MADISON, Ill. – By using a late-race pit strategy call and winning a daring pit-exit duel, defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden claimed his second victory of 2020 in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Race 2 on Sunday, Aug. 30 at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Newgarden, driving the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, pitted for the final time on Lap 153 from the third position to try to undercut the leaders and gain time on them. Exiting pit lane, Newgarden was locked in a stirring side-by-side race with Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
As the two approached the backstretch, Newgarden won the game of chicken and pulled ahead of 2020 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year O’Ward and cycled through to the lead on Lap 157 of the 200-lap race. He held off a hard-charging O’Ward in the final laps until last week’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Takuma Sato made contact with the wall in Turn 2 with four laps to go, resulting in a caution and an end to the race. Sato finished ninth.
“This was all a pit stop victory right here for me,” Newgarden said. “We got pretty dicey with Will (Power) and Pato (O’Ward) there on track. My guys have been amazing in the pits. They have put me into position every time. It was really fun racing Pato out of the pit. That was for the win right there, that race when we went side by side out of the pit exit.
“Really proud of my team. They won the race. I didn’t win it; they won it.”
Following Newgarden and O’Ward in the top five were Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Rinus VeeKay in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet and Saturday’s Race 1 winner Scott Dixon in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
O’Ward’s second-place finish matched his career-best finish from earlier this year at Road America July 12. It was his third podium finish of the year. O’Ward is third in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings.
“Man, we had a great weekend,” said O’Ward, who finished third in Saturday’s race at WWTR. “Our objective was to come in and try and score two podiums, and we did that. It would have been great to score a win. We’re so close.
“This Arrow McLaren SP No. 5 Chevrolet was very strong right out of the gates. We were super, super competitive. We’re knocking on the door, man. We’re very close, and we’re going to keep pushing. I know our time will come. We have to stay there.”
Power led 40 laps and was ahead as the final round of green flag pit stops began, but 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Power was caught in traffic attempting to enter pit lane, and he entered the warm-up lane behind the slower car of Ed Carpenter in the No. 20 United States Air Force Chevrolet, forcing him to lose time.
“I felt like we had the car to win,” Power said. “Obviously, it’s a traffic game. I’ve got to thank all of the guys. The Verizon 12 car Chevy was really strong today. We had great stops, great car. The strategy certainly didn’t work out obviously at the end, but still very happy to get a podium.”
VeeKay, a 19-year-old NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie, scored his best career finish and third top-10 result of the season, besting his fifth-place finish in the GMR Grand Prix on July 4 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. VeeKay was the biggest gainer of the day as he climbed from the 18th starting position.
The race on the 1.25-mile oval just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, featured a number of interesting, different strategies from the start as drivers in the lead pack deployed several different pit tactics to try to one-up each other.
NTT P1 Award winner Sato led the first 59 laps of the race, but the pit strategy call to stay out longer than the rest of the field hurt him as he lost the lead and fell to eighth after green flag pit stops cycled. Sato led seven more laps throughout the race for a race-high 66.
From there, O’Ward and Power traded the lead on the following green flag pit stop cycles and hounded each other for the lead on green flag runs while Newgarden patiently waited to capitalize for his second win at WWTR. Newgarden won here in 2017 en route to his first series championship.
With the lead, Newgarden gained on points leader Dixon. He entered the race 117 points behind five-time series champion Dixon but closed the gap to 96. O’Ward is 119 behind Dixon.
Finishing the day in 19th was 2004 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Tony Kanaan in the No. 14 Big Machine Vodka / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. This was the final race of Kanaan’s “TK Last Lap” tour where he competed on all the oval races this season. 2013 Indy 500 winner Kanaan holds the record for the most consecutive starts in the series at 318, which ended after the season-opening race June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“I wish I could have given the boys and A.J. (Foyt) and Big Machine a better result, but the rest of the day was fun,” Kanaan said. “It was a good way to end it. I want to thank my fans, my team and everyone who has been involved in this journey, my family. It’s been good.
“I’m done for this year but hopefully not done totally, but we’ll see. My fingers are crossed that maybe I could come back for a proper last lap with my fans, but for now, drop the mic.”
The next race on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule is the INDYCAR Harvest GP doubleheader Oct. 2-3 on the 2.439-mile IMS road course.