By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — After a frustrating loss at Iowa in 2018 to James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden put everything together to win the Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway.
The 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion put together a complete 300 laps for his fourth win of the 2019 IndyCar season, leading 245 laps and extending his championship lead to 29 points over sixth place finisher Alexander Rossi.
Scott Dixon finished second in a race that could have been much worse for the five-time series champion. After falling a lap down, the New Zealander managed to stay out in second place and a late race caution helped him make his final pit stop under yellow.
Hinchcliffe finished third in his first top-five finish of the season and his first podium finish since Iowa last year.
Rain delayed the start of the race by several hours and the green flag waved just after 10:45 p.m. CT. Another cell of rain made its way over the track in the first half of the race necessitating a 27 minute long red flag period.
Newgarden held the rest of the race under control, leading 152 of the final 156 laps while the rest of the field were running for scraps. Behind the top three, polesitter Simon Pagenaud finished fourth and Spencer Pigot recorded his first top-five of the season since the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
“I really wanted us to win the race,” said Newgarden. “I thought we had a good car to do that, a car capable, a team capable. I’m really pleased we were able to execute as well as we did tonight. We just did a good, solid job, car was perfect, pit stops, great strategy from Tim and the boys. We got another win here.
“Kind of redeemed ourselves from last year, too. Last year I felt we had the car. It honestly fell apart with the 100 laps to go. Why did it fall apart last year and how do we make it right again? I think we achieved that tonight.”
Dixon is fourth in points but his evening could have been much worse. At one point, the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda was in 19th place out of a 22 car field but that would change later in the race. Dixon got back onto the lead lap as the field were making their final green flag pit stops and actually led the race for two laps. A late caution period because of a spin and wall contact from Ed Carpenter gave Dixon the yellow he needed at the right time for him to pit late and get fresher tires than his competition.
“It was just one of those nights where we just really didn’t have the pace,” said Dixon. “We burned through the tires really quickly. We tried adjusting the balance. I was really loose on the first one. Second one lots of understeer. It was just like I think — I haven’t spoken to Felix, but looked like he was struggling with similar stuff.
“Huge credit to the team. They hung me out pretty long before the last caution. It enabled us to stay on the lead lap, get that lucky yellow there, get new tires. We were the first on the new set of tires. Had a good restart, were able to pick up some cars.”
Hinchcliffe had a strong car all weekend but felt he had no chance against Newgarden.
“I think kind of best of the rest after Josef is probably where we were,” said Hinchcliffe. “That first stint, the No. 5 car was a little off. We were just kind of learning, feeling out the track, seeing what the setup really was like. Big credit to the guys. Every time we came into the pits, we made it a little bit better. Adjusting tire pressures, wing, whatever. Working with the tools in the car, every stint we took a step forward. We were picking guys off slowly.”
The next race is the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday July 28th.