Newgarden: IndyCar driver aggression over the edge at times

Josef Newgarden says he agrees with Scott Dixon that IndyCar drivers have become aggressive, and says some of that is down to the drivers relying on the toughness of the cars.

Newgarden: IndyCar driver aggression over the edge at times

Both Scott Dixon and Alex Palou were sent into the wall during a Lap 65 restart in Saturday’s final oval race of the IndyCar season at Gateway’s WorldWide Technology Raceway. Their Chip Ganassi Racing-Hondas were tagged by Rinus VeeKay’s Ed Carpenter-Chevrolet, and the subsequent crash eliminated Palou and VeeKay on the spot.

Dixon limped his car back to pitlane where the #9 crew spent several laps repairing the car for him to return to the fray and get another 35 laps under his wheels.

Afterward, the six-time champion told NBC Sports that there had been “erratic and crazy driving out there” which race control needed to look at but that was going “unnoticed.”

Newgarden, who went on to score his second win of the season and move to just 22 points off the championship lead, was asked about his rivals comments – and concurred, having seen it first-hand at the previous round at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course

“I saw it last week,” said the two-time champion. “When I started 20th last week, I was just trying to protect my racecar. First stint of the race, I was about getting run into three or four times. Literally was just trying to not wreck while being aggressive and going forward myself.

“Yeah, I mean, I think people are driving aggressively these days. You almost have to match it to some degree because if you don't you just get run over. You're sitting there going, ‘Why are you running me over?’ Doesn't matter who is right or wrong at that point; you still got ran over, right?

“I would agree with [Dixon]. Everyone just drives real aggressive these days. They push the cars to the limits, they push how much they can touch or not touch. With these cars you can touch a lot and generally get away with it. I think people are pushing over the edge of that at times.”

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Newgarden himself had his own incidents in the two races highlighted, nudging Takuma Sato off the road on the penultimate lap of the Indy race, and then having a side-by-side collision with teammate Simon Pagenaud on the Lap 16 restart at Gateway, as they dueled over third place. In that instance, Newgarden was ahead but arguably could have given his teammate more room on the inside without losing his place.

Instead, the impact broke Pagenaud’s nose wing, sending him to the pits after scattering debris down the back straight and bringing out another caution.

“I knew we touched, his right front wing to my left rear wheel,” said Newgarden. “I was just concerned after it. I didn't know if I had a tire going down or not immediately. I think it was just a bent rim. Fortunately that didn't turn into something more significant somehow. I just had a vibration after the contact.

“We obviously had some sort of miscommunication. For me I thought he was making a move, I swung back out wide, went in pretty deep. It didn't look like he got into the corner deep enough on me. I started to kind of come down so I wasn't in the marbles. Looked like we just touched from where he was still at getting into the corner.

“I would say a bit of a miscommunication. We don't normally get together very often. It's been a long time since I've touched with a teammate…

“I hate to see that it broke his front wing. I came out better of that mix for sure. It only damaged my rim, was able to continue. It obviously ruined his race. I don't like seeing that. Unfortunately it happened.”

Asked if there was anything which could be done about the standards of driving, he said: “That's a tough question. Some of it's self-policing, right? You end up causing enough problems in a row, an individual, that's going to turn into a bad situation. Everyone's going to not be happy with that certain individual. I think that frustration will not last too long.

“If you're running up front around the same guys every weekend, I don't think you're going to have multiple instances week after week. There's no way you can sustain it. In some ways that's self-policing. You're not going to get a lot of multiple offenses.

“The hard thing nowadays is you're up and down the grid. It's really hard to stay at the front nowadays. Last weekend I had to start 20th. I'd consider us a frontrunner. Every now and then we find ourselves all over the grid. I'm not always around the same people. You end up having run-ins with people you don't see very often during the year.

“I think that's part of what's aggravating the situation, is the field is so competitive, it's jumbled up every weekend. Different people are around each other all the time now. Couple that with aggressive driving, you're just having a lot more moments I think where people are upset with each other.

“It's kind of the nature of the beast right now. It's so competitive and so tight as far as performance goes, you almost have to be aggressive to get in front of people and find an edge. Like I said before, if you don't bring that aggression yourself, you end up getting run over now. It's a hard balancing act.

“But I don't think there's a pecking order as far as the veterans and who gets a talking to. I don't think the youth really cares anyways.”

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