Josef Newgarden Strengthens Points Lead at Gateway Motorsports Park With Third Win in Four Races

While Team Penske would start the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 together, the ensuing action on the track drove them apart. As Josef Newgarden celebrated in victory lane in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ first stop at Gateway Motorsports Park since 2003, his Penske teammates were left wondering what could have been.

The four Penske drivers swept the top four spots in qualifying, with Will Power scoring his 50th pole award, and remained heavy favourites coming to the green flag. Before the flag would fly, however, Tony Kanaan would lose control of his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and collide with the wall out of Turn 2. Once the green flag finally fell on lap five, pole sitter Will Power would lose control in the same spot, collecting Takuma Sato and sending Ed Carpenter airborne. The scary incident ended the night for all three drivers, but may have also ended Power’s hopes for a title in 2017.

“It was just slippery,” Power explained. “Super slippery. I wish I had done a few more burnouts to get more heat in the rear tires. The fronts were very slippery too. [Newgarden] just took my air going around on the outside. I tried to get back to power and got some dirty air. It just went. “

From that point on, the remaining three Penske drivers would gain control of the race. After an incident that saw second the Ed Carpenter Racing car of J.R. Hildebrand retire, much of the lead changes between the drivers would come on pit road. A slow stop for Newgarden would award the lead to Helio Castroneves, before a stall on the next pit cycle would return the lead to Newgarden.

As the lead was exchanged between Newgarden and Castroneves, they continued to be followed and eventually challenged by teammate Simon Pagenaud and the hard charging Chip Ganassi Racing Honda of Scott Dixon. After Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay lost control and tapped the wall to bring out the caution, Pagenaud was able to capture the lead from Newgarden with a quick pit stop.

Now in second, Newgarden remained the fastest car on track and began applying pressure to Pagenaud. After a few attempts that were blocked by his teammate, with 31 laps to go Newgarden dove to the inside in Turn 1 and the two cars made contact. The move sent Pagenaud’s car up the track, with Dixon capitalizing and claiming second. This would prove to be the winning move as Josef Newgarden won the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 followed by Scott Dixon in second and Simon Pagenaud in third.

The win, his third in four races, solidifies his title chances after taking the points lead at Mid-Ohio.

“I didn't want us to be denied tonight for sure,” Newgarden said, maintaining that his teammate had given him room to work with. “I tried to get Simon to move over a little when we were coming to the opening of the corner. We both had to slow up. Fortunately worked out well for us. Pagenaud, didn't get up into the wall or anything like that, so I would say it worked out okay for him, too.”

Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud was less enthusiastic about the move, but is still setting his sights on a repeat title.

“I can't say that I'm overly pleased, but that's racing,” Pagenaud said. “We still have the championship out there, so we'll get ready for Watkins Glen.”

The event was also notable for the return of Dale Coyne Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais making his return to IndyCar competition for the first time since a horrific injury in practice for the Indianapolis 500. The French racing icon was able to overcome issues and a few poor restarts to place tenth in his return.

“It wasn't an easy race,” Bourdais said, crediting his pit crew for their role in keeping him competitive. “I'm just really happy with my top 10. It's a good way to salvage something this weekend.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series will next take on Watkins Glen International for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen, the second to last event in the 2017 season. Canadian fans can follow the action live with Sportsnet 360 on September 3rd.

All driver quotes taken from official IndyCar press releases.