Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 Penske team navigated through early chaos at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway to score his second win of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Season. The Nashville, Tennessee native took the lead on Lap 80 and only surrendered the lead a couple of times before regaining the lead on Lap 210 and going on to win his third Gateway victory.
“Yeah, I think so,” Newgarden said about the victory. “It (winning) definitely helps a lot (closing in on points lead). I was surprised when I saw the early wreck. Will and me were talking about it. Yeah, everyone was good, which is great. But it’s about time we got something to come our way a little bit. That’s what it felt like.
“Yeah, it does help a lot. It helped a lot today. A win helps a lot. The team did a great job. Will was super quick this weekend. I thought Scott McLaughlin did a great job for us. He came and tested here. He’s a rookie that never has driven on ovals before this year. He helped develop a lot of the things I ran on the car here.
“Everybody did a great job of pitching in this weekend. We had great cars. The circumstances have played favorably into helping us get back into this race, which is what we’ve been working towards. I feel really confident about where we’re going.”
Before the green flag flew, qualifying was held earlier in the afternoon and Will Power scored his 63rd career NTT IndyCar Series pole laying down a lap of 24.8508 seconds and 181.081 mph.
As the 260-lap race got underway, four cautions slowed the race pace. Three cautions flew in the first 20 laps of the race. The yellow flew as early as Lap 3 when the No. 18 of Ed Jones slide up into the No. 15 of Graham Rahal in Turn 1 and both cars crashed. Another interesting yellow occurred on Lap 17 for the No. 22 of Simon Pagenaud, when his right-front wing made contact with his teammate Newgarden. Following the incident, Pagenaud’s right-front wing fell off as a result.
A more significant issue happened on Lap 64 that involved championship contenders Alex Palou and Scott Dixon. Both Palou and Dixon were involved in an accident in Turn 1 after the No. 21 of Rinus VeeKay turned into Palou, which then caused Palou to turn into his teammate, Dixon. With Dixon and Palou out of the race, this accident caused major championship implications as Dixon and Palou lost numerous points.
After the stop-and-go pace in the first half, there was a long stretch of green-flag racing. Andretti Autosports’ Colton Herta led early but was overtaken for the lead by Newgarden on Lap 76. From there, Newgarden maintained a sizeable gap over second-place Alexander Rossi.
The lead changed again following the Lap 133 pit stops. Newgarden was able to come out as the leader briefly before second-place Herta overpowered Newgarden heading into Turn 1.
Herta led for 45 laps after taking the lead from Newgarden. Unfortunately, during Herta’s scheduled stop on Lap 185, the Andretti Autosport driver night ended early, as he broke a right-rear driveshaft.
Newgarden once again cycled back into the lead one lap later after Herta’s misfortune, but this time, Alexander Rossi who was looking to turn his season around was lurking in the second position. Rossi was maintaining his pace to Newgarden before his bad luck continued. On Lap 200, Rossi brought out the last caution of the night when his No. 27 NAPA AutoParts machine hit the wall in Turn 2 creating the second DNF of the season.
Succeeding the final yellow, it seemed as though the race would be Newgarden’s to lose as he would have championship points leader Pato O’Ward chasing him down in the final laps. As the laps continued to wind down, O’Ward cut the gap to 0.4951 seconds on Lap 215 and stayed near Newgarden by half of a second. Inside five to go, O’Ward would need help from lap cars or a quick yellow to be able to have a chance at Newgarden. Unfortunately for O’Ward, he came up just a bit short as Newgarden scored his second win of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season and closed in on the points battle having a 22 point deficit.
O’Ward however leads the points by 10 over Alex Palou with just three races left in the season.
“It’s a very big points day for us,” O’Ward said about taking the points lead. “To be honest, man, it’s so tight. There’s still three races to go, 150 points on the table. Yeah, I mean, this means we’re going on the right path. We came off a solid run in Indy road course, now we have a podium with second. It would be great to rack up a couple more, a few more podiums. Yeah, man, we’re just going to push until the checkered flag waves in Long Beach and see where we stand.”
Pole sitter Power had a quiet, but solid night as the Australian wrapped up the podium finishers with third place.
“Yeah, actually I was really happy to finish third,” Power said. “Definitely didn’t have the car to challenge for the win. Yeah, struggled a little bit to get the car in a window. Just did a really clean race, clean pit stops, no mistakes. Yeah, stoked to be third.
There were six cautions for 49 laps and six leaders among 11 lead changes. Newgarden led four times for 138 laps to victory.
There were also three penalties handed out during the race. Takuma Sato was penalized for jumping the start on Lap 10, Ed Carpenter for avoidable contact on Lap 13 and Romain Grosjean for unsafe release on Lap 58.
Official Results following the Bommarito 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway:
- Josef Newgarden, led 138 laps
- Pato O’Ward
- Will Power, led one lap
- Scott McLaughlin
- Sebastien Bourdais, led 18 laps
- Takuma Sato
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Simon Pagenaud, led one lap
- Marcus Ericsson
- Jack Harvey
- Conor Daly
- Dalton Kellett
- Tony Kanaan
- Romain Grosjean, 1 lap down
- James Hinchcliffe, 17 laps down
- Felix Rosenqvist, OUT, Mechanical
- Alexander Rossi, OUT, Contact
- Colton Herta, led 101 laps, OUT, Contact
- Scott Dixon, OUT, Contact
- Alex Palou, OUT, Contact
- Rinus VeeKay, OUT, Contact
- Ed Carpenter, OUT, Contact
- Graham Rahal, OUT, Contact
- Ed Jones, OUT, Contact
Up Next: The NTT IndyCar Series takes a couple of weeks off before finishing out the season on the west coast with just three races left. Their next race is Sunday, September 12 at Portland live on NBCSN at 3 p.m. ET.