Newgarden wins chaotic IndyCar oval race, McLaughlin fourth

Josef Newgarden celebrates. Picture: Joe Skibinski

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden has claimed his second win of the IndyCar Series in a race of attrition at Gateway Motorsports Park.

The Nashville native led 138 of the 260-lap distance in what was a drama-filled affair which saw Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou lose the series points leader after crashing early in the piece.

Newgarden moved his way up to third in the standings, 22 points adrift, while second place finisher Pato O’Ward of McLaren SP stepped into top spot ahead of Palou by 10 points.

For the two-time series winner, it marked his third success at the 1.25-mile oval.

“It’s big,” said Newgarden of the timing of his win with three races remaining.

“Any win is important for the year. I wish we had a couple more up to this point and we were in a different position.

“We’ve always got to fight with where we’re at and what we’ve got in our hands. I just always have faith that we can win a race.”

As the field came to green it was pole sitter Will Power (Team Penske) who led Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport) into Turn 1.

Further back, Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) was slow away, falling from 11th to 14th at the end of Lap 1.

Herta hustled early to try and get himself into clean air, diving to the inside of Power into Turn 1 and duly took the lead on Lap 2.

Drama struck on Lap 3 when Ed Jones (Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan) and Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) collided at the first turn.

Jones suffered significant right rear suspension damage while Rahal’s wounds were largely cosmetic. He rejoined the race briefly before retiring to the pit lane.

As the yellow flag flew, it was Herta who led Power, Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske), Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing), O’Ward, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport), Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport), Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), and Felix Rosenqvist (McLaren SP).

Hunter-Reay was among the biggest movers, surging from 13th to seventh. Similarly, Palou was up seven places from 21st to 13th.

Racing was set to resume on Lap 12 until Dalton Kellett copped a hit from owner-driver Ed Carpenter, sending the A. J. Foyt Enterprises driver into a spin.

It was a frenetic restart on Lap 16 when Pagenaud went to the inside of Newgarden at Turn 1 and the pair made contact.

That broke the right front wing element, which came loose as the Frenchman careered down the back straight. With debris on the track, the yellow flag flew once more.

After a frenetic opening 30 laps, the race settled down into a rhythm with Herta ahead of Power, Newgarden, Rossi, and Ericsson.

After his earlier incident, Pagenaud lost a lap to the field, falling to 21st.

The yellow flag flew on Lap 56 when Carpenter crashed on his own between Turn 3 and Turn 4.

The pit lane came alive on Lap 58 as those on the lead lap completed their first stops for fuel and tyres.

Newgarden was the big benefactor in the pit stop sequence, coming out ahead of Power and Herta, the latter slow out of his pit bay as he avoided the incoming Romain Grosjean (Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing).

Bourdais was the only driver on the lead lap to stay out having pitted earlier in the race on Lap 18. Of those who pitted, Newgarden was second from Power, Herta, Ericsson, Rossi, O’Ward, Hunter-Reay, Dixon, and Palou.

The Frenchman led the field to the restart on Lap 65, but it was only a brief green flag run as Rinus VeeKay got into the side of Palou and sent him into a spin.

As the Spaniard looped around, his front wing clipped the right rear wheel of Dixon.

That sent the Kiwi around and gearbox first into the SAFER Barrier. Despite significant damage, the six-time series winner limped back to the pit lane where his team worked to get his car fixed.

Meanwhile, Palou and VeeKay were forced to retire, putting O’Ward and Newgarden in the box seat to make up ground in the title chase.

After another yellow flag intermission, Newgarden led the field back to the green flag on Lap 77.

Newgarden claimed his second IndyCar Series win of 2021 at Gateway Motorsports Park. Picture: James Black

Rossi made a bold move on Herta at Turn 1 to take away third place. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner continued his charge, passing Power on Lap 79 for second.

There was a sketchy moment on Lap 85 as Kellett squeezed Grosjean into Turn 3, the pair making side-to-side contact, though the Frenchman prevailed for 12th.

Grosjean continued his charge, going around the outside of Conor Daly (Carlin) on Lap 88 at Turn 3 to edge closer to the top 10.

Come Lap 91, Grosjean cracked the top 10 with a move on Jack Harvey (Meyer Shank Racing) and one lap later had McLaughlin for ninth.

As the race hit Lap 100, it was Newgarden who led Rossi, Power, Herta, O’Ward, Ericsson, Sato, Hunter-Reay, Grosjean, and McLaughlin.

Grosjean struck trouble after his first green flag pit stop, getting into the marbles on cold tyres, skating up the track.

Rossi was the first of those to pit from the front running group on Lap 131.

Once the pit stop exchange was completed it was Newgarden who led Rossi, the latter who soon had team-mate Herta hounding him for second.

O’Ward was fourth, Sato fifth, followed by Hunter-Reay, Ericsson, Power, and McLaughlin.

Having made up significant ground earlier, Grosjean’s moment on cold tyres dropped him to 12th.

Come Lap 139, a hard-charging Herta dispatched Rossi and then Newgarden for the lead.

Grosjean got out of sorts again on Lap 174, falling from 10th to 13th as he got up into the marbles for the second time.

Having led 101 laps, Herta’s race came to a premature end on his Lap 185 pit stop with a broken driveshaft.

The chaos continued for Andretti Autosport on Lap 200 just at the completion of the green flag pit stop sequence as Rossi got up into the wall at Turn 2.

That brought out yet another yellow flag intervention.

Those who hadn’t stopped pitted under yellow, putting Newgarden into the lead from O’Ward, Power, McLaughlin, and Bourdais. Sato, Hunter-Reay, Kellett, Daly, and Ericsson completed the top 10.

Racing resumed with 50 laps to go, leaving Newgarden to keep O’Ward at bay. After all the chaos, the final stanza of the race was a relatively quiet affair.

O’Ward couldn’t usurp Newgarden, who eventually held on for a half-second win. Power was a distant third while McLaughlin was fourth, making it a Team Penske, one-three-four.

On the alternate strategy, Bourdais was fifth while Sato, Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud, Ericsson, and Harvey completed the top 10.

Just 13 drivers finished on the lead lap.

The IndyCar Series resumes at Portland International Raceway on September 11-13 (AEST)

Results: Bommarito Automotive Group 500

Pos Num Name Laps Diff Gap Engine Team
1 2 Josef Newgarden 260 LAP 260 Chevy Team Penske
2 5 Pato O’Ward 260 0.5397 0.5397 Chevy Arrow McLaren SP
3 12 Will Power 260 5.866 5.3263 Chevy Team Penske
4 3 Scott McLaughlin 260 6.662 0.796 Chevy Team Penske
5 14 Sebastien Bourdais 260 7.796 1.134 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
6 30 Takuma Sato 260 8.2618 0.4658 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
7 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 260 14.0259 5.7641 Honda Andretti Autosport
8 22 Simon Pagenaud 260 15.5421 1.5162 Chevy Team Penske
9 8 Marcus Ericsson 260 18.7676 3.2255 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
10 60 Jack Harvey 260 20.1207 1.3531 Honda Meyer Shank Racing
11 59 Conor Daly 260 22.1036 1.9829 Chevy Carlin
12 4 Dalton Kellett 260 24.5581 2.4545 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
13 48 Tony Kanaan 260 26.8367 2.2786 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
14 51 Romain Grosjean 259 1 Lap 7.9801 Honda Dale Coyne Racing w/RWR
15 29 James Hinchcliffe 243 8 Laps 7 LAPS Honda Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport
16 7 Felix Rosenqvist 211 +49 Laps Chevy Arrow McLaren SP
17 27 Alexander Rossi 200 +60 Laps Honda Andretti Autosport
18 26 Colton Herta 185 +75 Laps Honda Andretti Autosport
19 9 Scott Dixon 100 +160 Laps Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
20 10 Alex Palou 64 +196 Laps Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
21 21 Rinus VeeKay 64 +196 Laps Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
22 20 Ed Carpenter 54 +206 Laps Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
23 15 Graham Rahal 4 +256 Laps Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
24 18 Ed Jones 2 +258 Laps Honda Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan

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