It was as crushing a performance as we’ve ever seen as Josef Newgarden nearly lapped the entire field, but a failure at the back of his car and big crash on lap 236 of 300 threw the closer to the Iowa Speedway doubleheader wide open as the Team Penske driver would not take back to back wins.
IndyCar officials stated after the race: “Following an on-track incident at Iowa Speedway, Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden was evaluated and released from the infield care center. After the conclusion of today’s race, he fell and returned to the infield care center. He is awake and alert has been transported to [Mercy One Des Moines Medical Center] for further evaluation.”
The big beneficiary after Newgarden’s incident was Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, second-place finisher to Newgarden on Saturday, who led the lap 250 restart and motored away from Penske’s Will Power to claim his second victory of the season.
Winning by a commanding 4.2s, O’Ward held Power in check and Penske’s Scott McLaughlin by 9.4s at the checkered flag as Team Chevy completed a sweep of the podium and filled all six spots for the weekend.
“Great weekend for us,” O’Ward said. “We knew we needed to execute this weekend to have a shot at the championship. The guys were great in the pits. I did my job in the car, and I knew we had to pace to win one.
“The problem was just trying to get up to Josef — and one thing is getting up to him, and one thing is passing him. I’m glad he’s okay. We took advantage of the opportunity that presented itself and just walked away with it. I knew we had the pace to do it. [It’s] just about being in the right situation.”
Newgarden led 148 laps and was primed to take the championship lead by 10 points until the crash; his misfortune dropped the Iowa specialist from second to fourth in the standings. O’Ward’s win was helpful to his championship aspirations as he improved from sixth to fifth, just 36 points behind leader Marcus Ericsson.
Power entered Iowa with a 35-point deficit to Ericsson, who came home in sixth, and left with the gap cut to eight.
“Great weekend, points-wise for us,” Power he said.
There wasn’t much to report prior to Newgarden’s crash that went beyond his mastery of the race. Lapping his way up through fifth place at one point, there was no hope for O’Ward, Power, or anyone else to catch the No. 2 Chevy until the surreal image of Newgarden sliding backwards with the back of his car in a worrisome state came into view.
“It definitely was a bit of a shock,” he said. “I want to cry. I’m so sad for my team. I don’t know what happened. It was a good run. It’s just one race but I feel terrible for us. Team Chevy and Hitachi guys did a great job. Something went wrong there.”
Outside of the podium, Chip Ganassi Racing had a strong day with most of its drivers as Scott Dixon overcame a poor start from 18th to take fourth, the first Honda-powered driver home. Stablemate Jimmie Johnson recorded his best IndyCar performance to date, looking fast and decisive on his way from 13th to fifth. The aforementioned Ericsson, lacking some of his podium-grade speed from race one, persevered to place sixth as the only CGR to struggle was Alex Palou who never featured and finished a distant 13th.
Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas produced his best performance of his rookie season with a determined run to eighth; teammate Takuma Sato pushed him hard in the closing laps but Malukas would not acquiesce to the two-time Indy 500 winner. Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean completed an impressive debut weekend in Iowa with an eighth-place finish to add to his seventh the day prior, and the last major standout was Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott who improved from his 12th on Saturday with another clean run on Sunday to claim 11th.
Other than Kyle Kirkwood making contact with the Turn 1 wall on his own on lap 117 and Newgarden’s surprising exit, the 300 laps went by without interruption.
The Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend at Iowa was a resounding success with an encouraging crowd for race one and a larger audience for race two. If half of the IndyCar events each year that lack sizable crowds and big energy followed Iowa’s new blueprint, the series would be the wealthiest and most popular we’ve seen in decades.