For a while it looked like Scott Dixon would start to eke out a lead in the IndyCar championship after an impressive race at Road America. But after two consecutive wins, Josef Newgarden looks like he could start to pull away from the chasing pack…
After his victory in Toronto, it looked like Newgarden had started to really find his feet in the Penske team. After his first win for his new team at Barber, he had a few shaky rounds including a nasty crash at Texas Motor Speedway. But second in Road America was the start of better things and he was unlucky to not win that race thanks to an incredible drive from Dixon. A solid sixth at Iowa gave way to a well earned second Penske win in Toronto after a masterful strategy call from his team.
Mid-Ohio would see Newgarden perform even better. He just lost out on pole position to teammate Will Power to take second on the grid, but it would not stay that way for too long. On lap 13 he dummied Power at the end of the back straight, lunging down the inside after faking to the outside and taking the lead from the Australian. And that was all she wrote for the race, the young American having no competition thereafter. He dominated the rest of the 90 lap event, and with the win he took the championship lead for the first time in his career and firmly cemented himself as a genuine title contender.
“I feel like no one can take anything away from this win. With this team on the (No.) 2 car side, I feel like we really did a great job today. There was no luck involved in that. We went out and won the race.”
“Our car had great pace today, we just could never quite get in clear air. I’m really proud of everyone on the Steak ‘n Shake team. … We’re going to keep our heads down, keep working hard.”
Despite the dominant performance from Newgarden there was still action behind him. Power had to fend off the fast hometown hero of Graham Rahal, who managed to get ahead in the pitstops in the latter half of the race but Power instantly took second back again on the back straight, Rahal not able to defend fully on colder tyres despite giving it his all. Rahal though continued to hound Power, his sights firmly fixed on the silver Penske but with a watchful eye on Simon Pagenaud behind who had worked his way up to fourth from seventh thanks to more great pitwork from his Penske team. He was followed by Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi, the former recovering from a bad early pitstop and the latter unlucky to not be on the podium after charging up to fourth from eighth on the grid. He had been pushing Rahal hard earlier in the race but wasn’t able to hold back his teammate or Pagenaud as the laps ticked away.
The only caution period came after Ed Jones spun out in his Dale Coyne car. At that restart his teammate Esteban Gutierrez nearly rammed into the back of Newgarden trying to get his lap back and his reluctance to let the others by meant they lost out on any chance of hauling in Newgarden. But would they have been able to anyway? Despite not taking pole Newgarden had been untouchable ever since jumping power, and was still clearly riding high on his victory in Toronto. His three wins this season is the most of anyone. It is the first time he has been in such a strong championship position, and it could well lead to his very first IndyCar series title.