It was as strong a performance as we’ve seen since Josef Newgarden lapped nearly the entire field, but a rear-end failure on his car and a major crash on lap 236 of 300 threw him close to the Iowa Speedway doubleheader. A Team Penske driver won’t win back-to-back.
IndyCar officials said after the race: “Following an on-track incident at Iowa Speedway, Team Penske driver Joseph Newgarden was evaluated and released from the infield care center. After the end of today’s race, he collapsed and returned to the infield care center. He is conscious and has been transported to [Mercy One Des Moines Medical Center] for further evaluation.”
The big beneficiary after the Newgarden incident was Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who finished second at Newgarden on Saturday, leading the lap 250 restart and pulling away from Penske’s will to claim his second win of the season.
Winning by a commanding 4.2s, O’Ward held off Power in Check and Penske’s Scott McLaughlin by 9.4s at the checkered flag as Team Chevy completed the podium and filled all six spots for the weekend.
“Great weekend for us,” O’Ward said. “We knew we needed to execute this weekend to have a shot at the championship. The guys were great in the pit. I did my job in the car and knew we had to accelerate to win one.
“The problem was just trying to get to Joseph – and one thing getting to him and one thing getting past him. I’m glad he’s okay. We took advantage of the opportunity that presented itself and just walked away from it. I knew we had the momentum to do it. [It’s] just about being in the right situation.”
Newgarden led 148 laps and held the championship lead by 10 points until crashing; His misfortune dropped the Iowa experts from second to fourth in the rankings. O’Ward’s win proved useful for his championship aspirations as he moved up from sixth to fifth, just 36 points behind leader Marcus Ericsson.
The Power entered Iowa with a 35-point deficit to Erickson, who came home sixth and cut the gap to eight.
“A great weekend for us points-wise,” Power said.
There wasn’t much to report before Newgarden’s crash that went beyond his dominance of the race. Moving from fifth place at one stage, O’Ward, Power or anyone else had no hope of catching the No. 2 Chevy until the surreal image of Newgarden slipping back in alarming condition at the back of the car. came into view.
“It was definitely a bit of a shock,” he said. “I feel like crying.” I am very sad for my team. I don’t know what happened. It was a good run. It’s just one race but I feel terrible for us. Team Chevy and the Hitachi guys did a great job. Something went wrong there.”
Outside of the podium, Chip Ganassi Racing had a strong day with most of its drivers as Scott Dixon overcame a poor start from 18th to take fourth, the first Honda-powered driver home. Stablemate Jimmie Johnson recorded his best IndyCar performance to date, feeling fast and decisive from 13th to fifth. The aforementioned Ericsson, off the podium-class pace from the first race, held on for sixth place as the only CGR to struggle was Alex Palu who never featured and finished 13th.
Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas produced his best performance of his rookie season with a determined eighth-place finish; Teammate Takuma Sato pushed him hard in the closing stages but Malukas would not concede to the two-time Indy 500 winner. Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean completed an impressive debut weekend at Iowa with an eighth-place finish to add to his seventh-place finish the day before, and the final big standout was Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott who improved from his 12th-place finish on Saturday with another clean run on Sunday. 11 to claim.
Kyle Kirkwood himself made contact with the Turn 1 wall on lap 117, and apart from Newgarden’s surprise exit, 300 laps were completed without an interruption.
The Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend in Iowa was a resounding success with an enthusiastic crowd for race one and a large audience for race two. If half of the IndyCar events that lack big crowds and big energy follow Iowa’s new blueprint every year, the series will be the richest and most popular we’ve seen in decades.