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Newgarden, Power Can't Hide Disappointment at Near-Misses for Penske

Josef Newgarden lamented what might have been. Will Power fumed about what he 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 “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 today,” said Newgarden, who also relinquished his points lead to Pagenaud. “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 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet was unjustly penalized with a drive-through penalty for hitting personnel on Lap 79. That he started from the back of the field on the ensuring restart had Power miffed after he finished fifth in the race.

“I didn’t touch a guy. It was a really bad call,” Power said. “I’m not really happy at all.”

Despite the penalty, Power still managed to recover enough to get close to the front. He passed three-time pole sitter and 2018 runner-up Ed Carpenter at the end 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 racing 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.”

At least Newgarden and Power didn’t experience the kind of disappointment of another teammate, three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who was assessed a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact on pit road on Lap 42 and never recovered. Instead of contending for a fourth win and joining an elite club of winners, Castroneves had to settle for 18th.

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.

“We just fell out of position with 10 to go,” Newgarden said. “Sato got my 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 leads the NTT IndyCar Series standings with 260 points, one more than Newgarden, as the teams reset to go to Detroit for next weekend’s two 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.”

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