Texas IndyCar: Newgarden steals win from McLaughlin by 0.0669sec
Scott McLaughlin led 186 of 248 laps at Texas Motor Speedway, but a last-corner, last-lap outside pass saw two-time champion teammate Josef Newgarden hit the front and score Team Penske’s 600th victory.
McLaughlin took less than a lap to get around the outside of polesitter Felix Rosenqvist of Arrow McLaren SP-Chevy, while Will Power initially dismissed Takuma Sato’s Dale Coyne Racing with RWR-Honda to gain third.
Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves moved forward, tried to pass Power for third but lost momentum and fell back behind Sato and Andretti Autosport-Honda’s Colton Herta, the latter pair then passing Power to gain third and fourth.
The first yellow flew on Lap 12 when Alexander Rossi’s Andretti car, which had jumped the start and had to give back the places he’d gained, suddenly slowed and started trickling down to pitlane speed on the inside of the track. Day over.
So the restart on Lap 17 of the 248-lap race would see McLaughlin leading Rosenqvist, Sato, Herta, Power, Castroneves, Scott Dixon of Ganassi, Newgarden, Marcus Ericsson (Ganassi) and Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevy. However, at the drop of the green Pato O’Ward was on the move, passing VeeKay, Newgarden and Ericsson by Lap 19 to move into eighth.
The other startling performer at this stage was rookie Kyle Kirkwood of AJ Foyt Racing-Chevy, who pitted under the caution, restarted 23rd and then charged forward to move into the Top 10 by Lap 28, running ninth behind O’Ward.
VeeKay was the first of the top dozen runners to pit on Lap 54, and then Ericsson pitted. McLaughlin and Rosenqvist stopped on Lap 57. Sato, Herta, Power and Dixon went to Lap 62, leaving Kirkwood, the first stopper, temporarily out front. Sato was hobbled by teammate David Malukas stalling as he left his pitbox, blocking Taku’s entry into his pitbox, and the two-time indy 500 winner tumbled down the order to 20th.
The earlier stoppers benefited from running fresh rubber for longer, for once the frontrunners’ pitstops had been completed, McLaughlin was out front with a 12.5sec margin over teammate Newgarden who had been tenth before the stops. Behind him, teammates O’Ward and Rosenqvist were battling over third, ahead of Herta, Ericsson, Dixon and Power. The latter appeared to be running lean, trying to make it on only two more stops, some 2.7sec behind Dixon.
Up front, his teammate McLaughlin was losing time behind a knot of backmarkers, and Newgarden had reduced his deficit to the leader to just 6.5sec by Lap 90. A lap earlier, Rosenqvist passed O’Ward to claim third.
On Lap 98, the caution flew again, as Sato’s left-front touched Devlin DeFrancesco’s right-rear in Turn 1, as they dueled over 17th. The touch was enough to send Sato up into the wall at the exit of Turn 2, brushing the wall and potentially scraping debris onto the racing line. Sato limped his car back to the pitlane. Meanwhile the field bunched up before heading for the pits.
Texas debutant Romain Grosjean’s Andretti car was smoking however, and wouldn’t re-emerge from pitlane, his engine having cut out. Up front, the order had shuffled considerably, with the Arrow McLaren SP pairing apparently falling out of contention with a drop to 16th and 17th. Rosenqvist skidded long through his pitbox, while O’Ward hit his left-front tire changer. Consequently, the Mexican would be sent to the back of the pack.
By contrast, Penske were just fine, however, as the #12 crew had sent Power up into third behind teammates McLaughlin and Newgarden. This trio would be chased on the restart by Dixon, Ericsson, VeeKay, Herta, reigning champion Alex Palou, and then the Meyer Shank pair of Simon Pagenaud and Castroneves. Behind them, back of the grid chargers Graham Rahal and Kirkwood ran 11th and 13th, sandwiching DeFrancesco.
However, on the Lap 114 restart, Kirkwood lost it trying to pass DeFrancesco around the outside of Turn 3/4. On the less grippy higher line and in the dirty air of Rahal who was running the same trajectory to pass Castroneves, the Indy Lights champion’s Foyt car slammed into the Turn 4 wall. Malukas, O’Ward and Kellett took the opportunity to pit under the subsequent caution, O’Ward requiring a new front wing after his impact with his thankfully uninjured crewmember. It dropped him a lap down.
The Lap 129 restart went fine for two-thirds of the lap. Then as Castroneves pulled to the outside of Rahal, DeFrancesco drafted down to the inside of the RLL car, hit the transition between the banking and the slow-down lane, and that sent him up into Rahal who in turn struck the MSR car on his outside. All three were eliminated after heavy impact with the wall, and out came the fourth caution. Under yellow, Rosenqvist pitted with a mechanical issue, and was ordered to shut the car down – a sad end for the polesitter.
RLL’s loss was also its gain, as Santino Ferrucci – drafted in to replace Jack Harvey, who wasn’t cleared by IndyCar medical after his crash on Saturday – had now moved up to 10th. Behind him was Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jimmie Johnson, running 11th in his first oval race in an IndyCar.
The restart came at the end of Lap 148, and VeeKay passed Ericsson around the outside for fifth. On Lap 150, McLaughlin lost the lead to Newgarden, but the Kiwi quickly reclaimed it.
Meanwhile VeeKay kept charging, picking off Dixon, Power and Newgarden, the latter losing enough momentum to also force him to cede position to Power. On Lap 159, VeeKay swept past McLaughlin to grab the lead along the front straight. Meanwhile, Newgarden had dropped back to sixth, demoted by Dixon and Ericsson, and ran just ahead of Herta, Pagenaud, Ferrucci and Palou.
On Lap 164, Power barreled off Turn 4 to charge past both McLaughlin and VeeKay and take the lead, the latter two perhaps easing off to save fuel, so they could make it on just one more stop. McLaughlin fell to fourth behind Dixon. Further back Johnson passed both Palou and Ferrucci to run ninth.
McLaughlin, Ericsson and Newgarden moved past Dixon for fourth and fifth respectively on Lap 178, while McLaughlin, Ericsson and Newgarden had passed VeeKay to run second, third and fourth by Lap 181. Up front, Power – naturally burning more fuel than his pursuers – had backed the pace down to 200mph, and put up no resistance to Ericsson, McLaughlin and Newgarden when they passed him on Laps 184-185.
VeeKay pitted on Lap 186, Herta on 187, but the latter was taken out of contention by a front-left wheelnut jamming.
The Penskes pitted on Lap 191, whereas leader Ericsson left it to Lap 194, and rejoined behind VeeKay, McLaughlin and Newgarden, although Ericsson was hassling Newgarden for the next several laps. Further back, Dixon had lost momentum in traffic after his pitstop and teammate Johnson moved past him to lead both Dixon and Palou.
McLaughlin moved past VeeKay on Lap 205, and that became the lead on Lap 206 when out of sequence Callum Ilott pitted his Juncos Hollinger-Chevy. Newgarden and Ericsson also passed VeeKay to claim second and third respectively. Power demoted the Carpenter car to take fourth on Lap 215, Pagenaud did the same 10 laps later, the highly impressive Johnson a lap after that.
Johnson passed Pageaud for fifth place on Lap 236, and was matching Power who was struggling to make it to the end. So too was Pagenaud whose laps dropped under the 200mph mark, allowing Dixon and Palou ahead. Dixon got around Johnson for fifth on Lap 246.
But the focus was up ahead as McLaughlin got caught behind traffic, and suddenly Newgarden was charging at him. Carrying more momentum through Turns 3 and 4, the #2 Penske charged onto the tail of the leader and around the outside of McLaughlin, Newgarden stole the win by 0.0669sec.
Ericsson scored a worthy podium in third, first Honda home, while Power just held off his long-time rival Dixon to claim fourth.
Also commendable was Ferrucci, who passed VeeKay for ninth on the final lap.
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