Newgarden launches title chase with 5th IndyCar win
Despite having more than double the wins of any of his rivals, Newgarden has only been in the middle of the title hunt. He started the race on the oval court outside of St. Louis ranked fourth in the standings, 22 points behind leader Will Power, teammate Penske.
Newgarden is now second in the standings and just three points behind Power with two races to go. Newgarden won for the third consecutive year at WWTR and the fourth time in his career.
“Hard work, good team,” Newgarden told his team over the radio. “Great, great effort. Perfect car.”
Dale Coyne Racing rookie David Malukas put in a stunning display of navigating through traffic after the final restart. He passed McLaughlin on the final lap to disrupt Penske’s potential 1-2 finish, and had the race gone one more lap Malukas might have had a chance to catch Newgarden for the win.
Newgarden in a Chevrolet beat Malukas in a Honda by 0.4708 seconds.
McLaughlin finished third for Penske and was followed by Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward in fourth. The race started with seven drivers separated by 59 points in the standings; it ended with seven drivers separated by 58 points – O’Ward gained one point.
Takuma Sato was fifth for Coyne and was followed by Power, who had a near-perfect first half and led the pack until a split strategy from Penske pushed him back into traffic. Malukas and Sato then caught up with him after the final restart as the Coyne cars used fresher tires to work their way through the field.
It was a disappointing race for title contenders Chip Ganassi Racing; all three have lost ground in the standings. Marcus Ericsson was seventh, Scott Dixon was eighth and defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou was ninth. Dixon moved from second in the standings, six points, to third in points and 14 strikeouts.
Matthew Brabham briefly stopped Linus Lundqvist’s Indy Lights rout by winning the Junior Series race earlier on Saturday. It was the second win of the season for Andretti Autosport driver, who is the grandson of three-time Formula 1 world champion Jack Brabham.
Lundqvist, who has won five of 10 races this season, finished second and Brabham conceded the title to him. Brabham’s win moved him up to second in the standings, more than 100 points behind Lundqvist with three races to go.
“I only focus on race wins personally. Anything can happen, but I seriously doubt it,” Brabham said.
Lundqvist, meanwhile, has had slow talks about a promotion to IndyCar next season. He drives for an affiliate team of Dale Coyne Racing, which is in contract talks to bring Takuma Sato back for another year.
“I call people. Not the other way around, unfortunately,” Lundqvist said, adding that his success rate was “around 50%” in getting a team on the phone.
“I just called them 10 times. They are forced to resume sometimes, ”he said.
Meanwhile, defending NASCAR Mexico champion Salvador de Alba won the 2000 Indy Pro race from pole. It was de Alba’s second career victory, but he inherited his first win last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when his teammate failed post-race inspection.
IndyCar races September 24 at the Portland Road Course. Palou took pole last year to reclaim the IndyCar points lead and ultimately claim his first championship.
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