A grudge-holding Josef Newgarden channeled Michael Jordan in storming to a second straight IndyCar victory at Long Beach and snatching the series lead from Scott McLaughlin.
American ace Newgarden was incensed by a local reporter’s pre-race question that implied he was making up the numbers behind Californian wonder-kid Colton Herta.
“I took total offense to that,” Newgarden said, in shades of Jordan’s viral “and I took that personally” meme.
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Newgarden channels Jordan in interview
“No way we’re letting that happen.”
Herta led for 28 laps before a fired-up Newgarden made his move and the defending champion made a “stupid mistake” and crashed out of the race.
“Like what is that? I thought it was such a weird question and I went to bed last night and I went, ‘You know what? That kid is not checking out. There’s just no way,'” Newgarden, 31, said of the 22-year-old Herta.
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It was his first career victory in 10 starts at the most prestigious street race race in the United States.
He was the leader in the 2011 Indy Lights race when he crashed with two laps remaining.
Newgarden led a race-high 32 laps to move Team Penske to 3-0 on the season.
Penske teammate McLaughlin won the opener at St. Petersburg, then Newgarden won at Texas and now Long Beach to bump the New Zealander from the championship lead.
Australian Will Power was fourth in the race and is fourth in the overall standings.
“I didn’t really have much for those guys in front,” Power said.
“I was happy with fourth, a top-five finish considering where I was starting (seventh).
“It’s the most consistent start to the season I’ve had in a long time so pretty happy.”
USA veteran Jimmie Johnson finished 20th while racing with a carbon fiber cast to close one of the worst weekends of his career.
He broke his hand in Saturday’s (AEST) crash, crashed again in Sunday’s practice, was penalized his two fastest laps in qualifying for interfering with Graham Rahal, and then crashed out of the race.
“I’ve had (bad weekends) before,” Johnson said.
“But it comes with it. I certainly feel bad that I put the team in this position. This deal isn’t easy. You’ve got to live on the razor’s edge on the street races and there’s no margin for error. Trying to be faster, trying to be more competitive, I made some mistakes this weekend and will learn from them.”
As for the broken hand?
“I feel like I can carry on like this for the next couple of weeks until I’m healed up. I’m going to see a hand specialist tomorrow in North Carolina and determine if I need to put a screw in it or not. “
After a win and a second in the opening two races, McLaughlin slumped to 14th in the race and second overall.
The former Supercars champion spun out on a hairpin on lap 35 and lost valuable time.
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