Team Penske owns Iowa Speedway. For the sixth time in the last seven races at the 7/8-mile track, a Penske driver grabbed the checkered flag.
Josef Newgarden’s fourth career win at the Newton track sets an IndyCar Series record and catapults Newgarden into second place and one step closer to a series championship.
“I love this place,” Newgarden said. “Not just because we’re good here. That makes it better, but it’s a really fun track to race at. It’s the most exciting race we get to compete in, from an oval standpoint, and I am glad we get two of them.”
Newgarden’s win in the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 Presented by Doordash sets up what could be a huge weekend for Team Penske.
Newgarden’s teammate — Will Power — won the pole for both races at Iowa Speedway during a scorching hot day. He finished third in Saturday’s race and will begin Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 Presented by Google in the first position.
Meanwhile, Newgarden led 208 of the 250 laps on Saturday, never trailed after lap 80 and pulled within 15 points of series leader and Chip Ganassi Racing driver Marcus Ericsson, who started 12th and finished eighth.
“It’s gets harder every year I come here. I remember in 2016 I felt like we just demolished the field,” Newgarden said. “It was just like taking candy from a baby. But it’s just gotten harder every year. You can’t have a mega advantage on the rest of the guys forever. They will slowly start to figure it out.”
Perhaps Power has figured something out. He was the fastest car in qualifying in both laps and ran in the top five all day.
His day started strong with two poles, bringing his career total to 66, which is one off Mario Andretti’s all-time record.
Power’s third-place finish in the first of two IndyCar Series races this weekend keeps him in championship contention. He’s in third place after Saturday but trails Newgarden by just seven and Ericsson by only 22.
“You can never look back at the day and think that third is ever a bad thing,” Power said. “I felt like we had a strong car. It was a good day. Third is good points every time and I think there was some good lessons for tomorrow.
“I was happy with third to be honest. I thought we might fall back a bit further.”
After Newgarden was Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward, who started fourth and finished second. He’s just outside the top five in the season standings with 316 points.
Newgarden ran away from the field with 20 laps to go, but O’Ward made things interesting with about 25 left.
“I thought I had more for Josef there at the end, but he was really strong. All of the Penske cars were strong today,” O’Ward said. “I was happy with my car. We didn’t start out very good. We were extremely loose. We need to see what we can do better tomorrow.”
After Newgarden, O’Ward and Power was Rinus Veekay of Ed Carpenter Racing. Veekay helped Chevrolet finish 1-2-3-4 in the final standings.
Team Penske was 1-3 in the race. Chip Ganassi’s top finisher was Scott Dixon, who placed fifth after starting 13th. He moved into the fifth position in the final few laps.
The rest of the top 10 included Chip Ganassi Racing driver Alex Palou in sixth, Romain Grosjean in seventh, Ericsson in eighth, Graham Rahal in ninth and Christian Lundgaard in 10th.
“I was surprised to see how aggressive Will (Power) and Marcus (Ericsson) were on the restarts. I think that was the wrong approach,” Newgarden said. “They were so aggressive on the restart I think it ended up hurting them. I tried to stay in front and position myself in a spot where they’d struggle to get by me. Fortunately, it was good enough today to manage them and hold them back.”
The final Chip Ganassi Racing driver is Jimmie Johnson. He led a career-best 19 laps, overcame an early spin and finished 11th overall after starting 15th.
Johnson spent most of the day in the top six positions and made several bold passes on the high side, including a three-wide pass that picked off two other drivers.
“I had so much fun out there today. It was such a rush,” Johnson said. “I thought we had a car competitive enough to win for about a third of the race.
“I feel like this is a track where I can just drive the car and not think so much. It’s so much like what I drove for a long time. It’s just down and dirty, short-track racing, which fits my style well.”
Newgarden won the IndyCar Series races at Iowa in 2016 and 2019 and drove to victory in the second race of a doubleheader in 2020.
The championship likely will come down to five drivers — Ericsson (375), Newgarden (360), Power (353), Palou (342) and Dixon (337) — and no one knows how it will shake out.
“Newgarden has four wins and it’s probably five wins tomorrow,” Power said. “Maybe this goes all the way to the wire, who knows?”
Newgarden has no idea how to handicap the final races of the season. It’s simply impossible to predict.
“It’s been entertaining from a fan’s standpoint. No one is getting away from anybody,” Newgarden said. “It’s been coming down the finale in the past few years. There’s always a few horses, but I don’t know how it will play out. It’s just so competitive.”
Notes: Veekay claimed his second top-four finish in the past three races. … There were 772 on-track passes in Saturday’s IndyCar Series race, 372 of which came for position. … There was a capacity crowd of nearly 38,000 fans in attendance. … Newgarden won his series-best fourth race of the season, claimed his 24th career victory and has led 1,358 of the 2,250 laps in his last eight visits to Iowa. “It’s been a frustrating year in some regards,” Newgarden said. “But it’s been tempered with great results. I think we’ve shown up every weekend capable of winning the race. Fortunately, it’s worked out four times. But we are either winning or it’s going sideways. We’ve just had some bad timing.” … One of Newgarden’s pit crew members — Kyle LaPier — was at the race despite being hospitalized just 24 hours prior to. “Kyle LaPier, my left front, about died two days ago,” Newgarden said. “He was mowing his lawn and got attacked by a hornets’ nest. I’m still not sure how he showed up today and pitted my car, but he did. That’s commitment. He was here, ready to rock and didn’t care about 100 degree heat.”