MADISON, Ill. – Josef Newgarden saw an opportunity when Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud left the door open in Turn 1 at the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline.
He seized it with both hands in a forceful, authoritative move for the lead, and ultimately the win in the third to last race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Newgarden took the lead after contact with Pagenaud into Turn 1 on Lap 218 of the 248-lap race, the move not being reviewed by INDYCAR Race Control, and then held on the remaining 30 laps to win his fourth race of the season.
Pagenaud fell to third behind Scott Dixon, who rallied all race despite an aero deficit for Honda, with Helio Castroneves fourth and Conor Daly posting by far his most impressive drive of the year in fifth.
The late pass for the lead spiced up an otherwise difficult to handle return to the series for Gateway. Despite a near capacity crowd in the front straight grandstands – it’d be fair to estimate a crowd north of 30,000 – the race was delayed after a fireworks display and a one-lap three-wide row salute, then saw two bizarre incidents out of the gate.
Tony Kanaan spun in Turn 2 and needed to pit before the green flag, although race laps started counting for a four-lap yellow period before a two-wide start.
Then shortly thereafter, polesitter Will Power spun in Turn 2 on the low line, and Takuma Sato and Ed Carpenter spun behind them. Carpenter careened back up the road over top of Power’s car in another scary looking incident. It wasn’t until Lap 18 that the race properly got going.
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Newgarden’s fourth win of the year, with 170 laps led, helped increase his points lead to 31 over Dixon with two races to go. … In second, Dixon scored his first top-five finish since winning at Road America and did an excellent job of damage limitations. … Alexander Rossi’s strong run of late continued with sixth. … Daly’s run was a needed top-five, his first of the year and first for the A.J. Foyt Enterprises team all season, and teammate Carlos Munoz was ninth. … Charlie Kimball, Daly’s in-race sparring partner, finished seventh and James Hinchcliffe, his wedding minister, was eighth. It marked both drivers best oval results this season. … Sebastien Bourdais returned to action with a solid top-10 and Sebastian Saavedra rounded off the first and only two Sebastian/en race of the IndyCar season with a clean drive to 11th.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ed Carpenter Racing. Two wrecked cars for Carpenter and JR Hildebrand left the team likely in need of its primary sponsor, Fuzzy’s Vodka, after a disappointing and expensive evening. … A pit safety infraction cost Graham Rahal a potential top-five finish and fell to 12th. … Other than Rossi, Andretti Autosport had a tough day with Marco Andretti 14th, Ryan Hunter-Reay 15th after a spin, and Sato out after the early Turn 2 crash. … Kanaan was parked by the team after going several laps down. He told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis “talk to Chip” about the decision and Ganassi declined comment, also confirmed by a team spokesperson. It marks the second time a Ganassi IndyCar has been retired owing to a team decision in as many weeks, the same having occurred to Max Chilton last week in Pocono. … Speaking of Chilton, a spin off Turn 4 ended his race and created a rare second straight DNF for the likable Englishman who’s usually a regular finisher.
NOTABLE: Team Penske did in fact win its fifth straight race, extending its streak for its longest win streak since 1994 (seven straight wins). … Newgarden’s four wins this year exceed his career total prior, three wins between 2015 and 2016. … Pagenaud’s year of metronomic consistency that in any other year would win him a title continued, as he banked his 12th top-five finish in 15 races and remained the only driver to complete every lap of the year.
QUOTABLE: Pagenaud to NBCSN after the race, and “the move:” “The move, you know, I don’t know what to say. I don’t have anything nice to say, so I’m not going to say it.”
MADISON, Illinois – Results Saturday of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 248, Running
2. (7) Scott Dixon, Honda, 248, Running
3. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 248, Running
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 248, Running
5. (11) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 248, Running
6. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 248, Running
7. (18) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 248, Running
8. (10) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 248, Running
9. (8) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 248, Running
10. (19) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 248, Running
11. (21) Sebastian Saavedra, Honda, 248, Running
12. (13) Graham Rahal, Honda, 248, Running
13. (12) Ed Jones, Honda, 248, Running
14. (20) Marco Andretti, Honda, 248, Running
15. (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 205, Contact
16. (17) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 168, Mechanical
17. (16) Max Chilton, Honda, 164, Contact
18. (15) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 100, Contact
19. (6) Takuma Sato, Honda, 6, Contact
20. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 5, Contact
21. (5) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 5, Contact
Winner’s average speed: 139.465 mph
Time of Race: 2:13:22.0358
Margin of victory: 0.6850 of a second
Cautions: 5 for 43 laps
Lead changes: 11 among 6 drivers
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Newgarden 547, Dixon 516, Castroneves 505, Pagenaud 504, Power 464, Rahal 436, Rossi 422, Sato 410, Kanaan 365, Hinchcliffe 351.