Iowa IndyCar: Newgarden dominates Race 1, beats O’Ward, Power
Josef Newgarden scored his fourth win of the season with a dominant display at Iowa Speedway, beating Pato O’Ward and Will Power to move into second in the championship.
At the start Power took the lead from pole with Newgarden falling into line with Conor Daly holding off O’Ward’s attempt to get around him on the outside, and Scott McLaughlin and David Malukas took fifth and sixth. Behind them, Rinus VeeKay’s Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet got around Jack Harvey’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda to claim seventh.
Championship leader Marcus Ericsson moved up three spots from ninth on the outside and by Lap 7, he was up to eighth having passed the second Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist. However, Rosenqvist would move back up to ninth when he passed Harvey on Lap 12. Moments later, O’Ward demoted Daly to fourth.
Power had pulled a 1.4sec lead on Newgarden but within a couple of laps that lead had halved as he approached backmarkers. Before Power had to make a decision on how to pass Dalton Kellett, he earned a reprieve through a yellow due to a spin for Jimmie Johnson, who managed to keep his Ganassi-Honda off the wall.
The restart on Lap 23 saw Newgarden get down the inside of Power to grab the lead, while Ericsson managed to pass Malukas and VeeKay simultaneously in a three-wide maneuver that saw him move into sixth, and he then also got around McLaughlin to claim fifth. On Lap 31, Ericsson was into fourth, past Daly. Even if the Penske cars could retain their edge, Ericsson was at least showing the potential to limit the damage to his 35-point championship lead.
Of the off-strategy stoppers, Herta was flying, up to fifth ahead of Daly, McLaughlin and VeeKay by Lap 38 and rapidly closing on Ericsson. On Lap 46, he made it work after a maneuver that lasted a whole lap. Behind him, McLaughlin, Castroneves, VeeKay and Rosenqvist had got ahead of Daly who would also lose places to Johnson and Dixon. Daly finally pitted on Lap 52.
Next to fall to Herta’s sword was O’Ward, as the leaders got caught up behind backmarkers. However, by now the edge was going off Herta’s tires.
Newgarden had a 6.7sec lead on his teammate when he pulled in for fresh rubber on Lap 60, with Power and Herta pitting a lap later.
As other on-strategy cars pitted Johnson was left in the lead, while Power’s pitstop had left him behind not only Newgarden but also O’Ward who had made hay on fresh rubber after stopping two laps earlier.
Ganassi left Johnson out until Lap 79, despite his lap speeds dropping to 151mph compared with the 157s being turned by Newgarden, O’Ward and Power. Once the NASCAR legend had claimed his new tires, that left Newgarden leading O’Ward by three seconds, with Power just 0.7sec behind and Ericsson a further 3.3sec in arrears.
Five seconds further back, McLaughlin, Herta, Dixon, VeeKay and Rosenqvist dueled over fifth, and it was Herta who fell back, while Johnson proved well able to take advantage of his fresh rubber and moved into eighth, ahead of not only Herta but also Rosenqvist.
On Lap 99 of the 250, Ericsson took advantage of a hesitation in traffic by Power to pass the polesitter and grab third, 1.3sec behind O’Ward and 7.3 behind Newgarden.
Newgarden’s lead was wiped out on Lap 110 when Rosenqvist crashed into the Turn 2 wall after shuddering out of control over the Turn 1-2 bump.
When the pits opened under the caution, the top eight dived in and the pitcrews of Newgarden, O’Ward, Ericsson and Power appeared flawless, while McLaughlin was sprung up to fifth ahead of Johnson, Dixon and VeeKay. Herta’s car appeared uunable to engage a gear and he fell down the order.
The Lap 125 restart saw Ericsson, jump past O’Ward into second, and the Arrow Mclaren driver lost a spot also to Power. Two laps later, the yellow was out for debris on the start-finish line. Further back, Palou had passed Ilott for ninth.
The Lap 134 restart saw Newgarden break away initially, with Ericsson having to hold off an inside challenge by Power, but Ericsson came up to try and pass Newgarden. He tried the outside, then the inside and his right-front nuzzled Newgarden’s left-rear, fortunately without any longterm repercussions. However, the time loss for the Swede did allow Power back onto his tail to grab second. At that point the Huski Chocolate car fell back into the clutches of O’Ward briefly, before regaining his momentum and stating to apply the pressure on Power once more.
His teammate Dixon had fared less well losing spits to VeeKay, Palou and Romain Grosjean. VeeKay was putting in his best oval performance outside IMS and he passed Johnson for sixth, although Johnson was not to be cowed on this day, and survived some wild moments trying to retaliate.
On Lap 157, O’Ward reclaimed third from Ericsson and started trying to close the 1sec gap to Power who was half a second behind leader Newgarden. Under pressure from McLaughlin, on Lap 165, Ericsson then got caught in traffic, and into dirty air, which sent the #8 drifting up the racetrack into the gray. As he desperately feathered the throttle and wrestled the steering, Ericsson fell back down the order to ninth.
Then the yellow flew for Ed Carpenter crashing, which sent the leaders scurrying to the pits. Newgarden, Power, O’Ward (despite near-miss with Alex Rossi) McLaughlin, Palou (excellent stop by #10 crew), Johnson, VeeKay, Dixon, Lundgaard and Ericsson was the Top 10 as they emerged.
The restart on Lap 175 saw McLaughlin’s car slow and pit with a loose right-rear wheelnut, while behind Newgarden and Power, Palou got around O’Ward into third while VeeKay got ahead of Johnson and Dixon.
Palou then got up onto the tail of the Penske drivers who fanned out and lost momentum as they were having their own battle. On Lap 188 re-passed VeeKay to claim an excellent fifth. Behind them, Grosjean slipped down the inside of Dixon to take seventh.
The top four had broken away from Johnson as the lap counter ticked past 200, and the leaders approached traffic, while VeeKay got ahead of Johnson once more. A couple of seconds up the road, O’Ward passed Palou for third on Lap 207 and started cutting his deficit to Power. On Lap 216, the Arrow McLaren SP car was into second, before Power reclaimed the spot a lap later in traffic, then lost it again on Lap 218.
This tussle gave Newgarden a 2.4sec lead, but O’Ward cut that to under one second through traffic, as they both left Power behind to try and fend off Palou.
With 18 laps to go, after nosing around the gearbox of Johnson, Grosjean went down the inside of the Ganassi car to claim sixth and a lap later Johnson ceded seventh to teammate Dixon.
With tired Firestones sending lap speeds well below 150mph for most drivers, Newgarden had no such hindrance and pulled away from O’Ward who was struggling through traffic.
Power, now 12sec back was trying to hold off Palou, and it was the Ganassi driver’s car that lost grip first, getting crossed up and running high enough and slow enough to let VeeKay through to fourth and Dixon into fifth.
Newgarden’s 6.1sec victory over O’Ward means he has now won at the 0.894-mile track four times, has won four races this season and sent him into second in the championship, 15 points behind Ericsson.
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