Josef Newgarden wins rain-delayed race at Gateway; trails Will Power by three points
Winning a rain-delayed World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway race, Josef Newgarden made a charge in the NTT IndyCar Series championship standings Saturday night.
With his series-leading fifth victory (a personal best for the two-time champion), Newgarden closed within three points of teammate Will Power with two races remaining this season.
It also marked the fourth win at Gateway (and the third consecutive at the track near St. Louis) for the driver of Team Penske’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet.
RESULTS, POINTS: Click here for the full stats package from Gateway
Newgarden rebounded for his 25th career victory after losing the lead to teammate Scott McLaughlin during a pit stop exchange shortly before a red flag for rain on Lap 218.
The stoppage lasted more than two hours for rain, giving Newgarden (who was caught behind Christian Lundgaard on entry before his last pit stop) plenty of time to think about how the race nearly got away.
“I think this crew has been very patient with me,” Newgarden told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I’ve lost my cool probably a couple of times (behind) closed doors out of frustration for us. We’ve had small miscues, timing-wise. That’s not really anybody’s fault. Just sometimes wrong time, wrong place. I feel like that’s been happening a lot this year. It kind of happened again tonight. We put ourselves in position, it’s time to close and there was just a barrier that got in front of us again.
“But fortunately, we were able to get back out. I was so happy we could finish this race. Scott McLaughlin wanted to win, too. I love that about him. We each want to win, but he drove me super fair at the end, and we had a good fight. It’s a big night for everyone at Team Penske.”
Newgarden, who also had a nervous moment when his car initially stalled when engines were refired, led the final 35 laps after seizing first from McLaughlin on Lap 225.
The green flag had waved a lap earlier for the first time in more than two hours on the 1.25-mile oval.
“We just had to have a good start,” Newgarden said. “I knew Scott was going to be good at the end there. He had a great restart. I just tried to work the high lane. It worked earlier for me, and I tried to do it again, and we just had enough to get by him. He was no slouch this weekend.
“Scott’s done an amazing job, he could have easily won this race himself. You have to give him credit. I’m glad we were able to come back out on top.”
Rookie David Malukas, who had made a pit stop just before the red flag, charged from fifth to a career-best second-place finish by passing McLaughlin on the final lap.
“Two laps to go, that was the lap I decided to do the outside lane, and it worked so well,” Malukas told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch. “So if I’d done it a bit sooner, maybe we could have had done something for Newgarden. Overall that’s a win for me, a win for the team. They deserve that so much.”
Said McLaughlin: “That’s racing. That’s oval racing. We love it. Want more of it. Dave’s move on the last lap, credit to him. He’s a phenomenal young kid, and I hope he goes far because the way he’s been coming up through the ranks. He’s been great all year.”
Pato O’Ward finished fourth, followed by Takuma Sato, Power, Marcus Ericsson, Scott Dixon, Alex Palou and Graham Rahal.
After starting on the pole position for a record-tying 67th time, Power faded from fourth to sixth after the race restarted.
“Once again, it was a good day with P6,” Power said. “Obviously, we wanted more. We made a mistake and didn’t (stop under) yellow. That’s IndyCar. It’s never straightforward. You expect that in the championship. It might come back to us in the next two in a different way. That’s how it is. We’ve got some good tracks coming up. Like I predicted, it will be a tough battle all the way to the end. I’ve been around a long time and know how these things go.
“The best thing about today is that we finished in the top-six, so that’s still pretty good.”
There are 58 points separating the top seven in the standings with two races remaining (Sept. 4 at Portland International Raceway and Sept. 11 at Laguna Seca Raceway).
Power is leading the championship race, followed by Newgarden (minus-3), Dixon (-14), Ericsson (-17), Palou (-43), McLaughlin (-54) and O’Ward (-58).
The 43-point margin separating the top five is the tightest with two races remaining since the IndyCar-Champ Car unification in 2008.