Newgarden holds off O’Ward in Texas IndyCar thriller
Monday 3rd April, 2023 - 4:28am
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden has beaten Pato O’Ward to victory in the Texas IndyCar race after a late Caution cut short a thrilling battle for the lead.
O’Ward’s #5 McLaren Chevrolet was the quickest car at Texas Motor Speedway and, at one point, he had lapped all but the #2 Chevrolet of Newgarden.
However, Cautions and strategy kept his rivals in the hunt and eight drivers took the fourth and final restart on the lead lap.
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Newgarden made his way to the front and, try as he might, O’Ward could not wrest the lead back from the Tennessean by the time Romain Grosjean (#28 Andretti Autosport Honda) crashed in the second bunch of cars and brought out a Caution on Lap 249 of 250.
Alex Palou (#10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda), who also led during the final laps, finished third, from David Malukas (#18 Dale Coyne Racing w/ HMD Motorsport Honda), Scott Dixon (#9 Ganassi Honda), Scott McLaughlin (#3 Penske Chevrolet), and Colton Herta (#26 Andretti w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda), while Grosjean was classified eighth at two laps down.
Marcus Ericsson (#8 Ganassi Honda) and Callum Ilott (#77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet) rounded out the top 10 while Will Power (#12 Penske Chevrolet) struggled to 16th at three laps down and Felix Rosenqvist (#6 McLaren Chevrolet) crashed out.
The latter had qualified on pole position but led only a lap before he was rounded up by Dixon.
Newgarden then engaged Dixon in battle and they would chop and change position for several laps before the former emerged with top spot when the race settled down.
With 10 laps elapsed, Newgarden led O’Ward, Palou, Dixon, Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi (#7 McLaren Chevrolet), and Power in seventh.
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That running order remained the same after 30 laps, at which time Newgarden led by 0.9s but was about to catch the tail of the field.
Meanwhile, with Ericsson had risen to 11th and McLaughlin had crept up to 13th after both started on Row 8.
On Lap 45, Grosjean went down the inside of Power for seventh, and the 2022 champion would plummet down the order.
He had sunk all the way to 16th when Takuma Sato got caught high at Turn 2 and crashed the #11 Ganassi Honda, bringing about the first Caution of the day, on Lap 48.
Everyone pitted when the lane opened, at which point Rossi and Kyle Kirkwood (#27 Andretti Honda) clashed when the latter tried to enter his box from the fast lane as the former was exiting his.
Rossi’s #7 McLaren entry copped steering damage as Newgarden resumed in the lead, from O’Ward, Palou, Dixon, Rosenqvist, Grosjean, Herta, McLaughlin, Ericsson, Devlin DeFrancesco (#29 Andretti Steinbrenner Honda), Malukas, and Power.
When the race restarted on Lap 81, Palou went past O’Ward for second place then attacked Newgarden.
The 2021 champion would briefly hold the lead but Newgarden hit back, and then O’Ward went back down the inside of Palou on Lap 75.
Grosjean passed the #10 Honda for third on Lap 77, by which time race control had issued a drive-through penalty to Rossi for an unsafe release.
Newgarden had pulled a full second clear of O’Ward when he lapped Penske team-mate Power on Lap 95, the Queenslander having dropped to 23rd.
With exactly 100 laps in the books, Newgarden led by 2.0s from O’Ward, Grosjean, Dixon, Palou, Herta, Malukas, McLaughlin, Rosenqvist, and DeFrancesco, with Ericsson 13th.
Kirkwood’s race came to an end when he pitted with a right-rear upright failure, while McLaughlin was into the lane for a more planned stop on Lap 108 and Newgarden from top spot on Lap 109.
By the time the cycle shook out on Lap 117, Newgarden was back in front by a margin of two-plus seconds over O’Ward, then Grosjean, Dixon, Palou, McLaughlin, Herta, Malukas, Rinus VeeKay (#21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet), and Ericsson, while Rosenqvist had slipped to 13th and Power was 17th.
O’Ward started to catch back up and eventually drove around the outside of Newgarden and into first position on Lap 130, before quickly skipping multiple seconds clear despite both being told from their respective timing stands that they were good on fuel.
The Mexican lapped seventh-placed McLaughlin on Lap 145, stretching his lead to five seconds over Newgarden and 15 seconds over third-placed Grosjean.
On Lap 149, Palou passed Dixon for fourth with a little bit of help from lapped traffic, and Dixon himself became lapped traffic when O’Ward stormed by three laps later.
There were only three cars on the lead lap once O’Ward overtook Palou on Lap 157, and just two when the McLaren driver made light work of Grosjean as they scythed either side of Santino Ferrucci (#14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) on Lap 161.
McLaughlin took his third stop from seventh position at the end of his 163rd lap, and the rest of the top 10 soon began to do likewise, including Newgarden on Lap 165.
O’Ward was in on Lap 169 and, once the cycle completed, he was still almost six seconds ahead of Newgarden, the only other driver still on the lead lap.
His team-mate Rosenqvist brought about the second Caution on Lap 179 when he got high, spun, and crashed out of eighth position at Turn 4.
O’Ward and Newgarden took the opportunity to pit in the hope of needing only one more pit stop and, once their rivals got the wave-by, they too were into the lane.
However, Newgarden, Grosjean, and more pitted a second time under Caution with the aim of taking away the need to save fuel.
O’Ward did not and hence continued to lead, from Malukas, Newgarden, Palou, Grosjean, Herta, Dixon, and McLaughlin, who was last of the eight on the lead lap.
Ericsson was ninth, DeFrancesco 10th, and Power two laps down in 17th after spinning as he tried to exit his box due to a loosely fitted wheel.
The Lap 194 restart precipitated an extremely energised period of the race.
Newgarden quickly cleared Malukas but Palou stormed from fourth into the lead within laps, then Grosjean bought into a four-way battle for first position.
Herta shot into top spot on Lap 204, before O’Ward went high at Turn 1/Turn 2 to return to the head of the field on Lap 208, only to be overtaken by Palou a lap later.
A Caution on Lap 210 for a Sting Ray Robb (#51 DCR w/ Rick Ware Racing Honda) crash gave everyone a chance to breathe, while O’Ward, Newgarden, McLaughlin, and Malukas took the opportunity to pit.
Palou remained in first place, with Grosjean assuming second, from Herta, Dixon, O’Ward, Newgarden, McLaughlin, and Malukas.
The race restarted on Lap 220, Palou and Grosjean going into battle for the lead, but O’Ward again came storming through to pass both down the back straight on Lap 222.
Next time around, a fourth Caution was called when Graham Rahal (#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda) crashed into a slow-moving DeFrancesco, who had just glanced the wall himself.
This time, Grosjean and Dixon pitted, and they resumed seventh and eighth respectively, behind a top six of O’Ward, Palou, Newgarden, Herta, Malukas, and McLaughlin, plus lapped traffic.
A fourth restart on Lap 240 saw Palou pass O’Ward for first at Turn 3, but then Newgarden rounded up Palou for the lead on Lap 242.
O’Ward was soon back up to second and kept looking high on Newgarden but could not make a pass stick.
A little behind them, Grosjean came unstuck completely at Turn 2 and that was effectively the end of the contest.
While O’Ward missed out on the win, he is now the series leader ahead of Event 3 of the season at Long Beach, on April 14-16 (local time).
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