Josef Newgarden scored a supreme and dominant performance to take a first victory of his latest IndyCar title defence at Iowa Speedway, creating a clean sweep for Penske in the double-header.
A caution with 80 laps to go neutralised the field and set up a sprint to the finish, following a crash for Ryan Hunter-Reay where he lost the rear of his car exiting pit road – bizarrely – for the second night in a row.
Newgarden led the majority of the first half of the race, only ceding the lead in pitstop phases, and with two wins and over 1000 laps led at the track, he was always going to be tricky to beat.
He also went into Saturday furious that a frontrunning performance in Friday’s race was wrecked when he was put two laps down by an unfortunately timed caution.
Oliver Askew had a spell in the lead on an alternative strategy, but Newgarden was back in front soon after the final caution.
At that point it was clear Newgarden and his fellow challengers would need to run a stint of over 70 laps, which was achieved in Friday night’s race, to get to the finish without pitting again.
Newgarden duly dominated the final stretch to lead over 200 of the 250 laps and confirm it was doable on fuel mileage.
The reigning champion’s first win of the season followed team-mate Simon Pagenaud’s Friday night triumph from last on the grid, as Penske halted Ganassi’s early domination of the 2020 campaign.
Penske is competing with 13 drivers in four championships on the same weekend, with IMSA at Sebring, Supercars in Australia, NASCAR at Texas in the Xfinity and Cup Series and IndyCar. Austin Cindric won the Texas Xfinity race earlier in the day, while his dad Tim called Newgarden’s strategy en route to victory. Penske is expected to complete over 20,000 miles this weekend.
It was almost a Penske 1-2-3 in the race. Will Power ending his awful run by scoring only his second top 10 of the year in second place.
That meant the top two finished where they had started, Newgarden becoming the first driver to win from pole in the series at this short oval.
Despite another masterclass from Pagenaud, it was another low starter in Graham Rahal who stole a march into third.
The car unloaded with heavy understeer and the first race was tricky for Rahal as struggled to 12th. But the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team – which improved the car and even changed its livery overnight to give a different sponsor prominence for race two – was much quicker on Saturday despite starting 19th.
While Pagenaud repeated his race one strategy of pitting early on to get track position, Rahal went long in the first stint and then benefited from a caution for Ed Carpenter’s crash on lap 114 of 250.
Rahal closed in on Power in the closing stages but couldn’t make a move to take second position.
Pagenaud once more started at the back due to the fuel pressure problem that had prevented him from running in qualifying. While he made many overtaking moves in the first stint yesterday, he struggled to do so on Saturday but his first stop being short put him into a top 10 position for the rest of the race.
Scott Dixon – who finished second in race one – again came close to Pagenaud at the last, but had to settle for fifth. He started in 18th, showing his and Pagenaud’s prowess at coming through the field.
Askew’s strategy put him in position to benefit from any late stops, but after the final caution only Conor Daly pitted ahead for an extra splash of fuel and Askew – a first time podium-finisher on Friday – took sixth, ahead of a strong weekend for Jack Harvey.
Askew’s Arrow McLaren SP team-mate Patricio O’Ward narrowly missed out on a podium to Askew in the first race, but ran second and looked like Newgarden’s closest challenger throughout the second race.
However an issue at his last pitstop meant O’Ward had to be rolled back into his pit box after he’d tried to leave. He recovered to 12th and the first car a lap down at the finish
Alexander Rossi had to pit with Askew at the last caution but turned 21st into eighth after sixth in race one.
Marcus Ericsson has scored top 10s in all but one race this year and maintained that run with ninth. A slow second pit stop phase cost the Ganassi driver vital spots.
Marco Andretti rebounded from not being able to change gears in race one to a top 10 in race two, ahead of Tony Kanaan – who is running the oval races this year as part of a farewell tour in IndyCar, despite refusing to rule out more races in 2021.
|Pos||Name||Team||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|3||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||Dallara-Honda||250||13||+3.565s||19.643s||3||36|
|5||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi||Dallara-Honda||250||2||+6.576s||19.635s||4||31|
|7||Jack Harvey||Meyer Shank||Dallara-Honda||250||0||+16.619s||19.576s||4||26|
|9||Marcus Ericsson||Chip Ganassi||Dallara-Honda||250||0||+18.521s||19.443s||4||22|
|10||Marco Andretti||Andretti Herta||Dallara-Honda||250||0||+20.018s||20.101s||4||20|
|11||Tony Kanaan||A.J. Foyt||Dallara-Chevrolet||250||0||+20.743s||19.722s||4||19|
|12||Patricio O'Ward||McLaren||Dallara-Chevrolet||249||1||+1 lap||19.495s||3||19|
|13||Conor Daly||Carlin||Dallara-Chevrolet||249||4||+1 lap||19.621s||4||18|
|14||Alex Palou||Dale Coyne||Dallara-Honda||249||0||+1 lap||19.609s||3||16|
|15||Felix Rosenqvist||Chip Ganassi||Dallara-Honda||248||0||+2 laps||19.835s||3||15|
|16||Charlie Kimball||A.J. Foyt||Dallara-Chevrolet||248||0||+2 laps||19.903s||4||14|
|17||Rinus VeeKay||Ed Carpenter||Dallara-Chevrolet||248||0||+2 laps||19.873s||3||13|
|18||Santino Ferrucci||Dale Coyne||Dallara-Honda||247||0||+3 laps||19.487s||5||12|
|19||Colton Herta||Andretti Harding Steinbrenner||Dallara-Honda||247||0||+3 laps||19.671s||6||11|
|20||Zach Veach||Andretti||Dallara-Honda||247||0||+3 laps||19.779s||3||10|
|21||Takuma Sato||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||Dallara-Honda||247||0||+3 laps||19.945s||5||9|
|Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter||Dallara-Chevrolet||112||0||DNF||19.539s||2||7|