The Portland Grand Prix has become IndyCar’s prime source for Divine Intervention.
For the second year in a row, the seemingly impossible was on display as championship leader Josef Newgarden emerged from the Lap 1 melee without a scratch. Where Scott Dixon’s Turn 1 miracle kept his 2018 title chances alive and ultimately helped the Chip Ganassi Racing driver to score his fifth championship, Newgarden’s oh-so-close moments, as most of the cars around him got tangled in Graham Rahal’s bowling ball impression, allowed the Team Penske ace to vault from 13th to fifth at the checkered flag.
With cars colliding in front and on both sides of his No. 2 Chevy, Portland gifted the Tennessean with 2019’s Turn 1 miracle. As a result, he heads to the season finale with a handy 41-point lead over Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.
“I was just trying to stop,” he said of mayhem playing out as the field entered the tight chicane. “I had nowhere to go because it was right in front of me. And the decision-making process, I couldn’t really go right because Rahal was coming right at that moment. Then once they hit, they were kind of flowing to the left and then I was just kind of stuck right in the middle. So, I just waited for it all to stop and then went around it. I was kind of lucky in a way.”
With a maximum of 104 points available to earn at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on September 22, Newgarden’s happiness over avoiding the Turn 1 dramas were tempered by the efforts required to overcome a poor starting position.
“Yeah, 60 [points over Rossi] would have been better,” he said. “Well, really 70. Heck, 90. No, it’s honestly not enough with double points. It’s just not. I don’t think we’re very comfortable.”
Just as Portland gave Dixon the good fortune he needed to go on an win the title a year ago, it took it back on Sunday as the New Zealander had the race under control until a dying battery left his No. 9 Honda stalled and out of contention. With the electrical issue compounding a freak radiator problem last weekend, the Kiwi is all but out of the title picture.
“Yeah, maybe we’ve got Scott’s mojo from last year — it was like Scott could do no wrong last year,” Newgarden added. “Nothing ever bad happened to him. This year he’s had a couple of small things hit him here right at the end, the radiator and now the battery deal. I don’t know what it was, but it sounded like that’s what it was. It’s like he’s got the complete opposite of what he had last year.
“That’s IndyCar. Sometimes this cycles around. You’ll get the good years, you’ll get the bad. Hopefully, we continue to have a good year in Laguna and then kind of finish it off because you never know when you’re going to have a bad year again. It’s far from over, but I for sure would rather be in the position we are in instead of second or third.”