Road America IndyCar: Palou wins, Newgarden robbed by car issue

Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda ace Alex Palou snatched his second IndyCar win when dominant leader Josef Newgarden suffered a gearbox issue on the final restart with two laps to go.

Polesitter Josef Newgarden made a fine start and took the drafting Jack Harvey in they Meyer Shank Racing-Honda with him, leaving Colton Herta vulnerable to a pass from Will Power into Turn 5. but Herta re-passed him up the short drag to Turn 6 and Power lost momentum enough to cede fourth place to Alex Palou’s Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda.

Behind Power, Romain Grosjean (Dale Coyne Racing with RWR-Honda), the Andretti Autosport-Hondas of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi and Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet’s championship leader Pato O’Ward moved up a place as Simon Pagenaud dropped from sixth down to 10th, just ahead of Scott Dixon. Rossi, O’Ward and Dixon had elected to take the favored primary tires for the opening stint.

Palou dived up the inside of Herta to claim third at Turn 1 on Lap 6.

By Lap 8, Newgarden’s lead was out to 3sec, while Palou was applying the pressure on Harvey, within 0.7sec. The pair of them had dropped Herta to the tune of 3sec, while Power was just 1sec behind the Andretti driver and a similar distance ahead of Grosjean. However, at the start of Lap 10, Power passed Herta who then immediately came under pressure from Grosjean, who passed Herta up the hill into Turn 6 on Lap 11.

Power pitted at the end of Lap 11,to take on blacks, as did Grosjean, Herta, O’Ward (switching to reds) and Pagenaud. The next time by, Harvey pitted and as he emerged he was in Power’s sights. The Penske driver outbraked him on the outside at Turn 5 and grabbed the spot.

Newgarden stopped on Lap 13, while Palou went to 14, and Dixon to 15.

That left Newgarden leading Palou by 7sec with Power 2sec behind the Ganassi driver, and ahead of Harvey, Herta, Grosjean, Hunter-Reay, O’Ward and Rossi on reds.

Then the caution flag flew, as Jimmie Johnson spun his Ganassi-Honda after running a little too wide exiting Turn 7.

The restart came at the end of Lap 18, and Newgarden made a perfect getaway, while Power had to deter Harvey, and Grosjean passed Herta around the outside of Turn 1 to claim fifth. O’Ward made a failed attempt to pass Hunter-Reay for seventh into Turn 5, which cost him eighth place to Rossi.

Just a little further back , Dixon demoted Pagenaud to claim 11th and started pressuring Ed Jones’ Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan-Honda. On Lap 22, Rossi made the extra grip of his reds work to pass Hunter-Reay into Turn 3.

At the same spot a lap later, Marcus Ericsson, who had been running 12th, ran wide, spun and stalled, requiring a second caution.

Everyone ducked into pitlane, and Newgarden, Palou and Power emerged in the same order, but Rossi emerged in fourth

Staying out were debutant Kevin Magnussen in the Arrow McLaren SP, the lapped Sebastien Bourdais and Takuma Sato. There were nailbiting moments after the green flag as Palou drew alongside Newgarden in Turns 1 and 3 but the erstwhile leader prevailed. Likewise Power had to stave off Rossi, not helped by the lapped Johnson who was trying his best to stay out of the way, but Rossi got held up just enough to lose out to teammate Herta.

The man really on the move after the restart was Graham Rahal who demoted Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Grosjean and O’Ward to rise to ninth, the latter two then getting locked in battle. Up front, O’Ward’s temporary teammate Magnussen was doing a decent job of holding off Sato, although he did run wide at Turn 5 when he let Bourdais unlap himself.

However, Sato passed Magnussen for the lead at Turn 5 on Lap 31, and this pair were artificially backing up Newgarden to Palou and Power, and although Magnussen ducked into the pits at the end of that lap, Newgarden still had to defend down the front straight. Power, meanwhile, could do nothing about holding off Herta. Next time by, Rossi also passed Power around the outside of Turn 5.

Sato finally pitted off-sequence at the end of Lap 33, allowing Newgarden to claim fourth. However, then Magnussen’s car died on the exit of Turn 8.

Harvey, the ECR-Chevys of Daly and Askew and Pagenaud pitted under this yellow, banking on fuel-saving – or more caution periods, or rain (which was threatening) reducing the fuel consumption.

Newgarden led the well-behaved crocodile of cars into Turn 1 at the green flag on Lap 38, but Grosjean dived down the inside of Rahal at Turn 5 to claim sixth. Behind the RLL-Honda, Dixon, Jones and O’Ward ran eighth through tenth, but Dixon pitted at the end of Lap 39 for his final scheduled stop. That prompted Newgarden and Power to stop next time by, leaving Palou with a 2sec lead over Herta until next time by when both – along with Rossi, Grosjean, and Rahal – also ducked in.

Palou emerged still behind Newgarden, while Dixon on warm alternate compound tires was able to blast by Rossi on the run to Turn 5. The other driver on reds was Rahal, who had to get his elbows out to stop Grosjean passing him at Turn 8, but the Coyne driver got past him again on Lap 43.

Up front were the off-strategy Max Chilton (Carlin-Chevrolet), Sato and Askew were still running off strategy. Newgarden and Palou passed fuel-saving Harvey for fourth and fifth, while behind them Herta and Power ran 4sec apart, third and fourth (net) ahead of Dixon, while Grosjean pulled off a brilliant pass around the outside of Rossi at Turn 1 on Lap 47.

Chilton pitted from the lead at the end of Lap 48, and Sato followed him in.

Palou was relentless in his pursuit of Newgarden, running eight-tenths behind the Penske driver, 5sec ahead of Herta, who in turn was 5sec ahead of Power. It became a genuine battle for the lead on Lap 51 when Askew pitted on Lap 52. It was his bad luck that the yellow then flew, Jones spinning the already limping DCR-Vasser Sullivan Honda into the Turn 12 as his left-rear wheel failed.

That left a shootout with two laps to go, and Palou zoomed past Newgarden who had his engine popping and banging up the front straight as his gearbox lapsed into emergency mode and cruelly dropped him down the field.

Palou needed no further invitation, stretching away from Herta to the tune of 1.8sec in just one lap, and Herta was equally comfortable ahead of Power.

Palou won by 1.9sec ahead of Herta who was 1.1sec ahead of Power, who had a similar margin over Dixon, Grosjean. Marcus Ericsson made it three Ganassi cars in the top six.

Just like last year, the #10 Ganassi car pounced in the closing laps, and now Palou has wrested the championship lead away from O’Ward who fell behind Sato on the final lap.

A devastated Newgarden limped home 21st, last car on the lead lap.

Cla Driver Team Laps Gap Mph Pits Retirement
1 Spain Alex Palou
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 55 119.424 3
2 United States Colton Herta
Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian 55 1.910 119.390 3
3 Australia Will Power
United States Team Penske 55 2.985 119.370 3
4 New Zealand Scott Dixon
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 55 3.904 119.354 3
5 France Romain Grosjean
Dale Coyne Racing with RWR 55 4.713 119.339 3
6 Sweden Marcus Ericsson
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 55 5.180 119.331 3
7 United States Alexander Rossi
United States Andretti Autosport 55 7.721 119.285 3
8 Japan Takuma Sato
United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 55 7.914 119.282 4
9 Mexico Patricio O'Ward
Arrow McLaren SP 55 9.024 119.262 3
10 United Kingdom Max Chilton
United Kingdom Carlin 55 9.373 119.256 4
11 United States Graham Rahal
United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 55 9.802 119.248 3
12 United States Oliver Askew
United States Ed Carpenter Racing 55 11.301 119.221 4
13 United States Ryan Hunter-Reay
United States Andretti Autosport 55 11.937 119.210 3
14 New Zealand Scott McLaughlin
United States Team Penske 55 12.193 119.205 3
15 Canada James Hinchcliffe
Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 55 13.947 119.174 3
16 France Sébastien Bourdais
United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 55 14.116 119.171 5
17 United Kingdom Jack Harvey
United States Meyer Shank Racing 55 15.594 119.145 3
18 France Simon Pagenaud
United States Team Penske 55 16.461 119.129 4
19 United States Cody Ware
Dale Coyne Racing with RWR 55 16.993 119.120 3
20 United States Conor Daly
United States Ed Carpenter Racing 55 17.555 119.110 3
21 United States Josef Newgarden
United States Team Penske 55 1'30.789 117.817 3
22 United States Jimmie Johnson
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 54 1 Lap 116.953 4
23 United Arab Emirates Ed Jones
Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan 50 5 Laps 119.502 3 Spun off
24 Denmark Kevin Magnussen
Arrow McLaren SP 33 22 Laps 119.018 3 Spun off
25 Canada Dalton Kellett
United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 19 36 Laps 104.854 2 Mechanical
 

 

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