‘Redeemed’ Newgarden boosts series lead; Rossi not dismayed

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NEWTON, Iowa – Josef Newgarden’s convincing victory in a race that started Saturday night and ended Sunday morning has given the Team Penske driver a 29-point lead in the NTT IndyCar Series championship.

It was the latest local time start to an IndyCar Series race in history at 10:46 p.m. Central Time (11:46 Eastern) and it was by far the latest finish to a race in IndyCar’s very long history.

The checkered flag waved at 1:30 a.m. local time (2:30 a.m. ET) with Newgarden defeating hard-charging, five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon by 2.8527 seconds.

Alexander Rossi, who had closed to within four points of Newgarden’s lead in the championship after last week’s Honda Indy Toronto, finished sixth. Combine that with Newgarden’s win and Rossi’s deficit grew by 25 points.

Friday night practice for the INDYCAR Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway.

“I’m much happier tonight, I can tell you that,” said Rossi, who was short and terse after qualifying third during Friday’s qualifications. “I was really a little bit frustrated yesterday just because I knew we had a pole-winning car and we didn’t put it together. It’s competitive.

“I’m very competitive, and I don’t always show it, but you want to do well every session, every practice, every qualifying. You want to be the best. If you don’t want that, then why are you here?

“I feel much better tonight. I really wanted us to win the race. I thought we had a good car to do that, a car capable, a team capable. I’m really pleased we were able to execute as well as we did tonight. We just did a good, solid job, car was perfect, pit stops, great strategy from Tim and the boys. We got another win here.”

Newgarden, the 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion, led 245 laps in the 300-lap race. When Newgarden won at Iowa in 2016, he set and IndyCar Series record for leading the most laps in a race when he led 282.

Last year, Newgarden led 229 laps but faded at the end of the race when he was passed by eventual winner James Hinchcliffe. Newgarden’s Team Penske squad threw away a guaranteed podium finish by pitting under yellow with less than five laps left believing the race would be restarted for a final dash to the checkered flag.

But the race ended under yellow and Newgarden finished fourth.

“We redeemed ourselves from last year, too,” Newgarden said. “Last year I felt we had the car. It honestly fell apart with the 100 laps to go. Why did it fall apart last year and how do we make it right again?

“I think we achieved that tonight.”

It was Newgarden’s fourth win of the season and the 14thIndyCar win of his career. It’s the fourth year in the past five that Newgarden has led the most laps and he has led more than 100 laps in all four of those races.

The race was supposed to be an early evening start at 6 p.m. local time but a heavy rain storm with lightning delayed the race for over four hours, making it a true night race.

Little did many of the drivers realize it would end up being a morning finish.

“It was fun that we raced under the lights,” Newgarden said. “If the weather didn’t happen, it wasn’t really going to be a night race. It was actually kind of nice that the weather delayed it from that standpoint.

“Every other standpoint, it wasn’t a good thing. No one likes waiting around. We certainly don’t like making the fans wait. The ones that went home, completely understandable, got pretty late there. The ones that stuck with us, it was really nice they got to see a full show. I think we’re all pretty pumped about that.”

Last week at Toronto, Rossi finished third and Newgarden fourth and that narrowed Newgarden’s lead to just four points. Despite Rossi closing from behind, Newgarden did not feel pressure to perform at Iowa.

“We finished fourth (at Toronto). That’s where we were,” Newgarden said. “The way I always drive is, it’s going to add up how it’s going to add up at the end of the year. You got to maximize your weekends that you can. I don’t think there’s urgency now.

“Look, there’s a lot of people still in it. We just got to make the most of each weekend. If you got a winning car, we try to win. If we have a fourth-place car, try to finish fourth. That’s what we’ve been doing.

“You’re going to have those ups and downs. But it’s about who rides it out the most even, I think, we’ll see where we tally up at the end.”

Rossi knew he was in for a difficult time because Iowa Speedway has historically not been one of his better tracks. He started sixth and finished sixth to equal his best career finish at Iowa in 2016.

“Tonight, was a hit,” Rossi said. “We knew this was going to be a hard one for us and it was. We got as many points as we could and that kind of became the name of the game from there on. From where we knew we were yesterday; I think the team did a good job of maximizing what we had.

“This is one tracks where we are missing something to the competition.”

When it comes to racing at Iowa Speedway, however, it appears Newgarden has the competition covered. And that has given him some extra breathing room in the championship fight as the series heads to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio next Sunday.

Eli Tomac wins Budds Creek, clinches 2019 championship

Vanessa O'Brien (KawasakiUSA)
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Last week Eli Tomac suffered through his worst race of the season and gave Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin a glimmer of hope were the championship was concerned.

On Lap 1 of Moto 1, Tomac did his best to dash that hope. Justin Bogle grabbed the hole shot, but Tomac swept past him immediately and surged to victory.

Moto 2 was much the same. Tomac grabbed the early lead and set his sights on earning maximum points for the weekend. By the end of Moto 2, Tomac had a 15 second lead over Jason Anderson to score his third perfect victory of the season. Tomac also scored a 1-1 at Pala and Washougal.

That was not Tomac’s only victory, however.

With two minutes remaining in Moto 2, Anderson and Marvin Musquin passed Ken Roczen.  That dropped Roczen to 54 points behind Tomac at the time and only elevated Musquin to a 50-point differential. Musquin needed one more position to be able to deny Tomac the championship for one more week, but he was 10 second behind Anderson and unable to make up the gap by the end.

“I didn’t know (I had won the championship) until the last lap,” Tomac said after the race. “I thought I needed one more spot on everyone. I’m just in complete shock right now. All we did today was put our head forward (and) put last week in the past. … Gosh what a way to finish it off. 1-1; it was so cool.”

Tomac is the first rider to win three consecutive championships since Ricky Carmichael won six in a row from 2000-2006.

In Moto 1, Tomac narrowly edged his two points’ rivals. Roczen finished second in that race with Musquin in third.

“It was so special,” Tomac said after he was handed the No. 1 plate that he will affix to his Kawasaki throughout next season. “So many things had to go our way this weekend with having a 1-1 and beating the two guys behind us in second and third (in Moto 1).

Anderson’s pass on Roczen late in Moto 2 was significant for another reason. With a 4-2, he scored a second overall to stand on the podium for the fourth time this season. In doing so, he matched his best finish from RedBud.

“For me, I’m just trying to build my base going into the next Supercross season,” Anderson said afterward. “I feel like I’m getting better.”

Finishing third in both motos was bittersweet equaled a third overall for Musquin. He climbed to second in the points with that finish and if he is able to stay there following next week’s Ironman, it will be the third straight year that he has finished behind Tomac.

Roczen faded to seventh in Moto 2 and with his 2-7 he finished fourth overall. It was a fitting end to his championship hopes because Roczen has faded at the ends of events all season long.

Zach Osborne (5-4) rounded out the top five.

450 Moto 1 Results
450 Moto 2 Results
450 Overall Results
Points Standings

It’s fair to call Shane McElrath’s 1-1 victory a surprise. Perhaps one can even go so far as to call it a shocker. Entering Budds Creek, McElrath had not stood on the podium yet this year. In fact, he has only one top-five finish that came at Spring Creek two weeks ago.

McElrath got off to an early lead in Moto 1, passing then-leader Ty Masterpool on Lap 3 and refusing to look over his shoulder. It was his first moto victory since Washougal last year and there was speculation about whether he could match that performance. If anything, McElrath looked even better in Moto 2 and he cruised to a 7.7 second lead at the checkers.

McElrath may have been the only rider who was not surprised by the performance and he summed up the drastic uptick in his post-race interview.

“One word: just perseverance,” McElrath said. “It’s been a real test of our faith this year. A real test of our strength. It’s been humbling for sure. … My results this year haven’t been what we wanted, but we just kept at it.”

With a 2-5, Adam Cianciarulo finished second overall despite a disappointing second moto.

He was much better in Moto 1, but even that race had drama. Four minutes into Moto 1, Cianciarulo rode off course and high sided on a berm. He dropped from second to fifth. He climbed into third by Lap 6, but it took the entire race before he would reclaim second.

At the end of Moto 1, Cianciarulo was optimistic about his weekend.

“I’m just doing the best I can,” Cianciarulo said on NBC Sports Gold. “I just want a good result on the day and that’s how I’m looking at it, taking it moto by moto. I’m just disappointed in how I rode there at the beginning.

“Masterpool was riding really good and I just got out of my rhythm. The track’s really slick so you can’t override it – and I really was – I just wasn’t riding good. But I’m glad I was able to calm down and take a breath, make some passes back – get to where I needed to be.

“Championship aside, I really want to do the best I can every moto. … If I leave it all out there, whether I win or lose, I can go to bed at night and sleep just fine.”

Justin Cooper ended the day with a 6-2, which was good enough for third overall. It was not good enough to keep his title hopes alive, however. Ending the day 60 points behind Cianciarulo, he has been mathematically eliminated from contention.

Dylan Ferrandis is now the only rider who can challenge Cianciarulo, but he needs to make up six points in Moto 1 at Ironman Raceway next week to keep the pressure on. Like Cianciarulo, Ferrandis’ day was not without incident. In Moto 2, Mitchell Falk got turned around early in the race and knocked Ferrandis down while he was running 11th at the time – one position behind Cianciarulo.

The two points leaders were able to slice through traffic and Ferrandis eventually prevailed over his rival, but he could manage only a fourth-place finish at the checkers. With a 4-4, he finished fourth overall.

RJ Hampshire (3-8) rounded out the top five.

In Moto 1, Masterpool led his first professional laps. He paced the field five times before McElrath overtook him. Masterpool maintained a top-three spot for the next three laps. He finished seventh in that race and 11th in Moto 2 for an eighth overall.

250 Moto 1 Results
250 Moto 2 Results
250 Overall Results
Points Standings

Moto Wins

450MX
[10] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & Pala II, Thunder Valley II, WW Ranch II, RedBud I, Washougal I & II, Budds Creek I & II)
[5] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, Unadilla I & II)
[3] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch I, The Wick I, RedBud II)
[2] Cooper Webb (Spring Creek I & II)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)
[1] Zach Osborne (The Wick II)

250MX
[7] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, The Wick I, Spring Creek II, Unadilla I)
[7] Dylan Ferrandis (WW Ranch II, The Wick II, RedBud I & II, Washougal I & II, Unadilla II)
[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[2] Hunter Lawrence (High Point I, Spring Creek I)
[2] Shane McElrath (Budds Creek I & II)
[1] Chase Sexton (WW Ranch I)

Next race: Ironman Raceway, Crawfordsville, IN, August 24

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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