‘King of the Corn’ Newgarden leads Penske domination in Iowa

#2: Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet checkered flag
#2: Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet checkered flag

The name of the race was the Hy-Vee Homefront 250, but it will be remembered as the Team Penske Trio 250 at Iowa Speedway after Josef Newgarden, polesitter Will Power and Scott McLaughlin toyed with the field while leading 248 of 250 laps during an afternoon of total dominance.

Only a slight mistake by Power derailed a 1-2-3 for Penske, but Newgarden and McLaughlin still delivered for The Captain as they ran away from Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward in third-place and sealed an all-Chevy podium for the Bowtie.

Entering the race holding third in the championship, Newgarden put the 50 points for the win, the point for leading a lap, and the two points for leading the most laps to great use and trimmed Alex Palou’s 117-point lead to 98 heading into Sunday’s second Iowa round. He also improved to second in the standings. Power owned the first half of the race and spent 119 laps in the lead, but once Newgarden motored by, he led 129 laps and controlled every aspect of the contest going forward.

NEW LEADER: @josefnewgarden!

The noted Swiftie is fearless as he rockets to the front (Taylor’s Version.)

: @NBC and @peacock pic.twitter.com/30NitGsM0F

— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) July 22, 2023

“I messed up qualifying so many times here and it never gets easier,” Newgarden said of starting third. “I’m always so mad at myself that we didn’t get that right. And it was like that in the beginning of the race. It took us literally a stint and a half to get the car just where it needed to be. But once it was comfy, I think it was the car beat.”

The win was Newgarden’s fifth at Iowa, and more impressively, his third of 2023 with all three coming on the three ovals to date, and his fourth straight including the last oval of 2022. Along with Texas and the Indianapolis 500, Team Penske and Chevy have proven to be unstoppable on the three unique styles of ovals.

For the first time in a long while, Palou , who went a lap down in eighth, was not the best Chip Ganassi Racing driver to cross the finish line.

That honor belonged to Marcus Ericsson, who used his run to fourth to mirror Newgarden’s efforts to cut into the championship leader’s advantage, but only by a small amount. Ericsson was fourth in the standings before the race, and thanks to O’Ward’s podium, he handed it over to the Arrow McLaren driver and was demoted to fifth in the championship.

Power held onto claim fifth, and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon—the first driver off the lead lap—was sixth and made slight ground on Palou, but like Ericsson, he also fell back by one position in the standings as Newgarden nestled in behind the leader.

Between Dixon and Palou, Kyle Kirkwood was the first representative from the Andretti Autosport camp in seventh. Elsewhere, the heights of success for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing last weekend at Toronto (with Christian Lundgaard’s win) were tempered by a day loaded with struggles as RLL’s Graham Rahal crashed on his own—the only caution in the race — while Lundgaard ran many laps down in 20th. The team’s best performer was Jack Harvey, who overcame a nine-spot grid penalty to claim 18th, three laps shy of the winner.

There were a few thrills during the one hour and 33 minutes it took to run the race, and most of it came while the leaders were mingling with lapped cars. Ericsson, the best Honda-powered driver in the field on Saturday, was 14.6s shy of Newgarden at the checkered flag. For every team that isn’t owned by Penske or lacks Chevy engines, it’s going to be a sleepless night as they search for answers to a puzzle that might be impossible to solve.

The second race of the Iowa weekend starts at 2:30pm ET Sunday.

AS IT HAPPENED

Will Power led the top four qualifiers into Turn 1 without issue and behind them, Ryan Hunter-Reay took the high line and improved to P12. Teammate Ed Carpenter went from P18 to P23.

By lap 12, Alexander Rossi was up to P13 from P20 and Hunter-Reay slid back to P14 as Power held a steady 0.5s over McLaughlin.

Lap 16 and Pato O’Ward finally took P4 off of Scott Dixon, whose car prefers a higher line. Lap 18 and the lapping has begun with Benjamin Pedersen and Sting Ray Robb. Lap 24 and Alex Palou drops Colton Herta to P7. Lap 25 and the top 10 are Power, McLaughlin, Newgarden, O’Ward, Dixon, Palou, Herta, David Malukas, Marcus Ericsson, and Takuma Sato.

Lap 28 and Herta’s fading, down to P9 behind Ericsson. Lap 32 and Dixon’s back to P7 and Malukas is up to P6. Rossi’s early charge has slowed and he’s in P13 at lap 34. Power has lapped up through Carpenter in P23. Lap 37 and Sato demotes Dixon to P9. Herta’s back to P12 behind Devlin DeFrancesco, and he’s pitted.

Herta’s left-front tire became a nightmare as some form of wheel gun issue required him to sit as the crew tried to change the tire, and then the engine stalled. He started 10th, moved forward, fell back, pitted, sat for 43 seconds, and returned to the track down four laps to Power.

Lap 50 and a wave of pit stops for those in the bottom half of the field started. Leaders remain Power, McLaughlin, Newgarden, O’Ward, and Palou. Lap 56 and Power’s lapped through Felix Rosenqvist in P12. Lap 60 and O’Ward and Rossi and Ericsson and Sato pit. Traffic is a nightmare.

Kirkwood already building off best career oval result at Iowa

Power sweeps poles for Iowa IndyCar doubleheader

Harvey penalized for role in Toronto crash

Lap 61 and Power’s in and McLaughlin follows. Newgarden goes in on lap 62. Lap 63 and Palou joins them. All leaders have stopped.

Lap 75 and some early stoppers have made top 10 progress. Power leads McLaughlin, Newgarden, O’Ward, Ericsson, Sato, VeeKay, Palou, Grosjean, and Rahal. Lap 82 and Rahal nearly hits the Turn 2 wall and goes a lap down. Power’s lead is only 0.15s over McLaughlin as traffic stacks up in front of the leader.

Lap 95 and Newgarden takes P2 from McLaughlin. We’re at lap 100 and Power has lapped through Dixon in P9. It’s Power, Newgarden, McLaughlin, O’Ward, Ericsson, Sato, Palou, Rossi, Dixon, and Malukas as Power’s under increasing pressure from Newgarden.

Lap 109 and Ericsson pits. Newgarden to the lead on lap 121. Lap 123 and Palou’s in. Lap 124 and the three Penske drivers pit along with O’Ward, the top four.

Lap 146 and Power glances off the Turn 4 wall while trying to lap a car and drops to P4. The new top three is Newgarden, McLaughlin, and O’Ward.

Caution No. 1 flies on Lap 153 as Rahal smacks the Turn 4 wall and folds his right-front suspension.

Lap 157 and the leaders pit.

Lap 167 and we’re green and Kyle Kirkwood overtakes Power but it doesn’t hold. The top six is Newgarden, McLaughlin, O’Ward, Power, Ericsson, and Kirkwood. Palou the championship leader is in P7.

Lap 192 and Newgarden’s lapped up through Malukas in P12.

Lap 200 and Newgarden’s 4.1s clear of Newgarden, 7.0s over O’Ward, and Power’s 7.2s back in P4. Ericsson in P5 is 9.0s back and Kirkwood is 9.7s arrears. Lap 206 and Palou’s 11.9s in P7.

Lap 208 and the leaders pit, except for Newgarden and Newgarden, who follow on the next lap.

Lap 214 and Ericsson takes P4 from Power.

Winding down to the last 10 laps and Newgarden’s up by 4.3s on McLaughlin and 10.6 over O’Ward. Barring a mishap, the race is over as they’ve lapped up through Kirkwood in P7.

RESULTS


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