NEWTON, IA — Josef Newgarden put on a rout of the 26 car NTT INDYCAR Series field on a steamy Saturday afternoon from the Iowa Speedway. The Tennessee native led a race-high 208 of 250 laps en route to his 24th career victory on a 99 degree day in Central Iowa.
Among his 24 wins are 4 on the .894-mile bullring including leading 111 or more laps in 6 of his last 8 races here.
He led 214 laps in his 2020 win. He also led 245 of 300 in his win in 2019 and 282 of 300 in his 2016 triumph. On top of that, he led 229 laps in a fourth place finish in 2018 too. Furthermore, he led 111 laps in a 2015 runner-up as well.
No one can stop Newgarden.
He entered the 250 lap race with some extra motivation. He wanted the pole earlier this morning. However, his teammate Will Power topped him. So, Newgarden used it to his advantage to dominate the day in which he lapped all but 5 cars and was 20.2-seconds ahead of 3rd.
“I was disappointed after qualifying 2nd,” he said. “I just hate losing. I felt like we had enough to get the job done; it did motivate me. I knew we had a car here today to win this race, and in front of this great crowd — unbelievable job that Hy-Vee has done all weekend. So to be able to win here again. It’s always very special.”
The win moves him from 44 points back in the standings to 15 heading to the 2nd leg of the doubleheader weekend on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). Newgarden starts 2nd again which ironically enough is a good omen.
The last 4 winners on the season have started 2nd including Newgarden’s triumph on Saturday.
Pato O’Ward came from 4th to finish 6.1784-seconds back in a runner-up result. He was 4th here in 2020 and had 3 straight podiums in a similar track at World Wide Technology Raceway.
It’s the 6th time the duo have finished 1-2 with 3 of which occurring on short ovals. Newgarden got the best of O’Ward in 2020 at Gateway and St. Pete before O’Ward flipped the script last year at Texas and Belle Isle. Newgarden has since flipped it back the last two instances in World Wide Technology Raceway and now Saturday in Iowa.
“I thought we had a little bit more for Josef in the end,” a happy O’Ward said. “He was really strong. All Penske cars were extremely strong.
“It was all about what can we do different to them to be able to just have a shot at getting by them. I had to use my tires a bit much. I think Will was on the same train battling with me and Palou, Marcus. So I think we used up our tires a little bit more than what Josef did. He had a little bit more to give in the end.
“Yeah, I was happy with my car. Didn’t really start off very good. We were just extremely, extremely loose. As we saw in the 7 car, unfortunate. Yeah, glad Felix is okay. We need to see what we can do better for tomorrow to not have that because it took a lot of pit stops to get it into a window where we could actually attack rather than just being a little bit of a passenger.
“Josef had different gearing to us. I’m pretty sure he was aware of that. So the team told me to do a certain thing, which I did. It was pretty horrendous and we got passed by two guys, I think.
“In the next one I did the opposite, and it worked. Yeah, it’s hard to say, right? You don’t know who’s going to be leading you. You don’t know if you’re going to be the one leading. Obviously you’re going to do the best for whatever is your pattern, gearbox pattern.
“But, yeah, we only let it catch us out once. I think Will did, as well.
“Yeah, really happy with our day.”
He went from 75 points back to 59 and rolls off 8th on Sunday.
“Yeah, really solid points day for us today,” he continued.
Pole sitter Will Power moves to 0-for-14 at Iowa by finishing 3rd in his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet. It was only his 3rd career podium at Iowa despite scoring his 5th and 6th career poles here earlier this morning. He led 23 laps on the afternoon.
“No,” Power said on if he’s disappointed to now win despite starting on the pole. “You never look back on a day when finishing third is a bad thing. There’s a few things I could have done a little better, been a bit more aggressive with the tools in the car to make sure the rear wouldn’t go off.
“I felt like we had a strong car. I was a bit conservative at the start, not attacking as much as Josef was. Then when we had the restart and I was starting to attack Josef, that’s when I started to be a bit more aggressive and felt a bit stronger.
“Yeah, good day. Third’s good points every time.”
Rinus VeeKay and Scott Dixon rounded out the top 5 in the race.
Penske has won 5 of the last 7 here in Iowa. They’ve won 8 of the last 11 short oval races.
Usual Suspects Up Front
If you asked me who my top 3 drivers to pick this weekend were. I’d have correctly predicted the podium. Power had 4 top sixes in his last six Iowa starts enter the weekend and now gets his 5th on Saturday. O’Ward was 4th as a rookie here in Race 1 of the 2020 race weekend and had 2 straight runner-ups at Gateway. Newgarden is Newgarden at Iowa.
They finished 1-2-3 after taking 3 of the top 4 starting spots too.
Racing Better Than Box Score Insinuates
The box score shows the podium came from the top 4 starting spots. It shows just 3 drivers led laps with 1 of them leading 208 of the 250. Just 5 cars were on the lead lap with the ones completing all 250 laps finishing 6.1784-seconds back, 20.2822-seconds back, 20.3748-seconds arrears and 21.9844-seconds behind.
Still, the racing was far better than what that shows. If you missed the race, you missed a good one. Most of the event was drivers running within a second or two of one another up front and plenty of passing throughout the field.
We saw 772 total on-track passes this afternoon, 372 were for position.
The Lap 17 spin from Jimmie Johnson in Turn 4 really spiced up the race. 11 of the 26 cars pit took advantage of the caution and pit on Lap 19. They came through the field quickly. Colton Herta and Jimmie Johnson moved their ways into the top 5 swiftly.
It created some wild moments for the first couple of stints before it worked itself back out when Felix Rosenqvist crashed on Lap 111. From there on, it still was intense battling for the lead between Newgarden, Power, O’Ward and even Marcus Ericsson.
The only reason as to why the separation in the end was due to the longer final stint. Ed Carpenter crashed in Turn 2 on Lap 164. The leaders hit pit road on Lap 167. They’d have to go the final 83 laps without a stop. On a day that saw no one go more than 60 laps on a set of tires prior, it saw everyone slipping and sliding in the end.
Jimmie Johnson went from a spin on Lap 17 to the lead on Lap 61. He’d make aggressive moves all race and ran inside the top 6 or 7 for 95% of the 250 lap event. It was fun for him inside the car and for us outside of it to witness. This was the Jimmie Johnson we had grown accustomed to see in NASCAR.
He led 19 laps overall but faded to 11th due to his car falling off on the final stint on older tires. He was 6th on the final restart.
“I had so much fun out there today,” Johnson said. “Watched so many great races at this track. To be here in person, drive on it in an IndyCar is such a rush.
“The first two-thirds of the race I really felt like we had a car competitive enough to win. Then there at the end it kind of slipped away from us. I think the longer run at the end also kind of exposed a weakness in our car, and I faded a bit more.
“We’ll sleep on it tonight, work with our teammates and engineers, make some good changes for tomorrow and come back stronger…”
Romain Grosjean who was making just his 4th oval start in general finished 7th on a day that saw his teammates finish 13th (Alexander Rossi), 17th (Devlin DeFrancesco) and 24th (Colton Herta).
He too made some big moves and earned his 11th career top 10 result. He had 6 in 13 races for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing last year. He now has 5 in 11 starts with Andretti this season so far.
Chevy Tops The Short Oval Game
It should come to no shock at all that Chevrolet swept the entire podium and took 4 of the 5 spots on the lead lap. They also had the entire top 5 of the starting lineup too. Josef Newgarden and Will Power combined to lead 221 of the 250 laps (88%) giving the bowties their 6th win in the last 7 Iowa tries including 4 straight. At World Wide Technology Raceway, they’ve won 4 of the 6 races since the return including 2 straight.
Chip Ganassi Racing Improvement
A day after Chip Ganassi Racing put all 4 of their cars in the top 10 P4-P6-P9-P10 in practice, they struggled in qualifying. Their top qualifier for Race 1 is points leader Marcus Ericsson in 12th. Scott Dixon and Alex Palou would share Row 7 in starting 13th and 14th respectively. Jimmie Johnson started 15th. For Sunday’s race, they’ll roll off P12 (Palou), P13 (Johnson), P15 (Ericsson) and P18 (Dixon).
That’s why they get a call out here for nailing all 4 cars in the top 11 in the 250 lap race on Saturday. Dixon came from 13th to finish a quiet 5th. Palou went from 14th to 6th while Ericsson was 8th. Johnson faded to 11th.
Johnson led 19 laps early and Ericsson was up to the top 5 by time he hit pit road for the first time. He even found himself up to 3rd, then 2nd in going for the lead before being forced wide in Turn 1 just past the midway mark in which he had to get way off the throttle and slid down from 4th to 9th on Lap 162. He’d never make that ground back up and lost a ton of points in the process.
Ganassi won 2 of the 1st 3 years here but has been 0-for-12 since.
Josef Newgarden’s 4 wins this season are on all 4 disciplines of tracks. He won on a superspeedway (Texas), street course (Long Beach), natural road course (Road America) and now a short oval (Iowa).