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Tuesday, June 18
The Indiana Daily Student

sports motor sports

COLUMN: Josef Newgarden goes back-to-back, impresses in doubleheader at Iowa

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Entering the two-race weekend at Iowa Speedway, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou led second-place teammate Scott Dixon by 117 points in the IndyCar NTT Series championship standings.

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden stood further back at 126 points behind Palou, but Newgarden dominated the weekend by sweeping the doubleheader and has now tightened the gap in the race for the Astor Cup.

After winning the pole Saturday morning for each leg of the two races, Team Penske’s Will Power controlled the opening half of the Hy-Vee Homefront 250. The Australian driver led the first 62 laps before Palou took over on the 63rd lap. Power regained the lead just one lap later and led until he was overtaken by Newgarden on the 121st lap.

From then on, Newgarden led all but one lap en route to his fifth career victory at Iowa Speedway. Not only did the driver from Nashville, Tennessee win the first leg – he dominated. Just five drivers finished on the lead lap as Newgarden narrowly missed out on lapping Power, the eventual fifth-place finisher.

Newgarden parked his No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet at the finish line after capturing his third win this season. Although one would think the American driver would be thrilled with the result, Newgarden climbed out of his car and expressed his frustration with how lapped cars raced him.

Newgarden’s first of two victories Saturday cut Palou’s championship lead to 108 points. Newgarden was a heavy favorite come Sunday afternoon when the green flag waved for the Hy-Vee One Step 250.

Power started on the pole and once again led the opening laps of the race until Newgarden was able to overtake him on the 31st lap. After Saturday, there surely wasn’t a way that Newgarden could’ve given a more impressive performance on Sunday, but he did.

The 2023 Indianapolis 500 champion led 212 laps, totaling 341 laps in the lead of the 500 laps between both legs of the doubleheader combined. As Newgarden handled a majority of the race, a scary incident in which a tire was loose on the track brought out a caution midway through his superb showing.

The loose tire came off Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s Sting Ray Robb’s car because the rear tire changer was unable to secure the tire to his car during a pit stop.

Had a driver struck the tire at full speed, a tragic accident could’ve taken place involving the crowd or a fellow driver. Newgarden had a close call and narrowly missed the tire before the yellow flag eventually flew.

Sunday wasn’t the first time this season that a tire has been the subject of a scary situation. During a crash near the end of the Indianapolis 500, Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood had a tire fly off his car and over the catch fence. That tire struck a parked car outside of the track and thankfully avoided the stands full of spectators.

After Sunday’s remarkable performance, Newgarden cut Palou’s championship lead to 80 points and jumped up to second place in the standings. With four out of five oval-track races completed on the 2023 schedule, the final oval race is scheduled for August 27 at World Wide Technologies Raceway in Madison, Illinois.

The NTT IndyCar Series will take this upcoming weekend off before traveling to Newgarden’s hometown for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville.

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