Newgarden extends championship advantage with victory in Iowa

by Jordan Groves

Josef Newgarden has taken victory in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway. The race, which was heavily delayed after a huge bout of rain and numerous thunderstorms surrounded the speedway, eventually came to an end almost seven hours after it had been due to start; with Josef coming home to take his fourth win of the season to crucially re-build a points advantage in the championship standings.

After a crushing performance in qualifying, Team Penske looked to be in very good shape when the race finally got underway. The team locked out the first three positions on the grid, with Simon Pagenaud scoring pole position ahead of second-placed Will Power and third-placed Newgarden. The trio would trade positions as the race went on, with Newgarden going on to lead the way ahead of Power and Pagenaud as the American seemed to have the slightly better car in race conditions.

The Penske trio would remain in command of the race for much of its duration, but as the race drew to a close in the final fifty laps, a curveball was thrown. Ed Carpenter would lose the rear of his #20 Chevrolet on the exit of turn two and would pound the outside wall as a result. A caution would have to be called in order to Carpenter’s car to be collected.

This set up a dilemma for the lead lap drivers. They had just made their final scheduled pit-stops for fuel and tyres, however, Iowa Speedway is so tough on tyres that it wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility for some of those who had just pitted to do so again to get any advantage that they could.

For one man, the caution came at the best possible time. Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon had been struggling all night long and was as far back as sixteenth place; one lap down on the leaders. However, he stayed out as long as possible during the final pit-stops in the hopes of catching a caution. That gamble paid off. The caution for Carpenter’s stricken car meant that Dixon would be able to make his final pit-stop under yellow and thus gain his lap back.

What’s more, he was one of the only drivers to pit during the caution period, along with Alexander Rossi. The rest of the lead lap drivers elected to stay out, with Dixon and Rossi having to negotiate lapped cars and other lead-lap drivers that separated them from the race-leader Newgarden.

The pair would make their tyre advantage work for them when the green flag dropped for the final time. Both drivers picked off numerous cars on the first lap back to green, with Rossi sensationally passing car after car around the outside of the track.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Dixon would soon work his way past the new second-place runner, James Hinchcliffe, with the New Zealander now looking to try and catch Newgarden as the race ticked down into its final fifteen laps. Scott got as close to two seconds off of the back of Newgarden, but his prevalent car issues would soon come back to haunt him as he struggled to run in traffic. Newgarden would soon begin to pull away again, with Dixon having to refocus his attention on Hinchcliffe to try and hold the Canadian off for second-place.

Ultimately, it was another stunning performance at Iowa Speedway for Josef Newgarden. The short track is considered as one of Newgarden’s best of the entire calendar and he showed why that’s the case once again. He would lead 245 of the 300-lap race distance and would cross the line to take his fourth win of the 2019 season.

Newgarden was left disappointed after last weekend’s race in Toronto after mistakes saw his championship advantage trimmed down to just four points. However, with Rossi and Pagenaud finishing further back in the top ten, Newgarden has now crucially re-extended his championship lead to twenty-nine points with just five races left to be run; a much more comfortable buffer for Josef as he looks to claim his second IndyCar championship. Perhaps ominously, Newgarden last won four races in one season back in 2017; a season that he would go on to be crowned champion.

Scott Dixon would hold off the late assault from Hinchcliffe to take second-place; a remarkable comeback considering he had been a lap down in sixteenth place around fifty laps prior to the chequered flag being waved. The result means that Dixon just about remains within one hundred points of Newgarden in the championship standings. It looks as though Scott is right on the cusp of being a legitimate contender for the title as the seasons enters its final five races.

At the site of his last victory twelve months ago, James Hinchcliffe would finally secure his first podium finish of 2019. The Arrow Schmidt Peterson driver will be hoping to use the result as a springboard for similarly strong finishes during the last few races of the season to try and build momentum for a better campaign next year.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

After starting from pole position, Simon Pagenaud seemingly did not have the right tools beneath him to secure his second straight race victory. Instead, the Frenchman would have to settle for fourth place, but he has nevertheless brought himself closer to the runner-up position in the championship standings.

The top five in the race would be completed by Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Spencer Pigot. After a dismal qualifying for the team – which saw Pigot qualify down in nineteenth with team-mate and team boss Carpenter just ahead in seventeenth – the pair drove brilliantly to find themselves in the top ten as the race neared its end. Carpenter’s race would sadly be curtailed by his late accident, but Pigot was able to seal the deal to equal his best finish of the season so far.

Sixth place would go to championship contender, Alexander Rossi. It has been a difficult event for Rossi, who has been struggling with his #27 Honda in both qualifying and race trim. The Californian’s tyre gamble late in the race allowed him to gain a little bit of ground, but it was not enough to prevent Newgarden from extending the points gap between them from four points to twenty-nine points. Rossi will be hoping to slash that advantage back down again in a week’s time at Mid-Ohio; where he dominated last year.

Seventh-place would go to Rossi’s Andretti team-mate, Zach Veach, who took only his third top ten finish in what has been a disappointing sophomore season in the NTT IndyCar Series so far. Veach was the last car to finish on the lead lap, with Graham Rahal finishing one lap down in eighth place after suffering engine issues in the final few laps.

The top ten in the race would be completed by veterans Sebastien Bourdais and Tony Kanaan. For Kanaan and A.J. Foyt Enterprises, the result is just their second top ten finish of what has been a difficult year so far.

Eleventh place would go to the highest-ranked rookie of the night. Arrow Schmidt Peterson’s Marcus Ericsson led home fellow rookie Santino Ferrucci by just under a second. It was a great run from the pair, who have never raced on a short track oval such as Iowa Speedway before. Carlin‘s Conor Daly would finish just behind the pair in thirteenth place.

Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist was stuck in a similar bind to that of his team-mate for much of the race. However, he was not fortunate enough to catch a break to get back onto the lead lap like Dixon had been able to. Instead, Felix would finish the race one lap down in fourteenth place.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

It was yet another case of what might have been for Penske’s Will Power. After having raced inside the top three for so much of the race, a mistake during the final green flag pit-stops would see Power penalised for an unsafe pit-entry after having briefly come off of the apron in turns three and four. Mercifully, the final caution of the day would come right as Power was serving his stop/go penalty, meaning that WIll just about managed to avoid going two laps down.

Nevertheless, his mistake saw him ultimately take him down to a fifteenth place finish, one lap down on the leaders. Power is now over one hundred points off of his championship-leading team-mate, Josef Newgarden, meaning that, realistically, he is out of contention for the championship after what has been a torrid year full of mistakes for the Australian.

Five drivers would, unfortunately, fail to finish the race. The highest-classified of the retirees was, sadly, Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta. The rookie had been on course for at least a top ten finish when his car developed a fault inside the final thirty laps of the race. The result means that Colton has now failed to finish five races so far this season, with a further three finishes outside of the top ten; a disappointing run of form for the rookie who had impressed so many after winning the second race of the year back at the Circuit of the Americas.

The aforementioned Ed Carpenter would be classified in nineteenth place after his late wreck. He will now be looking ahead to his final two race starts of the season at Pocono Raceway and Gateway Motorsports Park next month.

After having run as high as third place in the early stages of the race, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Takuma Sato would sadly fail to finish after being involved in an accident with Carlin’s Sage Karam, who had been running off the lead lap. Sato would be classified in twentieth place as a result, with Karam the last classified driver in twenty-second.

Marco Andretti was scored between Sato and Karam in twenty-first place after worryingly being black-flagged by series officials for failing to meet the minimum required race speed due to handling issues in his #98 Honda.

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series will be back in action next weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio for the thirteenth round of the seventeen-race season; the 2019 Honda Indy 200. The race will take place on Sunday, July 28.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Iowa 300 – Race results:

POSNO.DRIVERNATTEAMGAP
12Josef NewgardenUSATeam PenskeLeader
29Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing+2.8527
35James HinchcliffeCANArrow Schmidt Peterson+3.3941
422Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske+7.5630
521Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing+10.9683
627Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport+12.1308
726Zach VeachUSAAndretti Autosport+17.1267
815Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+1 Lap
918Sebastien BourdaisFRADale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan+1 Lap
1014Tony KanaanBRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises+1 Lap
117Marcus Ericsson (R)SWEArrow Schmidt Peterson+1 Lap
1219Santino Ferrucci (R)USADale Coyne Racing+1 Lap
1359Conor DalyUSACarlin+1 Lap
1410Felix Rosenqvist (R)SWEChip Ganassi Racing+1 Lap
1512Will PowerAUSTeam Penske+1 Lap
164Matheus LeistBRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises+2 Laps
1728Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport+2 Laps
1888Colton Herta (R)USAHarding Steinbrenner RacingDNF
1920Ed CarpenterUSAEd Carpenter RacingDNF
2030Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingDNF
2198Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti HertaDNF
2231Sage KaramUSACarlinDNF

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