From Will Power leading from pole, Josef Newgarden dominating the middle sector of the race, and Scott McLaughlin undercutting into the lead just before a long rain delay—a Team Penske win never seemed in doubt all night at the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 on Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway—AKA Gateway, across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis.
In the end, it was Newgarden that won the race within the race created by the weather delay and pulling closer to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship lead. This was Newgarden’s third straight victory at the festive 1.25-mile oval located between a swamp and landfill within sight of the Gateway Arch.
“I was so happy we could finish this race,” Newgarden said. “Scott McLaughlin, he wanted to win, too. I love that about us. We have a good relationship. He drove me super fair there at the end.”
Scott McLaughlin finished third in the No. 3 Odyssey Battery Team Penske Chevrolet despite leading at the restart with 37 laps remaining after a red flag of two hours, nine minutes due to rain and lightning.
Teams attempted various pit strategies in the second half of the race to try and be out front when the expected rain arrived, taking an unlikely win if the race didn’t restart. David Malukas and Takuma Sato were on an alternate strategy that pushed Malukas to the lead from Laps 207-211, but he was forced to pit. The rain arrived just two laps later.
It appeared pit strategy and traffic may have foiled Newgarden just before the rain arrived.
McLaughlin pitted from second on Lap 207. Newgarden stopped one lap later from the lead but followed rookie Christian Lundgaard in the No. 30 Mi-Jack Honda into the pits, with Newgarden’s pit in lap clocking in at 1.065 seconds slower than McLaughlin’s. McLaughlin kept the lead when Newgarden blended back to the racetrack after his stop, holding the front until the red flag.
When the race resumed at 9:05 p.m. local time, track conditions had changed significantly because the rain cleaned the asphalt and there was better grip due to lower temperatures after sundown.
The starting field returned to the track under caution after the red flag was lifted, and McLaughlin pulled away when the green flag flew on Lap 224. But Newgarden wasted no time tucking under McLaughlin’s gearbox on the back straightaway and dove under his teammate in Turn 3 on Lap 225, the first full lap after the restart, to take the lead for good.
“We just had to have a good start,” Newgarden said. “I knew Scott was going to be good at the end there, and he had a great restart. I just tried to work the high lane. The high lane worked earlier for me. We just had enough to get by him. He was no slouch this weekend.” McLaughlin stayed within approximately six-tenths of a second of his teammate for the next 34 laps but couldn’t find a way past.
Two-time series champion Newgarden pulled to within three points of teammate and series leader Will Power in the race for the Astor Challenge Cup with just two races remaining. Power led a race-high 128 laps but finished sixth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Meanwhile, Malukas put the exclamation point on the most thrilling drive of his young career to advance from fifth at the restart to second at the finish. Chicago-area native Malukas reached third place by passing O’Ward on Lap 245 and then set his sights on Newgarden and McLaughlin.
“We ended up getting around O’Ward and we ended up getting past a lapped car, and they (pit box) said, ‘You see them in front,’ and I saw two Penskes, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, they’re Penskes!’ They were tough.”
While he never challenged Newgarden, Malukas passed McLaughlin for second on the final lap with a brave, full-send outside move in Turn 1, aided by the additional traction of the cooler temperatures and clean racetrack. Malukas’ previous-best finish before this stirring result was eighth last month in the second race of the doubleheader at the Iowa Speedway oval.
Pato O’Ward finished fourth in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, while two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato placed fifth for his best result this season in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda.
The championship race remains taut and tense. Seven drivers are still mathematically eligible to win the title, with just 58 points – only four more than the maximum awarded at one race – separating leader Power from seventh-place O’Ward.
Up next is the Grand Prix of Portland on Sunday, Sept. 4 at Portland International Raceway. The season ends with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday, Sept. 11 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The official distance of this race was 260 laps, but the rain delay almost made it feel like a 213-lap race in daylight followed by a 47-lap trophy dash under the lights.
Nashville, Tennessee driver Newgarden drove to his series-leading fifth victory of the season in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet by .4708 of a second over rookie David Malukas, whose spirited charge after the race restarted fell just short in the No. 18 HMD Honda but still resulted in a career-best finish.
Here’s the entire IndyCar, Indy Lights and USAC Silver Crown photo gallery from Gateway:
JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 2 PPG TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET – RACE WINNER
RANGE OF EMOTIONS AND WINNING AGAIN AT WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY RACEWAY? “All I can say is that this 2 car crew has been very patient with me. I’ve lost my cool probably a couple of time in closed doors just out of frustration for us. I feel like we’ve had small miscues timing-wise. That’s not really anybody’s fault. Sometimes you’re wrong time, wrong place. I feel like it’s been happening a lot this year. It kind of happened again tonight. I felt like we were in position and it was time to close. There was a barrier that got in front of us again, but fortunately we were able to get back out. I was so happy we could finish this race. Scott McLaughlin, he wanted to win too and I love that about us. We have a good relationship obviously. Each of us want to win but we he drove me super-fair there at the end, and we had a good fight.
“I can’t thank PPG and Team Chevy enough. Team Chevy absolutely crushed it with fuel mileage, reliability, power… everything you want from an engine. It’s a big night for everyone at Team Penske.”
HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO GET BY ON THE RESTART? “We just had to have a good start. I knew Scott was going to be good at the end there, and he had a good restart. I just tried to work the high lane. The high lane worked earlier for me and I tried to do it again at the finish there. We just had enough to get by him. He was no slouch this weekend. He was very, very good. Scott has done an amazing job. He could have easily won this race himself, so you have to give him credit. But I’m glad we were able to come back out on top. We’re going to have a lot more races together, that guy and I.”
THAT WAS NOT EASY. “It was tough at the end. I felt like it was getting ripped away again. We hung in there and had a good restart. Scott (McLaughlin) wasn’t easy to beat tonight. He was super-fast so you have to give it him. But I felt like we were in position with the final stop. This PPG car was on rails tonight for sure. We just needed to get into position, and we did that. Team Chevy, I can’t forget them… it was a big fuel mileage race in the first half of this thing, and I feel that Team Chevy absolutely crushed it as far as reliability, fuel mileage and the whole deal. They are a big part of why we were able to win.”
AFTER 25 INDYCAR WINS, DOES WINNING STILL HIT YOU THE SAME? “It’s pretty cool. It’s almost gotten harder. For sure, the competition has gotten more difficult. But internally and mentally, it’s gotten harder for me because I’ve come into this without ever believing I’d had have a career in motorsports. To have a career with a top-line team in a top-line series like INDYCAR with Team Penske… the more success you find, the more you want it. The more disappointing it is when it slips away. There is a mental shift that has to happen there. I’ve been so lucky to be here. I love working hard, love working with the people I do, and I want to do it for as long as I can.”
Will Power interview:
WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON 5G TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET – FINISHED SIXTH: “Once again, it was a good day with P6. Obviously we wanted more. We made a mistake and didn’t take that yellow. That’s INDYCAR. It’s never straight-forward. You expect that in the championship. It might come back to us in the next two in a different way. That’s how it is. We’ve got some good tracks coming up. Like I predicted, it will be a tough battle all the way to the end. I’ve been around a long time and know how these things go. The best thing about today is that we finished in the top-six, so that’s still pretty good.”
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE RESTART? “(Simon) Pagenaud’s guys, I don’t know what they were doing, but they sent him out in that battle a lap down. He came out and was just in the way. He was on the line I was, and I lost the (clean) air and lost a couple of positions. I don’t know what they were doing there, but that’s how I lost those. Otherwise we were going to be looking pretty good.”
Results Saturday of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline NTT INDYCAR SERIES event on the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (3) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 260, Running
2. (12) David Malukas, Honda, 260, Running
3. (4) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 260, Running
4. (7) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 260, Running
5. (8) Takuma Sato, Honda, 260, Running
6. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 260, Running
7. (2) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 260, Running
8. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 260, Running
9. (5) Alex Palou, Honda, 260, Running
10. (16) Graham Rahal, Honda, 260, Running
11. (11) Colton Herta, Honda, 259, Running
12. (9) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 259, Running
13. (18) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 259, Running
14. (21) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 259, Running
15. (17) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 259, Running
16. (26) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 259, Running
17. (20) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 258, Running
18. (24) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 258, Running
19. (19) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 258, Running
20. (13) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 257, Running
21. (22) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 257, Running
22. (25) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 256, Running
23. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 244, Running
24. (14) Jack Harvey, Honda, 239, Running
25. (10) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 226, Running
26. (23) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 53, Mechanical
Winner’s average speed: 149.231 mph
Time of Race: 02:10:40.1827
Margin of victory: 0.4708 of a second
Cautions: 2 for 22 laps
Lead changes: 13 among 10 drivers
Power 1 – 58
Grosjean 61 – 62
Power 63 – 123
O’Ward 124 – 126
Sato 127 – 148
Power 149 – 157
O’Ward 158 – 164
Newgarden 165 – 206
Malukas 207 – 210
Rahal 211 – 212
McLaughlin 213 – 224
Newgarden 225 – 260
NTT INDYCAR SERIES Point Standings: Power 482, Newgarden 479, Dixon 468, Ericsson 465, Palou 439, McLaughlin 428, O’Ward 424, Rosenqvist 340, Rossi 335, Herta 334, VeeKay 305, Rahal 302, Pagenaud 294, Grosjean 291, Lundgaard 283, Malukas 272, Daly 256, Castroneves 239, Sato 239, Johnson 194, Ilott 190, Harvey 184, DeFrancesco 177, Kirkwood 157, Kellett 120, Tony Kanaan 78, Carpenter 75, Santino Ferrucci 71, Tatiana Calderon 58, JR Hildebrand 53, Juan Pablo Montoya 44, Simona De Silvestro 26, Marco Andretti 17, Sage Karam 14, Stefan Wilson 10