Newgarden second again in Iowa, now highest lap leader this year (VIDEO)


The good news for Josef Newgarden and CFH Racing for the second straight short oval race in the Verizon IndyCar Series is that they could afford to be disappointed with a top-five finish.

Last week in Milwaukee it was a hard-luck fifth after starting from pole. Tonight at the Iowa Speedway, it was second after starting from seventh.

He’s also moved to the head of the field in an interesting statistic: laps led.

After leading a career-high 109 laps last week, he went two better with 111 tonight in Iowa.

Those two combined totals of 220 laps in two weeks, coupled with the 76 combined from his first two career wins at Barber and Toronto, have given the driver of the No. 67 Wichita State CFH Racing Chevrolet a total of 296 led this year.

It leads the field, with Will Power (270 laps) and Scott Dixon (250 laps) second and third.

Naturally, then, this serves as a transition to say that Newgarden was frustrated to come up second to Ryan Hunter-Reay in Iowa for the second straight year.

But it occurred in a different type of way. Like Hunter-Reay, the pair took new tires last year and were practically shot out of a cannon to propel their way to the front last year.

This year, the two Americans dominated the race, and Newgarden’s car was better in dirty air than it was one week ago. Unfortunately when compared with Hunter-Reay’s car head-to-head, Newgarden felt his car wasn’t a match.

“It was tough. In a shootout, if we were behind, we didn’t have quite the speed,” Newgarden told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt post-race. “But we had a great racecar.

“You can’t beat riding around in an IndyCar. I’m really sad we lost that thing to be honest. In a shootout scenario, we didn’t have what we needed to win.”

Newgarden moves up to eighth in points and heads next to Mid-Ohio, a track where he was on course for his first career win before a brutal final pit stop knocked him out of the top 10.

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.