Reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden accused officials of being “inconsistent” after the penalty that spoiled his Texas race.
Polesitter Newgarden was struggling with the race-day set-up on his Penske Dallara-Chevrolet, suffering severe blisters on one set of tyres and a deflation on another, and was then penalised for jumping the final restart.
With the 60mph pitlane speed-limit being extended all the way around to the back straight for safety reasons with the cars lighter on downforce and the warm-up lane low on grip, the penalty cost him two laps to rivals at racing speed.
A further stop for another deflating tyre meant he hit the pitlane a total of seven times last Saturday night, compared with winner Scott Dixon’s four pitstops.
“At this point it doesn’t matter about the penalty because of the right-rear that went down – although maybe I picked it up while serving the drivethrough!” Newgarden, who finally finished 13th and four laps down, told Autosport.
“But I think Race Control has been so inconsistent and if this race was the one they decided to be aggressive, then…
“I think they need to look at the severity of penalties.
“On that restart, I didn’t pass anyone before the start/finish line but literally because I was out of line at the restart they call me for a drive-through which kills us because of them extending the pitlane speed limit.
“If they’ve got an issue with my restart and want me to give up one or two positions, then fine.
“But putting us further out of the game by putting us two laps down is too harsh.
“And what they called us on, they’d never called before. So I’m getting dinged on something they want to be aggressive on all of a sudden.
“OK, well now I know but I hope they’re consistent on this going forward, for everyone.”
Penske had qualified 1-2-3 at Texas, but all three of its cars had tyre problems in the race.
“It seemed like other people were better than us,” Newgarden said.
“If you look at Schmidt or Ganassi tyres, it doesn’t seem like they had the same problems we did, so I’d say this was just a miss by our team.
“But in a way that’s good, right? It means there is a solution out there – it’s up to us to find it.
“The [second] stop, the one I got way out of sequence on, the tyre was destroyed and I about hit both ends of the car on the wall because the floor of the car hit the ground.
“So that got us way off-sequence and because of this stupid pitlane speed limit thing around to the back straight, you lose two laps by pitting, so you can’t even catch up.”