Josef Newgarden rules IndyCar field in Iowa victory from the pole

IndyCar Josef Newgarden
Chris Owens/IndyCar
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Rebounding from a disappointing finish that left the normally congenial two-time IndyCar champion spitting nails, Josef Newgarden dominated from the pole position Saturday night to win at Iowa Speedway.

Newgarden, who had finished fifth Friday with perhaps an even faster No. 1 Dallara-Chevrolet that caught unlucky breaks on caution flags, took the checkered flag nearly 3 seconds ahead of teammate Will Power, who also found redemption after he crashed in Friday’s race.

It’s Team Penske’s first 1-2 finish since Simon Pagenaud, Newgarden and Power finished 1-2-3 at Sonoma in 2017 (when Newgarden clinched his first title). It’s also the 15th victory of Newgarden’s NTT IndyCar Series career and his third the 0.894-mile oval in Newton, Iowa.

RESULTS, POINTS: Full stats package from Saturday at Iowa

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING: Postrace quotes from the full IndyCar field

The two-time series champion led a race-high 214 of 250 laps in becoming the first IndyCar winner from the pole position at Iowa and gave Team Penske a sweep of the weekend with Friday race winner Simon Pagenaud, who finished fourth Saturday.

“Feels really good; I don’t know what we’ve got to do to keep the bad luck off us but hopefully this is a start,” Newgarden, who also was fastest in practice Saturday afternoon, told NBCSN pit reporter Kelli Stavast. “Our guys did an amazing job yesterday. I was so disappointed for them. I was angry for them because I thought they had the winning car.

“They put in the work and weren’t able to get rewarded for it. I was so determined to come back today. I think everyone was determined to come back and have a really good race, and we just ran hard. We ran hard all day. I’m so proud to be powered by Chevrolet. I felt like we had the package to beat. Fuel mileage, durability, we had the power. To have Hitachi back on, I think that’s a good luck charm for us. So, thank you, Hitachi. Thanks to everyone at Team Penske back at the shop. I’m just thrilled to finally get this monkey off our back.”

IndyCar Josef Newgarden
Josef Newgarden took the checkered flag for the third time in the NTT IndyCar Series at Iowa Speedway (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

So was Power, who matched his season best with the second after consecutive races in which he spun and was penalized last Sunday at Road America and slammed the wall Friday with a wheel left loose by his team.

“It feels good just to have a solid day,” Power said on NBCSN. “I have to thank Verizon, Chevy for all the support. Yeah, man, we would have loved to have the win, of course. But it’s seeming like if you did a good job in this series, you just get screwed.

“So, I’m glad for once we actually get a good result out of it. Soldier on, man. I’m exhausted. I look forward to trying to have a good rest of the season. I don’t know what it is I have to do to have normal races like (Scott) Dixon and Pagenaud. Even if those guys qualify last, they end up at the front. Maybe I just try less and be a much worse driver, and I’ll do way better.”

Graham Rahal finished third Saturday, and points leader Dixon rounding out the top five.

Rookie Oliver Askew, Jack Harvey, Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan and Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top 10.

Other drivers who endured tough breaks in Saturday’s race:

–After finishing fourth Friday, Pato O’Ward was on track for a podium before a botched pit stop on Lap 171. Because of miscommunication, O’Ward left before his left rear tire was secured, which necessitated rolling his No. 5 Dallara-Chevy back into the pit stall and losing two laps.

–It was the second dismal outing in a row at Iowa for Ed Carpenter, who brought out the first yellow when he smacked the wall in Turn 2 and finished last (after finishing three laps down in 15th Friday).

–For the second consecutive night, Ryan Hunter-Reay tagged the wall on pit exit with his No. 28 Dallara-Honda, but unlike Friday when he got away with brushing the wall, a bent suspension knocked him from Saturday’s race.

“Absolutely down to me,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN pit reporter Dillon Welch. “It’s got to be better than that. I was looking to make a lot of time on that out lap, and I short shifted out of second gear knowing first gear was my problem last night. I got in second, and it just came around. Almost caught it. Almost doesn’t count.

“It sucks. The guys on the 28 team don’t deserve that. We had a rough night. We were hanging on. Really looking forward to getting the ball rolling for the season. It’s been one thing or another. This is down to me. I’m just pushing 110 percent and asked a little too much of it there.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”