue on and Rosenqvist also getting his car repaired to gain a few more spots before calling it quits early himself.

Herta and Rosenqvist saw their miserable weekend’s come to a close after both also crashed on Saturday. Herta did so in the second practice session while Rosenqvist did in the opening practice at pit entry.

“I don’t know what I could have done there,” said Herta. “I thought he (Newgarden) was going to spin, I just didn’t know where it was going to be.”

For Newgarden, he immediately puts himself in a hole. In his pursuit of his third series championship in the last five years, he’s going to have a lot of ground to make up early. While it’s hard to make a case that one bad finish takes you out of a championship, Newgarden’s worst result in 2020 was 14th and he wasn’t really all that close to Scott Dixon in the end.

How rare is this result for him anyways?

Well Newgarden hasn’t finished outside the top 20 in an Indy Car race since Aug. 2016. It was also his worst finish since he joined Team Penske in 2017 too.

Newgarden only has seven points now while Alex Palou has 53. Even Will Power and Scott Dixon lead Newgarden by 34 and 28 points respectively already. Luckily for the Tennessee native, he’s won each of the last two years on the streets of St. Pete and that’s where we go to next Sunday.

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