NEWTON, IA — You can never turn off an NTT INDYCAR Series race despite how dominant one drier may be having. During Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 at the Iowa Speedway, the trophy was essentially waiting in victory lane for Josef Newgarden. A day after leading 208 of 250 laps on the .894-mile short track, the 31-year old Tennessee native found himself routing the field once again.
He started 2nd and first took over the lead on Lap 84. He’d lead all the way until pitting on Lap 195. He’d inherit the lead back again on Lap 199. With just 1 more stop looming and only 8 cars on the lead lap, the win was basically his for the taking.
Then a rare mishap occurred.
Newgarden while blitzing the field, lost control of his No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet while leading in Turn 4 and backed into the outside SAFER barrier ending his day with a disappointing 24th place finish.
He went from potentially taking over the points lead at the end of the day to falling back to 4th again. He at one point was 8 points to the good but falls to 34 points back.
“Definitely a bit of a shot,” Newgarden said of his crash. “Just I want to cry. So sad for my team. I don’t know what happened. It was a good run. I feel terrible for us. Something went wrong there.”
Newgarden reported a vibration earlier and wasn’t sure if that played a role in this or not.
“I’m not sure. Everything felt fine to me up until that point,” he continued. “Totally unexpected when it happened. It caught me by surprise.”
Even with the rare incident, Newgarden is trying to take a positive approach for his team heading back to Indy next week.
“This is racing. Team Penske’s the best. I never have this stuff. Maybe we were due. We can’t afford it for this year. We’ll fight back.”
In an odd turn of events too, Newgarden was transported via helicopter to a Des Moines hospital after falling outside of his hauler and suffering a head abraison. The reason for helicopter was due to race traffic.
Reports from Dr. Geoffrey Billows is that he’s awake and alert and communication. He was fine earlier but with falling, they’re doing this as a precaution.
Kurt Busch crashed in Cup Series qualifying on Saturday and woke up Sunday with concussion like symptoms and as a result, sat out Sunday’s race. Concussions can be delayed coming on so there’s reason to have this checked out.
Luckily, all tests were negative in the hospital on Sunday night but as a precaution, they’ll hold him overnight for further evaluation before being re-examined by INDYCAR on Thursday.
“Josef Newgarden was involved in an incident late in Sunday’s race at Iowa Speedway, after which he was evaluated and released from the infield care center,” a statement read from Team Penske tonight.
“Following the conclusion of the race, Newgarden lost consciousness and fell, sustaining a cut on the back of his head. Due to the 45-minute drive to MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center and the traffic outside the racetrack, the medical helicopter was determined to be the best mode of transportation. After being evaluated, all scans were negative.
“Newgarden will be held overnight for observation. Following IndyCar protocol, Newgarden will be evaluated by the IndyCar medical staff on Thursday.”
It’s rare someone so good at one track loses his car by himself while leading. I mean just look at what the 2nd and 3rd place finishers said about him a day prior.
“Yeah, I mean, Newgarden has four wins, probably five tomorrow, unless I can do something,” Will Power said. .
“Don’t be so negative,” said 3rd place Pato O’Ward.
“Go ahead, try to beat him, man,” Power responded.
I tried today (laughter),” said O’Ward.
Well they didn’t pass him on track but all it took was a crash and now instead of 5 wins, he’s back at 4. To have 4 wins though and not be leading the points is telling in a way that he has more finishes outside the top 10 (5) now than wins (4) which despite having 4 wins 3 times in his career already and having won 2 titles in those 3 seasons, he’s finding himself playing catch up still with 5 races remaining.
“It’s been a frustrating year in some regards,” he said after his 24th victory of his career on Saturday. “But it’s been tempered with great results. I mean, to your point, we’ve had four wins. I feel like we’ve showed up at most of these weekends capable of winning the race.
“Fortunately four of them have worked out pretty nicely. But, yeah, it’s either working out like that or it’s just going sideways to some degree. I don’t know that I want to put that on any one specific thing. It’s been kind of bad timing in a lot of respects this year. Mid-Ohio was bad timing, qualifying and the race. Toronto we had bad qualifying with P2 going out, hampered qualifying. Bad positions on the pit stop. Even the pit cycle before that was bad timing on when we pit.
“I don’t really think it’s anyone’s fault. I don’t think we have a problem in any part of the team. For whatever reason, we have odd timing on most of these weekends. The other weekends where there is no odd timing, we win the race. I think if we could find the middle ground there, we’d be handily in the points lead. We can’t seem to find that balance right now.
“You have to be careful trying to find it. We can’t change much. It’s just the way it is. 2018 was similar to this year, we won three races, finished fifth in the championship. We had four poles, super good. We were either winning the race or something weird was happening.”
In the races it went right, it really went right. He led 32 of 85 laps in his Long Beach win. He led 26 of 55 laps in his Road America triumph. He went toe-to-toe with Scott McLaughlin with a thrilling Texas finish.
However, he also only has 5 top 5’s in 12 races and 7 top 10’s. By comparison, his teammate Will Power has 9 top 5’s and 9 top 10’s.
Ericsson has 5 top 5’s but 10 top 10’s.
We’ve also only had 2 drivers to ever sweep a race weekend under this doubleheader format that debuted nearly a decade ago.