(MADISON, IL) It took over four hours for IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden to claim the checkered flags at Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 held at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway but it was well worth the wait for numerous reasons.
Hampered by a two-hour-plus rain delay at the 1.25-mile oval, the pilot of the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet netted the victory within a 47-lap, event-ending trophy dash. The win, his fifth this season in the NTT IndyCar Series, marked the third event in a row at Gateway where he stood atop the podium.
More importantly, the duke jettisoned the two-time series champion to second place in the standings and now trails current points leader Will Power (Team Penske) by only three points with two races left in the season.
“It was a great night!” said Newgarden after the race. “Very big night. You got to win these races when you’re in position to do it. I wanted to close that one out really badly, really badly.”
Power, the evening’s pole sitter, finished sixth and will have to scrap with Newgarden and the rest of champ potentials in his quest of a second IndyCar title.
Even with Newgarden’s impressive win, the feel-good story of the night was the runner-up finish of series rookie David Malukas (Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports). The Chicago-native started twelfth on the 26-car grid and pushed his way from fourth to second in the late-sprint and only trailed Newgarden by .4708 seconds at the end of the scramble. His previous personal best was eighth last month in Iowa.
“Yeah, it means so much,” said Malukas of the benchmark. “From the start of this season, started off rough, making a lot of rookie mistakes. But I kept on learning. I knew the car was getting so good, the team was doing such a good job to get the connection and chemistry on what we needed, what I wanted. It was going so well. I knew the car deserved a podium.”
Newgarden’s teammate Scott McLaughlin finished third, 1.5 seconds behind the race winner. Starting fourth Saturday, the Kiwi was passed by Malukas with two laps left.
“After the sun went away, lost my balance in that last stint,” he said afterwards. “Didn’t have what Josef and David had. David was strong, coming at us really hard. I sort of knew I didn’t have much.”
In the relatively clean race that started at 5 pm, Power started strong early and led 128 laps overall on the night. A brief caution in Lap 145 reset the field. Upon restart, Power contended with Newgarden, McLaughlin and Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren SP) for the lead.
At Lap 214, showers commenced that resulted in a red-flag halt and a two-hour-plus rain delay. When action resumed, Newgarden quickly gained the advantage and laid the foundation for victory.
“I think it starts with having the best cars,” he reflected. “You can’t do this unless you have a dominant car. I’ve had that.”
When the event ended well into the nine o’clock hour, Newgarden topped the field with an average speed of 149.231 MPH.
Newgarden looks to use that momentum as the NTT IndyCar Series advances to the Grand Prix of Portland Labor Day weekend and to potentially leapfrog over Power’s slim three-point lead.
“I think we’re just going to race like we always do,” he said. “It’s kind of as simple as that. We race all year, we race hard. It’s not going to be the first time Will and I have raced together. We’ve had many, many races that have been in lockstep. We’ll just fight it out as normal.”
The championship tussle is still extremely tight as Scott Dixon (Chip Gannasi Racing) finished eighth and sits in third place (-14) while teammate Marcus Ericsson finished seventh Saturday and sits in fourth (-17).
In Saturday’s race, O’Ward finished fourth while Takuma Sato (Dale Coyne Racing with RWR) finished fifth.
For more on the NTT IndyCar Series, go to their official website.
By trade, he is a six-time, regional Emmy Award-winning news videographer/editor for KTVI/KPLR-TV. By hobby, he is a writer for Arch City Media, dating back to February 2014. Emphasis is on featuring and promoting local women's sports, but will cover anything that is not reported by traditional media outlets. Also a contributor to local concert reviews.