Mid-Ohio win vaults Newgarden into championship lead for first time

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Josef Newgarden’s victory at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, his third win of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, was enough to vault him into the championship lead for the first time in his IndyCar career with four races remaining in the season.

Further, as the first driver to win three races this year, a recent trend suggests Newgarden may have the inside track to the championship. In each of the the last two years, the driver who was the first to win three races (Scott Dixon in 2015, Simon Pagenaud in 2016) went on to win the IndyCar championship. (Of note: Dixon was the only driver to win three or more races in 2015, his third win that year coming at the season finale at Sonoma Raceway).

“I think it’s great!” Newgarden quipped in the post-race press conference when asked about leading the championship. “You know, we’ve got to keep building the gap hopefully. And maintaining it is certainly the number one key, but if we can keep building the gap and increase it, that’s going to only help for Sonoma.”

However, Newgarden’s championship lead is a slim one as the already close championship picture became even closer still following Mid-Ohio. Newgarden leads teammate Helio Castroneves by seven points (453-446), with Dixon one further point back in third, his season total standing at 445 at the moment.

Simon Pagenaud sits fourth on 436 points, meaning the top four in the championship are covered by only 17 points with four races remaining.

Will Power and Graham Rahal are still in the thick of things as well. Power sits on 401 points, 52 out of the lead, while Rahal sits on 395 points, 58 markers out.

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IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.