Josef Newgarden continues IndyCar oval dominance with win at Iowa Speedway
By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
NEWTON, Iowa (AP) Josef Newgarden understands what comes with the success he has had on the ovals in the IndyCar Series.
And he knows what everyone thinks when he shows up at Iowa Speedway.
“There’s a pressure that’s on us when we show up here, and that’s the assumption,” Newgarden said. “The assumption that we’re going to be great, that we’re the No. 2 car, and we should be really good here.”
Newgarden was good again at the .875-mile oval, winning for the fifth time at the track in Saturday's opening 250-lap race of a weekend doubleheader.
It was Newgarden’s third win of the season, all on ovals. Newgarden also won at Texas Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500.
“When we walk in here, they just assume we’re going to be quick,” Newgarden said. “It’s not the attitude you can have. You can’t feel like anything is given.”
Scott McLaughlin finished second. Pato O'Ward, who along with Newgarden won in last season's doubleheader at Iowa, was third, and Marcus Ericsson finished fourth.
“I'm going to get him at some point,” McLaughlin said of Newgarden. “I'm very determined. It's a nice little rabbit to chase when he's out front. When you know what he's doing, and can keep up to him, it's a nice feeling.”
Newgarden sat down with McLaughlin this week and talked about how to solve Iowa Speedway.
“I’ve tried to be as transparent as I can with him, as a teammate,” Newgarden said. “If he knows exactly what I know, it’s going to come down to who is going to do the better job. If he does a better job than me, then he deserves to win. But I hope he doesn’t do a better job than me tomorrow.”
“What I learned with Josef the last couple of weeks was huge,” McLaughlin said.
Newgarden, who started third, kept pace with Team Penske teammates Will Power and McLaughlin throughout the early portion of the race as they weaved their way through the 28-car field on the .875-mile oval. The three began lapping cars by Lap 17 and had lapped everyone but the rest of the top 10 by Lap 58.
Power, the pole-sitter for this race and Sunday's 250-lap race, led all but one of the first 120 laps. McLaughlin challenged early but couldn't get around Power, but Newgarden was able to get into the lead on the 121st lap with a pass on the back straightaway after Power slid a little high coming out of the second turn.
The race was run without a caution flag until Graham Rahal hit the wall coming out of the fourth turn on Lap 152. Newgarden was able to maintain his lead out of the ensuing round of pit stops, with McLaughlin right behind him.
Newgarden kept the lead throughout the last round of pit stops on Lap 207, and withstood a late run from McLaughlin, who got to within a second of Newgarden as they ran into lapped traffic in the final three laps.
Newgarden led a race-high 129 laps.
“We didn't have anything for the Penskes,” O'Ward said.
Power, who has never won at Iowa Speedway, clipped the wall in Turn 4 on Lap 146 and never challenged for the lead again. He finished fifth, the last driver on the lead lap.
Newgarden moved into second place in the series standings, getting to within 98 points of leader Alex Palou, who finished eighth.
“You can't take little bites out of him,” said Newgarden, who knocked 28 points off the deficit he had with Palou with six races left in the season. “It's not going to work.”
Newgarden will start seventh in Sunday's race, the result of his second lap in Saturday's morning qualifying that left him disappointed.
Which is why he wasn't completely celebrating Saturday's win.
“I felt like we could have done more today,” Newgarden said. “Even leaving here, I feel like we’ve got homework to do tonight to be even better. I felt like it was good, but not quite good enough. We have to be better tomorrow, is my feeling.”
LATE TRAFFIC JAM
Newgarden was unhappy with how lapped cars raced him in the closing laps, a sentiment that was echoed by McLaughlin and O'Ward.
“The way the rule is written, it’s also legal for them to fight to the death to stay on the lead lap in front of the leader,” Newgarden said. “It’s legal. But I can tell you, you’re not making any friends when you do it. You’re not.”
“I think we're going to be talking to some guys tonight,” McLaughlin said.
EARLY TRAFFIC JAM
The fact that the leaders got into slower traffic so early was because of the depth of the field, the largest the series has brought to Iowa Speedway. And the length of the green-flag run to start the race led to a constant battle to get through the slower cars.
“It got kind of gnarly out there,” O'ward said.
There was a total 1,506 passes, the most since the series started coming to Iowa in 2007.
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Updated July 22, 2023