Alex Palou overtook race leader Josef Newgarden with two laps to go following a restart and Newgarden having a mechanical failure. Newgarden had led the majority of the race up until that point and looked poised to win in dominating fashion before being passed by eventual race winner Palou. Pole sitter Newgarden fell to 21st in the running after leading 32 of the 55 laps.
“I don’t know, it was a really good weekend overall,” Palou said. “We started not super, super good, but we made some progress, and I feel like we always are really good when the weekend ends, and we were getting — every run we were doing with the reds, with the blacks, we were getting even closer to Josef. So I was really happy. And then yeah, I don’t know what happened to him, but we the lead, and that was super exciting, and yeah, we had good power, we had good car setup, and yeah, just super happy.”
Colton Herta placed second and earned his second podium of the season, his first since winning the St. Peterburg race earlier in the year.
“Yeah, it finally happened,” Herta said earning a podium finish. “I’ve been struggling to get on the podium when I’m not winning, so it feels nice to finally get one, or my second one in my career. Yeah, it feels good. Team did an amazing job. We seemed to lack a little bit of pace to Alex and Josef. They seemed to be the guys to beat. You know, so I think we had third place pace and that was where we were going to finish until Josef had that problem. Car felt really good. Guys did an amazing job in the pits to gain me a few spots on track and put us on the podium in the second spot.”
The action was intense and early, as Takuma Sato was penalized for avoidable contact with the No. 20 of Conor Daly. Former Formula 1 driver Kevin Magnussen filling in for Felix Rosenqvist as he was not medically cleared after his crash at Detroit went off course momentarily in Turn 13.
Meanwhile, as pit stops started to approach, race leader Newgarden had some issues with his gearbox as the gearbox would get stuck in Turn 8. Fortunately for Newgarden, the gearbox was able to get back to normal and he was able to continue to lead the race.
At Lap 11, the first round of green-flag pit stops occurred with Will Power, Colton Herta, Romain Grosjean, and others who came to pit road. Newgarden didn’t pit until Lap 13 and Palou one lap later at Lap 14.
The first caution of the day came at Lap 16 following the completion of green-flag stops. Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 went off track spinning and scraping the Turn 7 wall. Another yellow was flown on Lap 22 for the No. 8 of Marcus Ericsson who went off in Turn 3. It was during this yellow on Lap 24, the majority of the race leaders pitted with the exception of Magnussen and Sato who stayed out to assume the top spots.
Magnussen held Sato by 2.3 seconds before eventually pitting on Lap 31 and Sato just a few laps later. Unfortunately for Magnussen, his day was cut short due to an engine failure on Lap 34. Magnussen came to a complete stop and brought out another caution.
With the laps winding down, the action started to heat up on the track and in the pits. Newgarden pitted on Lap 40 from the lead while Palou pitted one lap later. Palou came out briefly ahead of Newgarden, but Newgarden was already at full speed and flew right past him going into Turn 14 to come out ahead of Palou.
While Palou and Newgarden made their stops, they were stuck behind Max Chilton, Ed Jones, and Oliver Askew who had not stopped yet. Askew and Chilton led for a short while, however, a late-race caution was seen on Lap 51 as Ed Jones went spinning in Turn 12 to bring out the full course yellow.
Disappointingly for Askew, he had already pitted right before the yellow, which saw Newgarden and Palou take over the top two spots for the final restart of the day.
When the green-flag flew for the final restart, Newgarden’s car had trouble firing away, and Palou went straight to the lead and went on to win his second race of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season and his first since the season opener at Barber Motorsports Park.
Colton Herta, Will Power, Scott Dixon, Romain Grosjean, Marcus Ericsson, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato, Pato O’Ward, and Max Chilton rounded out the Top 10 finishers. Pole sitter Newgarden finished a disappointing 21st after leading four times for 32 laps.
“I couldn’t get it to shift into sixth gear,” Newgarden said about the mishap. “And then I got it stuck in fifth in turn one and finally got it to go down, but just could not get it to upshift after that. So I got it down to first essentially. So just trying to stay out of the way after that because I couldn’t get it to upshift after that. I’m not sure what happened. Obviously its disappointing for all of us. I know we had a great car. We had a good car all day and were doing everything we had to do. We were surviving the yellows. Surviving the fuel game. We had a rocket ship. Team Chevy did a good job for us. We had such amazing fuel mileage and good power. Super pleased about that. Proud of our teams. Proud of our partners. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be again. I think we have fast cars, its just not working out right now. But now we will claw. We will claw our way back. This is not what I was planning for this day. I would have liked for us to be a little closer. But, what are we 88 (points back)? Just a bigger challenge when we go to next race. We’ll get after it.”
As for Newgarden’s Team Penske teammate Will Power, the Aussie bounced back to finish third and secured his second podium of the year his first since the season opener at Barber.
“Yeah, we did,” Power said about the solid Road America weekend. “I just think about Indy and Detroit, like two massive results of points there. Those two results have put us right back in the championship. Stoked to be third. Pretty fun race, to be honest. It had a bit of everything and good racing and a bit of roughing up.”
There were 11 lead changes among seven different leaders and four cautions for seven laps. There were two penalties handed during the race. The first for Takuma Sato for avoidable contact with Conor Daly and the final penalty for the No. 14 of Sebastien Bourdais for pitting in a closed pit area.
Official Results following the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America:
- Alex Palou, led five laps
- Colton Herta
- Will Power
- Scott Dixon, led one lap
- Romain Grosjean
- Marcus Ericsson
- Alexander Rossi
- Takuma Sato, led two laps
- Pato O’Ward
- Max Chilton, led seven laps
- Graham Rahal
- Oliver Askew, led two laps
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Scott McLaughlin
- James Hinchcliffe
- Sebastien Bourdais
- Jack Harvey
- Simon Pagenaud
- Cody Ware
- Conor Daly
- Josef Newgarden
- Jimmie Johnson, 1 lap down
- Ed Jones, OUT, Off Course
- Kevin Magnussen, OUT, Off Course, led seven laps
- Dalton Kellett, OUT, Mechanical
Winner’s average speed: 119.424 mph
Time of Race: 1:50:55.0534
Margin of victory: 1.9106 seconds
Cautions: 4 for 7 laps
Lead changes: 11 among 7 drivers
Newgarden 1 – 13
Newgarden 16 – 24
Magnussen 25 – 30
Sato 31 – 32
Newgarden 33 – 39
Palou 40 – 41
Chilton 42 – 48
Askew 49 – 50
Newgarden 51 – 53
Palou 54 – 55
NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings: Palou 349, O’Ward 321, Dixon 296, Newgarden 261, Pagenaud 255, VeeKay 243, Herta 242, Ericsson 239, Rahal 228, Sato 206.
Up Next: The NTT IndyCar Series will take a short break before heading to Mid-Ohio for the Honda Indy 200 on Sunday July 4 live on NBC at 12 p.m./ET.