Newgarden cruises in Iowa Corn 300
NEWTON – Josef Newgarden had made a habit out of finishing second at Iowa Speedway.
He finally had a breakthrough on Sunday – in a big way.
Newgarden cruised to a dominant IndyCar victory in Iowa, setting a series record by leading 282 of 300 laps for his first career oval win.
It also was the first win of the season for Newgarden, who finished second in Iowa in 2014 and 2015 and just missed winning the pole this weekend.
Newgarden broke his right clavicle and hand in a crash at Texas last month. But he didn’t appear to have any issues on Sunday, establishing a huge lead in the opening laps and maintaining his advantage through three cautions on one of the most physically demanding ovals in IndyCar.
The win moved Newgarden from fifth to second in the championship race.
“In some stints it was like a video game. You put on new tires, you catch people at the right point and then you could just slice and dice,” Newgarden said.
Team Penske’s Will Power finished second after consecutive wins – but he’s still third in the standings behind Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.
Scott Dixon was third, followed by Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin.
It’s the 10th straight time that Penske failed to win at Iowa, despite sporting the top three cars in the championship race entering the weekend.
But it’s hard to fault Penske this time.
As Tony Kanaan put it, it was as though Newgarden was running an IndyCar while the field had feeder system rides.
Newgarden had a 10-second advantage over Dixon when Max Chilton went sideways with just over 50 laps left. The flag evoked flashbacks to 2015, when a poor late pit stop cost Newgarden the race.
But the No. 22 car got through pit road cleanly, held off Power and Dixon down the stretch – at one point putting down the fastest lap of the race – and fought through lapped traffic with ease.
“Last year, you learn from those types of deals,” said Newgarden, who led over 100 laps last year at Iowa. “I had total confidence that we were going to have a good stop. … The car was just incredible. I was able to put it anywhere.”
Andretti Autosport had Iowa figured out in the past, with seven wins in the nine previous races here.
About the only thing the team provided this year was some early drama.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, winner of three of the last four events in Iowa, found himself a lap down after just 30 laps.
Hunter-Reay then blew his engine about a third of the way through the race, with Newgarden just one car shy of putting the entire field a lap down.
“I couldn’t get out of my own way on a track I absolutely love,” Hunter-Reay said. “This was really bad.”
The caution wiped out Newgarden’s enormous early lead, which he had stretched to as much as 13 seconds. But it didn’t take long for Newgarden to re-establish a comfortable advantage, and he stayed out front after Juan Pablo-Montoya’s engine blew as well.
Dixon had the final crack at Newgarden on the final restart. But Dixon quickly realized that neither he nor anyone else was catching Newgarden.
“I knew he was going to be very tough to beat,” Dixon said. “It seemed like he had spot-on balance and a car with a lot of grip that the rest of us didn’t quite have.”
Newgarden’s record for laps led surpassed Hunter-Reay, who led 250 in Milwaukee in 2004 – a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that his collarbone and hand are still far from healthy.
“We’ve been so close to winning an oval race with this car. We got seconds and, I just hate having a cop-out. That I’m having a harder time because of the injuries. It was tough … but I wasn’t going to lose control,” Newgarden said.