Death, taxes, and Josef Newgarden dominating at Iowa Speedway.
Some things in life just always seem to “click” and the Team Penske driver certainly has figured out the short track in Newton, Iowa. In typical Newgarden fashion, he dominated Saturday’s race, the first of a doubleheader, for his fourth win of the season.
Josef Newgarden became the all-time INDYCAR SERIES win leader at Iowa Speedway by capturing the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 presented by DoorDash on Saturday, his fourth career win at the .894-mile oval and his fourth win of the 2022 season in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay both entered this race tied atop the all-time Iowa win list with three apiece.
Newgarden, who started second, beat Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet to the checkered flag by 6.1784 seconds for his 24th career victory. NTT P1 Award winner Will Power finished third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on a scorching day in which air temperatures nearly reached 100 degrees.
“I’m glad I wore this cool shirt,” Newgarden said. “It was actually pretty nice and easy in there, to be honest with you. The car was good. I was surprised at how hard these guys were pushing on the restarts. This is a long-game day.”
“I was disappointed after qualifying. I just hate losing, and I felt like we had enough to get the job done, and we didn’t. It motivated me. I knew we had a car here today to win this race in front of this great crowd. It’s one of my favorite tracks.”
Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden added this victory to his wins in 2016, 2019 and the second race of the Iowa doubleheader in 2020. He’ll get a chance to add to his win total at Iowa in the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google at 3 p.m. ET Sunday, live on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network), starting second again behind teammate Power.
Newgarden also passed Power for second in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship standings and clawed to within just 15 points of leader Marcus Ericsson, who finished eighth in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
“I feel good,” Newgarden said. “We’ve been in the game. It’s just not where we want to be in the game. We’re in the fight; we’re relatively there. We just got to figure out how to have more consistency. It’s either winning or going sideways on our weekends.”
There was nothing sideways about Newgarden’s performance today. He led 208 of the 250 laps and ran away from O’Ward over the last 25 trips around the “Fastest Short Track on the Planet.”
Newgarden also has finished every lap in the last nine INDYCAR SERIES races at Iowa. That’s a stunning feat considering the perils of close-quarters oval racing and how easy it is to fall a lap down on a circuit where race laps take only 20 seconds.
While Newgarden never trailed after Lap 80, O’Ward made it interesting during the final fuel and tire stint. O’Ward pulled to within eight-tenths of a second of the lead with 25 laps to go when Newgarden was held up in traffic.
But once Newgarden cleared that thicket of cars, it was check-out time. He will split $10,000 with his team and his two charities, SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags and Walks Nashville, for the victory as part of the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge.
“I was pushing Josef there at the end, but we didn’t quite have it,” O’Ward said. “We kept making the car better and better each stint. There at the end, I think we took a little bit out of them getting by Will and getting by Alex (Palou) and getting back the lappers trying to catch the No. 2.”
Rinus VeeKay continued his recent resurgence by finishing fourth in the No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet, his second top-four finish in his last three starts. “We had to take the tires super-far and I got super-loose on the high line. I got close with Will and I could have pushed a little bit harder that last lap but I didn’t want to get into the wall. Fourth is good for a Saturday.”
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon followed his victory last Sunday at the Honda Indy Toronto by finishing fifth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Dixon is one of five drivers lurking within about a race’s worth of points from leader Ericsson. Newgarden is second, 15 points back; Power third, 22 behind; Palou fourth, 33 behind; Dixon fifth, 38 back; and O’Ward sixth, 59 back.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson also was one of the stars of the show today, finishing 11th in the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Johnson made many brave moves in the highest groove of the racetrack to pass numerous foes. He led a career-high 19 laps – one of only three lap leaders today – and was running in the top five for a healthy portion of the race.
“I had so much fun out there today,” Johnson said. “I watched so many great races at this track. To be here in person, drive on it in an IndyCar is such a rush. The first two-thirds of the race I really felt like we had a car competitive enough to win. Then there at the end it kind of slipped away from us. I think the longer run at the end also kind of exposed a weakness in our car. We’ll sleep on it tonight, work with our teammates and engineers, make some good changes for tomorrow and come back stronger.”
While there were only three lap leaders, the competitive race featured 772 total on-track passes, including 372 for position.
Teams and drivers will gear up to do it all again tomorrow. The starters will be the same on the front row, with Power and Newgarden set to duel once again. Coverage for the 300-lap race begins at 3 PM ET on NBC.