Newgarden back in title fight with second win of 2021

Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Josef Newgarden’s is now looking a major factor in the IndyCar championship battle after he won at Gateway and two title rivals shunted.

The 2017 and 2019 champion led 138 laps, survived a brush with teammate Simon Pagenaud and scored his third win at WorldWide Technology Raceway in six attempts.

Newgarden now sits just 22 points off the top of the table, a spot now occupied by Pato O’Ward who finished second tonight, after Rinus VeeKay crashed erstwhile points leader Alex Palou and Scott Dixon out of the event.

An elated Newgarden told NBC Sports: “Roger [Penske, team owner] isn’t here but we’d been chatting beforehand about wanting to get back into this fight, and I’m so proud of this team.

“[First-time primary sponsor] Sonsio – we had them on the car and amazing energy from this sponsor. I could hear them out here – there was an army of yellow soldiers cheering for me before this race started. I’ve never felt such energy – I told them you need to keep this up all race and we can win this thing.

“Team Chevy did great [1-2-3-4-5]… I was super-pumped with my fuel mileage today – and that was put to the test – our reliability and our outright pace.

“So I couldn’t ask for much more. Everyone did a super job – Tim [Cindric, team president and Newgarden’s strategist] and the boys. Thrilled.

“Now we’ve got to keep going. We knew this was going to be a climb, these last four events, but this goes a long way tonight…

“It’s big. Any win is important for the year. Wish we had a couple more up to this point; we’d be in a different position. But we’ve always got to fight with what we’ve got in our hands and I just always have faith that we can win a race.”

Newgarden, who started the race third behind teammate Will Power and Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, admitted he felt like he’d let down his race engineer Gavin Ward during qualifying.

“I was so bummed after qualifying,” he said. “Gavin, my engineer did such a great job of putting our car together. [Rookie teammate] Scott McLaughlin, he tested here for us, he brought us a completely new car which was fantastic, and I wanted to put it on pole and I felt like I messed it up. So a little redemption here in the race makes me feel so good for the guys.”

Power, who scored the 63rd pole of his career this afternoon, admitted he was content with a podium finish on a night when he felt his race setup left him off the pace.

“I was really happy with third,” said the 2018 Gateway winner. “We didn’t’ really have a good car and we struggled.

“I was really happy when that all shook out and we were in P3… I got the most out of my day and my car.”

McLaughlin, who scored a second place at Texas Motor Speedway in May, was thrilled with his fourth place, in the wheeltracks of Power.

“It was an awesome day for us in the DEX Imaging Chevy,” said three-time Supercars champion but IndyCar rookie. “We had a decent car.

“Initially in the starts/[restarts] I probably didn’t pick the right holes and was a bit safe in some ways, but then the second or third restart – or tenth restart! It was crazy! – I really got into it and was comfortable and got ourselves into a nice position and were able to save some fuel and make our way through the [pit] sequences.”

Asked what were the biggest lessons from his fourth oval race, he said, “We tested here not long ago and my feedback has translated to some performance gains for all the guys. I’m really proud of that and it shows I’m learning the car and getting better and more comfortable with it.

“I’m trusting myself – and that’s the biggest thing on our journey right now – trusting my ability, trusting what I want from the car. Eventually when I get some more laps under my belt we’ll get several results like this.”

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Gateway IndyCar: Newgarden wins, disaster for Ganassi

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