Newgarden cruises to victory in wild IndyCar race at WWTR

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Newgarden cruises to victory in wild IndyCar race at WWTR

IndyCar

Newgarden cruises to victory in wild IndyCar race at WWTR

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The Bommarito 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway gave 24 drivers 260 laps to make a statement, and with a championship ready to be settled in the next six weeks, another wild race took place where Josef Newgarden captured his second win of the season, Pato O’Ward took control of the title chase, and their rivals Alex Palou and Scott Dixon ended up in the wall thanks to Rinus VeeKay.

Between a litany of caution periods and crashes, extreme fuel saving played to Newgarden’s favor as he drove the No. 2 Team Penske Chevy to a 0.5s win over O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevy.

Complementing the great night for the Bowtie and The Captain, the top five was rounded out by Penske’s Will Power who started on pole, Penske rookie Scott McLaughlin, and a relieved Sebastien Bourdais in his A.J. Foyt Racing entry. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato was the first Honda driver home in sixth.

“We wanted to get back in this fight, and [I’m] so proud,” Newgarden said after leading 138 laps, moving from fourth to third in the standings, and taking his third WWTR win in six tries. “Team Chevy did great, super pumped with my fuel mileage; that was put to the test. I couldn’t ask for more. We know this is going to be a climb these last (three) events, but this goes a long way tonight.”

On the receiving end of an inexplicable restart move by VeeKay, Palou’s day ended against the wall on lap 196 while running in the top 10, and with the Ganassi car parked in the garage, O’Ward’s steady charge forward to second at the checkered flag also came with new possession of the championship lead.

“It was a very solid points day for us,” O’Ward said. “I think we maximized what we got out of our car and our race.”

Power’s pole didn’t last long before Colton Herta swept into the lead and took charge, but the Penske veteran persevered and added another podium after winning last weekend in Indianapolis.

“I was really happy for third,” he said. “We really didn’t have a good car. I got the most out of my day.”

If Palou and Dixon were disappointed at the hits they took in the bid for the championship, Herta wore a look of disbelief after leading with conviction as late as lap 185 before a broken halfshaft ended his bid to earn a first oval victory.

“It was a driveshaft,” the Andretti Autosport driver said. “Nothing I could have done there. Man, we were so freaking fast. I was feeling so good. Just frustrating when it happens when we’re in the lead.”

Outside the top six, Ryan Hunter-Reay was quick all night and took seventh as the best Andretti finisher of the night; teammate Alexander Rossi was in for a shot at the podium until crashing late in the race on new tires.

Simon Pagenaud was the last of four Penske drivers to reach the finish line, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. In yet another clash between himself and Newgarden, with the eventual race winner serving as the aggressor, Pagenaud lost his right-front wing, was forced to pit for a replacement, spent most of the night down a lap, and kept digging to claim eighth.

Attrition certainly helped in the case of Dalton Kellett’s run to 12th, but Bourdais’ teammate was highly competitive for the majority of the race and came home with Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan in his mirrors.

And in 14th, Romain Grosjean had an oval debut that must have felt like it lasted 1000 laps as the Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing driver executed hardcore passes to reach inside the top 10, nearly crashed on a few occasions, and came away with a proper understanding of what the discipline requires to be successful.

It wasn’t pretty, but full credit was earned by Chevy and its top drivers as the best in Honda’s camp either broke, crashed, or were visited by grand misfortune under the lights in Madison, Illinois.

One can only imagine what’s in store for the title contenders when the series reconvenes on September 12 in Portland.

RESULTS

AS IT HAPPENED 

James Hinchcliffe’s nightmare season was the first noteworthy happening as his Andretti Autosport Honda experienced electrical issues that forced the car to pit lane while the field lined up to take the start. The Canadian was unable to join the field, losing three laps before his car fired.

Colton Herta tried to take the lead from Will Power on the opening lap and charged into P1 on entry to Turn 1 on Lap 2. The first caution of the race was required on lap 3 when Graham Rahal and Ed Jones — running side-by-side and within inches of each other — tangled in Turn 1 as the two came together with Jones getting into the left side of Rahal’s car. Both cars spun and crashed into the wall, with Jones being out on the spot and Rahal limping back to the pits where the team affected repairs.

For points leader Alex Palou, the crashes and forward momentum helped the Chip Ganassi driver to improve from P21 to P14. Coming to the restart, it was Herta, Power, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Marcus Ericsson, and Pato O’Ward in P6. Title contender Scott Dixon was P9. Rahal did turn a few laps under caution but pulled in and retired the car.

The green flag was ready for lap 12 but Dalton Kellett was spun from behind by Ed Carpenter, which sent the A.J. Foyt driver onto the infield grass in Turn 3. With the field reorganized, the green waved on lap 16 as Herta and Power drove away while Simon Pagenaud attempted to pass Newgarden for P3 into Turn 1 and had Newgarden turn down on him and break the right-front wing from his car. The debris flew back and appeared to hit one or more cars. A new caution came on lap 17 and by lap 19, Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais, and Ed Carpenter pitted.

The next green came on lap 22 while the yellow track lights flashes, which led to a few more laps of circulating at half speed before it went green on lap 26. By lap 30, Herta held a 0.7s lead over Power. Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay was charging, moving up to P10 from a P23 start, and Palou was sitting in P11.

By lap 40, it was Herta, Power, Newgarden, Rossi, Ericsson, and O’Ward in the top six. By Lap 53, Herta took a .5s lead and moved it out to 1.7s as Power began losing touch to the leader.

The next caution was on lap 56 for Carpenter who crashed heavily in Turn 3. He climbed from the car unaided. The field pitted on lap 58 and big moves were made at Herta pitted in P1 but left in P3 as a rocket stop by Newgarden moved him to the lead and Power followed in P2. Palou, trailing VeeKay in P11 coming onto pit lane, got ahead into P10, right behind teammate Dixon. Foyt’s Sebastien Bourdais was the only driver to stay out and he inherited the lead temporarily.

The lap 65 restart was a disaster for Dixon, Palou, and VeeKay as the three crashed in Turn 1. VeeKay, in an epic bout of red mist, charged down the inside of the two Ganassi cars and took the two out.

The lap 77 restart featured Newgarden sprinting away and Alexander Rossi taking P3 off of teammate Herta into Tun 1. The running order was Newgarden, Power, Rossi, Herta, Ericsson, and O’Ward until Rossi relieved Power of P2 on lap 79.

The most fun on lap 90 was Romain Grosjean who was picking off cars on the way to holding P11. He took P10 on lap 91 and set after Penske’s Scott McLaughlin. On lap 92, O’Ward got by Ericsson for P5 as Grosjean motored to P9.

O’Ward went forward again on lap 108 to take P4 from Power. A slow pit stop for Ryan Hunter-Reay on lap 113 as the first of the leaders took him from P8 to P17. Shortly after lap 130, most of the front runners pitted and after the order settled, it was Newgarden, Herta, Rossi, O’Ward and Sato involved in a scrap. Herta, who cleared Rossi after their stops, tore after Newgarden and took P1 on lap 139. O’Ward did the same on Rossi, moving to P3.

Sato demoted Rossi, who was doing extreme fuel saving, to P4 on the next lap. Grosjean got high on lap 174 and took a few laps to rebuild his speed.

By lap 175, Herta sat comfortably in the lead by 0.8s on Newgarden, 2s on O’Ward, 2.7s on Sato, 3.5s on Rossi, and 5.2s on Ericsson.

Herta pitted from the lead on lap 185 and retired with a broken halfshaft.

Final pit stops started around lap 197 as the leaders headed in for service. A caution was required on lap 200 as Rossi crashed in Turn 2 while trying to get up to speed and chase down Newgarden and O’Ward.

The lap 211 restart had Newgarden diving low to block O’Ward as Power, McLaughlin, Bourdais, and Sato were in pursuit. With a need for all to do considerable amounts of fuel saving to make it to the finish, the sextet held station until the checkered flag as Newgarden did himself wonders with a third win of the season and big move in the championship standings.

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