Newgarden pleads for patience after shaky IndyCar starts

MADISON, Ill. (AP) — Alexander Rossi was criticized and exonerated for the way he led the field to green at Mid-Ohio, and Will Power was likewise found without fault after a collision behind him last week at Pocono.

That doesn’t mean the starts of recent IndyCar races haven’t been shaky.

In a sense it’s only natural, given the cars are tightly bunched, their tires are still warming up and everyone in the field is itching to get a jump. But as the season winds down and the intensity ramps up, it seems that everybody is riding a fine line when the green flag first flies.

“Hopefully everyone has learned how to take care of each other on the starts,” Josef Newgarden said, “because its’ the worst time to wreck is right off the bat.”

The defending champion of Saturday night’s race at Gateway Motorsports Park, Newgarden still harbors some hope of defending his IndyCar title. But that means staying out of trouble if Rossi and points leader Scott Dixon stumble, and the most likely place for trouble to happen is the start.

“Every race you do is a long race, so there’s no reason to wreck right in the start,” he said. “Mid-Ohio and Pocono were two different cases, so it’s hard to compare, but even with a couple different examples, hopefully people — and I mean collectively, the whole group, the whole field will look at that and try and make it turn a little bit better in Gateway.”

Some drivers thought Rossi brake-checked the field at Mid-Ohio, giving him an advantage leading the opening lap, while others insisted that nothing nefarious happened. Similar criticisms were levied against Power at Pocono, though he showed his data on live TV to prove he maintained his speed.

In both cases an accordion-effect happened, causing problems deeper in the field. The biggest came at Pocono, where Graham Rahal got into Spencer Pigot, sending him into the wall and out of the race.

Rossi disputed the notion there’s been trouble on starts, pointing out that the rest of the season has gone smoothly. He also said that IndyCar race director Kyle Novak has looked into the last two starts and cleared himself and Power, and that the starting “parameters” are perfectly clear.

“I think Will proved very clearly that he maintained his speed and the guys in the back were trying to get runs,” Rossi said. “I don’t think there will be any changes.”