NEWTON, Iowa – Josef Newgarden has been the bridesmaid the last two years at Iowa Speedway, finishing runner-up in both 2014 and 2015. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver wasn’t to be denied this time.
Driving the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet, Newgarden cruised from a front-row start to his third career win in the Iowa Corn 300. Newgarden, who sustained a fractured clavicle and right hand in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway last month, did not show any signs of struggle from the injury as he led a record 282 laps en route to his first career oval win by 4.2828 seconds over Will Power.
Unofficially, the win vaulted Newgarden into second in the 2016 standings, 73 points behind Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, who finished the race in fourth. The 282 laps led is an all-time Indy car record, breaking the previous mark set by Ryan Hunter-Reay when he led all 250 laps at The Milwaukee Mile in 2004.
Iowa Speedway is known as one of the most physical tracks on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, but as the series made its 10th visit to the 0.894-mile oval, it celebrated a milestone for two of its ironmen. Team Penske's Helio Castroneves made his 321st career Indy car start, passing Al Unser for fourth most all-time, while Chip Ganassi Racing's Tony Kanaan tied Unser for fifth by making his 320th start.
On Saturday, Pagenaud won Team Penske its 500th pole position in all forms of racing when he earned the Verizon P1 Award. Pagenaud led the field to the green flag today in the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet, but Newgarden quickly made the pass on the first lap and never looked back.
Newgarden dominated the first stint, building an early lead on Pagenaud and the field as the first round of pit stops began.
Newgarden made his first stop on Lap 51, while Pagenaud took the lead and stayed out until Lap 58. Rookie Max Chilton (No. 8 Gallagher Services Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) led his first career laps after staying out until Lap 61, but when the leaders cycled through, it was Newgarden who had a whopping 13-second advantage on Pagenaud.
By Lap 100, Newgarden had lapped everyone but Pagenaud, but the battles remained tight in the top 10 as Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet), Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet) and Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) fought for 4th place.
The first caution of the race came when Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay saw his chances at a third straight Iowa win literally go up in smoke, suffering a mechanical failure on Lap 108. Hunter-Reay, who had won at Iowa in 2012, 2014 and 2015, finished 22nd -- his first finish outside the top two at Iowa Speedway since 2011.
Newgarden retained the lead through the pit cycle under caution, but his teammate and team owner, Ed Carpenter (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet), suffered mechanical issues during his stop. Carpenter eventually returned to the track 16 laps down.
The race restarted on Lap 129 with Newgarden leading, but shortly after the restart, Castroneves began pressuring teammate Pagenaud for second place.
A second caution came out on Lap 179 just as the third round of pit stops was beginning, when Montoya also suffered a mechanical failure. The Colombian would be classified 20th, marking his third DNF in as many Indy car appearances at Iowa Speedway. Just before the caution, Castroneves pitted from third and lost two laps when the caution came out. The Team Penske pilot regained one lap when the leaders later pitted, but fell back to 11th.
Newgarden would lead the field to pit road again on Lap 181, where Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) would pick up two spots, moving up to 3rd behind Newgarden and Pagenaud.
The race restarted on Lap 188, and while Newgarden and Pagenaud fought for the lead, Kanaan used the high line to get around Power and up into third. However just five laps later, Power retook the position when Kanaan briefly slowed out of Turn 4. Kanaan's teammate, Dixon, later passed the Brazilian for fourth on Lap 218, and the four-time Indy car champion began a charge to the front. Ten laps later, Dixon passed Power for third and quickly followed that up by passing Pagenaud on Lap 232.
On Lap 246, Chilton spun coming out of Turn 2, bringing out the third caution of the day and setting up presumptive final pit stops. The caution bit Kanaan, who pitted from the top 10 on Lap 245, and just like earlier this year in Phoenix, was buried in the field and put a lap down.
Newgarden again led the field to yellow flag pit stops on Lap 250. His ECR crew got the No. 21 out in the lead free of issue, but the race for second was won by just a nose, as Dixon's Chip Ganassi Racing crew got him out ahead of Pagenaud to retain the No. 2 spot.
Restarting the race on lap 260, Newgarden led a field with just six cars on the lead lap, and bravely fought off a challenge from Dixon. As Newgarden began to pull away in the final laps, Dixon, Pagenaud and Power fought hard for second, with Power claiming third from his championship-leading teammate on Lap 295 and passing Dixon on Lap 296, jumping from fourth to second.
But there was no catching Newgarden, who put on a race long clinic, and claimed victory in the Iowa Corn 300 by a margin of 4.2828 seconds. Power fended off Dixon and Pagenaud for second, while Mikhail Aleshin claimed his first top-5 finish since the season opener at St. Petersburg in March.