Josef Newgarden bumps his way to IndyCar win at Gateway
After dominating most of Saturday night’s IndyCar Series Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline, Josef Newgarden found himself behind Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud with less than 35 laps remaining at Gateway Motorsports Park.
With the best car throughout the race, Newgarden knew there was no way his No. 2 Chevrolet wasn’t going to end up in victory lane. Newgarden sped down the long frontstretch of the 1.25-mile oval, pulled alongside Pagenaud’s Chevrolet expecting the French driver to give him room. Instead, Pagenaud held his line.
Newgarden gave him the racing “bump and run,” causing Pagenaud’s car to drift off the racing line and nearly into the wall. Newgarden went on to lead the final 31 laps to claim his fourth win of the season.
The victory increased his lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings to 31 points over Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, 42 over Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and 43 over Pagenaud, who was incensed afterwards by getting knocked out of the way by his own teammate.
“I think if it wasn’t me, he would be in the fence with somebody else,” Pagenaud said after finishing third behind Newgarden and Dixon. “That’s what I’ve got to say.”
Pagenaud admitted he lost a lot of trust in the process.
“And respect, too,” Pagenaud said. “He doesn’t have respect for me. I’ve never seen Scott do that to his teammates in his career, whole career. I respect the hell out of this guy here (Dixon). Four-time champ. You know you can race him. He’s a perfect example. You know you can race each other. Especially on an oval it’s quite dangerous if you have an accident.
“As a teammate I think we need to work together. Because if we don’t work together, Dixon wins the race and it’s terrible for the team. That’s the kind of thing that’s disappointing. At the moment, it’s not something I really want to talk about with him.
“But it will come to a conclusion, I’m sure.”
Newgarden led five times for 170 laps and defeated Dixon by 0.6850-of-a-second in the Verizon IndyCar Series return to Gateway Motorsports Park for the first time since August 10, 2003.
A huge crowd jammed the 30,000 or so seats on the main frontstretch grandstand in a much larger crowd than saw the previous IndyCar race 14 years ago.
For most of the 248-lap race, the crowd had little to get excited about. The newly-repaved oval combined with the current short oval aero kits created a race on a one-groove track. Drivers who got off that racing line, spun out and found the wall.
Tony Kanaan crashed on the pace lap when his Chevrolet swapped ends in Turn 2. The first five laps were run under caution and once the green flag dropped on lap 6, pole-sitter Will Power lost control in Turn 2, spun around and had Ed Carpenter’s Chevrolet land on top of him after Carpenter ran into the back of Takuma Sato’s Honda.
Once the green flag waved on Lap 17, it was a long stretch of green flag racing with Newgarden in the lead from laps 6 to 60.
From that point, it was a “Penske Parade” except for Sebastien Bourdais leading four laps and CGR driver Max Chilton leading one lap when then lead Penske cars made pit stops from laps 61 to 67.
By the halfway point, many in the capacity crowd had seen enough and began to head toward the exits.
That was when Newgarden saved the show by utilizing the “bump and run”, using his car’s fender to push the car in front, so well his NASCAR Monster Cup teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano would be proud.
“Simon gave me a lane to work with,” Newgarden said. “I had a good tow on him, put my car inside in the opening, got about halfway alongside of him. One thing I didn’t want to do was touch him too hard. I think if I would have stayed too far left, I would have jumped the curb and that would have taken both of us out.
Newgarden led the final 31 laps.
“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. It fortunately worked out well for us on the 2 car side.
“Pagenaud, didn’t get up into the wall or anything like that, so I would say it worked out okay for him, too.”
Pagenaud, however, did not see it that way and said he will race Newgarden a little differently from now on.
Newgarden is not concerned.
“I’ll approach him the same,” Newgarden said. “He knows we’re racing. He knows we’re going to race in the future. We’re going to race for many years. This isn’t the first time we’ll battle, I’m sure. Hopefully he knows next time it’s getting a little tight in the corner, give me a little more room.
“But I think he’s one of the world class drivers that you race against. That’s what made that work. I can trust him to not lose the race car and hold his own into the corner. That’s really what made the move work. Any other guy, he might not have had the ability to make it work. Simon has that and even more.
“So, he’s one of the best drivers in the world to go head-to-head with.”
There were 11 lead changes among six drivers including all four drivers from Team Penske. In addition to Newgarden’s 170 laps in front of the field, Castroneves led one time for 52 laps, Pagenaud twice for 13 and Power for five.
Sebastian Bourdais, who returned to racing for the first time since his massive crash during his qualification attempt for the 101st Indianapolis 500 on May 20 left him with multiple fractures including a fractured right hip, started 19th and finished 10th. He led five laps.
The win was the fourth of the IndyCar season for Josef Newgarden.
1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 248, Running
2. (7) Scott Dixon, Honda, 248, Running
3. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 248, Running
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 248, Running
5. (11) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 248, Running
6. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 248, Running
7. (18) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 248, Running
8. (10) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 248, Running
9. (8) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 248, Running
10. (19) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 248, Running
11. (21) Sebastian Saavedra, Honda, 248, Running
12. (13) Graham Rahal, Honda, 248, Running
13. (12) Ed Jones, Honda, 248, Running
14. (20) Marco Andretti, Honda, 248, Running
15. (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 205, Contact
16. (17) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 168, Mechanical
17. (16) Max Chilton, Honda, 164, Contact
18. (15) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 100, Contact
19. (6) Takuma Sato, Honda, 6, Contact
20. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 5, Contact
21. (5) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 5, Contact
Winner’s average speed: 139.465 mph
Time of Race: 2:13:22.0358
Margin of victory: 0.6850 of a second
Cautions: 5 for 43 laps
Lead changes: 11 among 6 drivers
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Newgarden 547, Dixon 516, Castroneves 505, Pagenaud 504, Power 464, Rahal 436, Rossi 422, Sato 410, Kanaan 365, Hinchcliffe 351.
IndyCar Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Results