Josef Newgarden took a dominating victory in the twilight hours of the rain-delayed Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway.
The 28-year-old Tennessee native put his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet out front for 245 of 300 laps and finished with a 2.8527s margin of victory over Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) on the 0.894-mile oval. The win marks Newgarden’s fourth of the season and extended his stronghold on the championship lead to 29 points over rival Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport).
“I don’t know if it’s our place,” said Newgarden, who has led the most laps four out of the last five race at Iowa – including two wins. “But I’m much happier tonight, I can tell you that. I was really a little bit frustrated yesterday just because I knew we had a pole-winning car [and] we didn’t put it together.
“Look, yeah, I’m very competitive, and I don’t always show it, but you want to do well every session, every practice, every qualifying — you want to be the best. If you don’t want that, then why are you here?
“I feel much better tonight. I really wanted us to win the race. I thought we had a car that could do that — a car capable; a team capable. I’m really pleased we were able to execute as well as we did tonight. We just did a good, solid job. Car was perfect, pit stops, great strategy from Tim (Cindric) and the boys. We got another win here.
“[We] kind of redeemed ourselves from last year, too. Last year I felt we had the car [but]t honestly fell apart with 100 laps to go. Why did it fall apart last year and how do we make it right again? I think we achieved that tonight.”
With an estimated start time of 7:15 p.m. ET, the race was plagued by severe weather and hard rain, and delayed until roughly 11:50 p.m. ET, with polesitter Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) leading the field as the opening two laps were run under caution.
Will Power (Team Penske) jumped out to the lead from outside of the front row once the green flag waved on Lap 3, which he held steady 46 laps until lapped traffic helped propel Newgarden out front on Lap 49.
Moments later, on Lap 56, the red flag halted the on-track action for 27 minutes due to a brief spot shower. Once the race resumed on Lap 66, the 2017 IndyCar champion was comfortably out front, but there was plenty of action in his rearview mirrors.
The battle for fifth was all for the taking as rookie Santino Ferrucci (Dale Coyne Racing) and Rossi went side-by-side for six consecutive laps, until Ferrucci — who made an impressive run though traffic at the start of the race — gained the upper hand after a commanding push forward from the top groove.
Rossi eventually made another run 20 laps later as the pair caught fourth-place driver Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan). On Lap 101, Ferrucci cut to the middle lane to dive under Sato and shut down the inside run from Rossi to move into fourth, while Rossi slid into fifth.
While that battle taking place, Power was starting to hang in the shadows of Newgarden and looked poised to reclaim the lead. The lead duo had stretched a sizeable gap of 9.6s over Pagenaud by Lap 112. Working through traffic, Newgarden managed to extend a 1s advantage over Power, while also putting the ill-handling car of reigning and five-time IndyCar champion Dixon — then running 13th — a lap down on Lap 121.
On Lap 187, a slowing Sato was rear ended by Sage Karam (Carlin) off of Turn 4 to bring out the yellow flag. In the end, that incident led to early retirements for both drivers.
The restart came 13 laps later, but the leaders remained unchanged out front. The shakeup didn’t come until the final round of pit stops when Power, running second at the time, narrowly overshot the entrance to pit road and ultimately received a penalty for the violation, which left him out of contention and en route to a 15th-place finish.
On Lap 264, owner/driver Ed Carpenter, who’d been running solidly in the top 10, wrecked coming off of Turn 2 and provided the final caution of the night.
The resulting yellow flag came at an opportune time for Dixon, who had yet to make his final pit stop and was back on the lead lap running in the top five. Upon pitting, he restarted sixth with 26 laps to go and made quick work of several of the front-runners, pushing up to second by Lap 185.
Despite fresh tires, Dixon could only watch, though, as Newgarden cruised to the 14th win of his career.
Surprisingly, while the result marks the 45th time in his career Dixon has finished second, but it was his best-ever finish Iowa.
“I guess I’m lucky,” Dixon said. “I don’t know. Tonight was just one of those things, man. I can only thank the team for what they did. I tried to hold on ’til the end and make the most of it. Yeah, we’ll take it.”
James Hinchcliffe (Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) managed to come away with the third and final spot on the podium.
“Had a lot of really good battles on track; we raced really hard with Spencer (Pigot), which was a lot of fun,” related Hinchcliffe. “There were a lot of close calls out there. The cars changed a lot as the track kind of rubbered in. Went loose, push, it was a little bit of everything; dirty air, clean air. The second lane came in nicely at the end, so the racing was good.
“Big time thanks to the fans for staying out here through the weather; I hope you guys enjoyed the show.”