NEWTON, Iowa – Joseph Newgarden was prophetic in the worst way. He told anyone who would listen that he wasn’t the prohibitive favorite for Sunday’s 300-lap race at the Iowa Speedway.
Newgarden won Saturday’s doubleheader weekend opener on the 7/8-mile short oval and had led more than 60% of laps in IndyCar’s last eight starts in Newton, Iowa, but he said he knew all too well how cruel this route is – and this series – can be in the most unexpected moments.
“Tomorrow is not a given,” Newgarden said. “I can tell you that.”
After leading 148 of the first 236 laps on Sunday, Newgarden appeared to suffer a mechanical failure Coming out of Turn 4. In the blink of an eye, his steering wheel snapped, sending him a full 180 degrees before he hit the outside wall with the left side of his car.
“Yeah, that was definitely a bit of a shot,” Newgarden said, fighting back tears on the NBC show after being screened and released from the Infield Care Center. “I want to cry. I’m so sad for my team. I don’t know what happened.
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“Everything felt good to me up until that point. I had a vibration at the beginning of this stint. It’s always possible for a set (of Firestone tires) to be mismatched, but that was totally unexpected when it happened and it caught me by surprise.”
Newgarden fainted in the bus park after the race and was taken to the circuit’s medical centre. IndyCar officials said he was awake and alert but was flown to a hospital in Des Moines as a precaution.
After the race, a Chevy official told IndyStar that they believed Newgarden’s right rear suspension had failed.
Passed Pole sitter Will Power For second place around lap 200, Pato O’Ward took the lead and stayed ahead to take his second win of the year. He’s right back in the title hunt, 36 points behind leader Marcus Ericsson in fifth place. He came to Iowa in sixth place, 75 points behind.
“Just super excited, super happy. I knew we had a great car, but that just meant capitalizing on it and being there when it counted,” said O’Ward after the race.
Having to weave through lapped traffic for the last 30 laps, O’Ward could be heard talking to Arrow McLaren SP strategist and team president Taylor Kiel about trying to get help with the Chevy cars in front of him get to find a lead.
Such cooperation did not seem to come. It does not matter.
“I knew no one would listen anyway. ‘Just pick a track!’ But I know these guys don’t care,” O’Ward continued. “The best thing you can do there is do your thing and I got past them nice and smoothly.
“Hopefully we can win a few more. We’ve had two wins in the last few months and it was definitely a bit frustrating, but it’s the perfect momentum we need to go into August and September.”
Newgarden would have taken the points lead with a win, but he fell to 3rd in the title hunt with Scott Dixon – now 34 points behind. Despite finishing 24th, Newgarden was able to gain 10 points on Ericsson over the weekend.
Power was second, with teammate Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske taking 3rd place. Dixon relegated Chip Ganassi Racing to fourth followed by CGR teammates Jimmie Johnson (fifth) and Ericsson (sixth). Johnson’s finish, which came on a late pass from Ericsson, is his best in IndyCar.
“I raced my teammates with the utmost respect, but this was the first time I’ve really fought for a position,” said Johnson after the race. “And that’s because I felt like I had to fight[Dixon]up there.”
After a crash in Saturday’s race, O’Ward’s teammate Felix Rosenqvist finished seventh, while rookie David Malukas took a career-best eighth place. Romain Grosjean passed Andretti Autosport for ninth and Takuma Sato was tenth.
This article originally appeared on the Indianapolis Star: IndyCar: Pato O’Ward takes advantage of Josef Newgarden’s fall to win