After collecting two victories two weekends ago at Iowa Speedway, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden entered Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix 80 points behind Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou in the NTT IndyCar Series championship standings.
For Newgarden to close the gap to Palou, he needed Palou to have a mediocre performance combined with a strong finish of his own in his hometown race. Newgarden’s decent qualifying time Saturday put him in ninth position for Sunday, while Palou began the race in fourth. Starting just one spot ahead of Newgarden was second-year driver Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood.
Each of the two prior races over the last two years at the Nashville street course had been nothing short of chaos, with lengthy green flag runs being scarce. But this season’s race was the opposite. There were just four cautions Sunday compared to nine each in 2021 and 2022.
After a clean start to the race, the first caution came on lap 12 when Dale Coyne Racing’s David Malukas was forced to retire from the race after a rear-wing failure.
The polesitter, Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, led the opening 24 laps of the race until Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean overtook the New Zealander.
Kirkwood and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson led for a few laps a piece before Palou took the lead and led for 11 laps until he pitted on Lap 45.
Once the leaders completed their pit stop cycles, McLaughlin passed Grosjean on Lap 49 for second place while crossing over the bridge and approaching turn four.
Kirkwood then regained the lead on Lap 54 after McLaughlin, Grosjean and Team Penske’s Will Power took turns leading one lap while green flag pit stops were taking place.
With Palou running in the top five with just 10 laps remaining, his team was concerned about his ability to make it to the finish line based on the amount of fuel that was left in his No. 10 Chevrolet. However, after Meyer Shank Racing’s Linus Lundqvist hit the wall on lap 70, Palou was likely to make it to the end of the race without another pitstop as he was able to save fuel under caution.
The fourth and final yellow flag of the day came out on Lap 74 when Arrow McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist, Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Agustin Canapino and A.J. Foyt Enterprises’ Benjamin Pederson were tangled at the rear of the field.
The red flag was eventually displayed to allow the wreck to be cleared while also allowing the race to finish under green flag conditions. The green flew with just four laps remaining.
Kirkwood held off McLaughlin for his second victory of the season, while Palou was able to make his fuel last and finish in the third position. Newgarden and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon rounded out the top five.
Although Newgarden had a decent day with a fourth-place finish, Palou was able to extend his points lead to 84 points heading into the final four races of the season.
The NTT IndyCar Series will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course at 2 p.m. EST August 12 for the Gallagher Grand Prix, which will air on USA Network.