Newgarden takes over series lead with win in Ohio
LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Josef Newgarden wasn't to be denied this time in an IndyCar Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
In years past here, Newgarden got knocked out of contention through no fault of his own -- by his crew leaving an air hose in the pit box and an opponent running into him on pit road. But neither happened Sunday.
Instead, Newgarden passed Team Penske teammate Will Power on Lap 13 (of 90) and cruised to victory. Yes, there was a late restart to manage, but a lapped car proved to be more than enough of a buffer to help Newgarden.
Thus, Newgarden went to victory lane for the series-leading third time this season and the sixth time in his still-young career. As a bonus, Scott Dixon's difficult day earned Newgarden the series lead with four races left.
Newgarden previously won races at Barber Motorsports Park in April and two weeks ago in Toronto, and remember, this is his first season with Roger Penske's team. Power and Simon Pagenaud struggled in their first seasons with the team.
Dixon finished ninth. He had an ill-handling car in the middle part of the race -- he predicted something in the rear of the car was broken -- then had a slow final pit stop when the left rear air gun failed.
Power finished second with Graham Rahal third. Pagenaud, who won last year's race here, finished fourth with Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato fifth.
Newgarden's margin of victory was 5.1 seconds.
The only caution came on Lap 67 when series rookie Ed Jones spun on tires that weren't sufficiently warmed up after a pit stop. Newgarden might have been challenged by Power, Rahal and others, but the lapped car of Esteban Gutierrez lined up behind Newgarden and raced harder than everyone but the leader wanted. To make matters worse for Power and Rahal, Newgarden had pulled out to a 3-second lead before Gutierrez pitted to get out of the way.
Passing opportunities are typically difficult to come by on this narrow and twisty permanent road course, but this race had plenty of excitement behind Newgarden, who at one point led by 10 seconds. Ryan Hunter-Reay spun while challenging Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi, and Sato gave several drivers an eyeful amid battles.
As the series takes two weekends off before resuming Aug. 20 at Pocono Raceway, Newgarden's points lead is seven over Helio Castroneves, who finished seventh. Dixon is eight out of the lead. The top four drivers are within 17 points. Newgarden had been fourth in the standings entering this race.
Newgarden has the points lead for the first time in his IndyCar career, and he is the first U.S.-born driver to have the lead since Hunter-Reay midway through the 2014 season.
Dixon had won five of the previous 10 races at this track.
NOTES: Will Power won the pole, marking the 49th time in his IndyCar career he's done that. Power tied Bobby Unser for fourth place on the sport's all-time list, and he is now within one pole of Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves for third. ... Spencer Pigot walked away from a head-on crash during the morning warmup. Pigot lost control of his car after hitting the curb in Turn 13, and his correction sent him through the sand trap and into the wall. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver had soreness in his lower back but was cleared to drive in the race. ... IndyCar will take the next two weekends off before staging races in three consecutive races (Pocono, Gateway and Watkins Glen) before finishing the season at Sonoma. That's four races in five weeks to decide the championship.