In one of the most unpredictable, competitive motorsports series on Earth, perhaps the closest to a sure thing emerged again Saturday – Josef Newgarden winning on an oval.
Newgarden dominated the Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart at Iowa Speedway, staying perfect in oval races in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES this season in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden also won the PPG 375 in April at Texas Motor Speedway and the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
SEE: Race Results
Two-time series champion Newgarden also has won five of the six oval races in the last 12 months, including this race last year. The only race he didn’t win during that streak was the second race of the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend last year, as he crashed out while leading due to a mechanical failure.
“It’s a great day,” Newgarden said. “My team, they are unbelievable. They always give me a great car. I show up every weekend, and I feel like I’ve got the best of the best behind me. I love Iowa.”
This was Newgarden’s third victory of the season – all on ovals – and the 28th of his INDYCAR SERIES career. He will try to pull off the weekend doubleheader sweep and stay perfect this season on circle tracks in the Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade on Sunday, with live coverage starting at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Team Penske finished 1-2 today, as Scott McLaughlin tied his career-best oval finish of second in the No. 2 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet, 3.3755 seconds behind Newgarden. Pato O’Ward placed third in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
Marcus Ericsson finished fourth in the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing, and double NTT P1 Award winner Will Power rounded out the top five in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Just five cars finished on the lead lap, an indication of Newgarden’s command of this race. More proof of Newgarden’s dominance: He led a race-high 129 laps on the .894-mile oval, with Power leading 119 to put Team Penske out front for 248 of the 250 laps.
Power led 119 of the first 120 laps, losing the top spot to championship leader Alex Palou only during an early pit stop cycle. Newgarden, who started third, roared under Power exiting Turn 2 on Lap 121 to take the lead and paced the field the rest of the way except for one lap during a pit stop on Lap 126.
Newgarden stretched his lead to nearly four seconds when the field was bunched for the only caution period of the fast, frantic race when Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Blue Compass RV Honda hit the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 4 on Lap 152. Rahal was unhurt.
That hope for the other drivers was fleeting as Newgarden rocketed away on the restart on Lap 166. He built a 5.3-second lead over McLaughlin by Lap 200 and appeared to be on cruise control to the checkered before he was snagged in a thicket of end-of-lead lap and lapped traffic on the “Fastest Short Track on the Planet.”
“It’s always tough in INDYCAR; these guys that are about to go a lap down, they always run the leader really hard,” Newgarden said. “That’s the name of the game. It’s legal, but man, it’s a little frustrating at times. I’m going to study the tape. I’m going to be better tomorrow.”
McLaughlin pulled to within 1.6 seconds with five laps remaining due to the traffic jam, but he could get no closer as Newgarden threaded through slower cars and powered to the finish.
“I badly want to beat that guy, and I’m going to be trying everything I can to beat him,” McLaughlin said of close friend and “Bus Bros” video series co-host Newgarden. “But he’s the epitome of a great teammate, and I appreciate the help he’s given me.”
Newgarden will split $10,000 with Team Penske and his chosen charities, SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags and Walks Nashville, for his victory as part of the PeopleReady Force For Good Challenge.
Palou finished eighth – tied for his season low – in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda. His lead in the championship shrank from 117 to 98 points over Newgarden, who took second in the standings from Scott Dixon with his win.
Despite Team Penske’s dominance up front, the race was a competitive affair throughout the 28-car field. There were 1,502 on-track passes, an INDYCAR SERIES record at Iowa Speedway.