Josef Newgarden only qualified second on Saturday, yet you could have easily misunderstood that moments after the green flag waved Sunday to start the Iowa Corn 300 at the sub one mile Iowa Speedway. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver immediately dispatched of pole sitter Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske and then went on to single handedly dominate the 300-lap distance to earn his third career Verizon IndyCar Series victory.
After finishing second for the past two years at Iowa Speedway, Newgarden quickly shed the bridesmaid tag on Sunday, leading an IndyCar record 282 of the 300 laps surrendering the top spot only during regular pit stop shuffles. While the closest pursuer to the Tennessean proved to be a mixed bag from start to finish, Newgarden always seemed able to break from the pack about twenty laps into every green flag run, building a lead sometimes as large as ten seconds.
Behind the ECR pilot, Will Power made a late move to secure runner-up honors on the day. Fresh off his first win of the season at the Road America road course in Wisconsin, the Australian is not known as a top oval track runner, but managed to gain needed points to keep his hopes for the 2016 series title intact, despite the fact illness forced him to withdraw from the opening race in March at St. Petersburg, Florida.
Scott Dixon also picked up much needed points by jumping to second during the final pit stop round, which came under yellow following his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Max Chilton’s spin. The New Zealander however, was unable to keep pace with Newgarden before losing out to Power and settling for third place. Championship leader Simon Pagenaud held on to finish fourth, while Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Mikhail Aleshin earned his second top five of the season by placing fifth.
The Russian was consistently the fastest Honda-powered driver throughout the weekend and was in contention for the podium, until he was slowed by a bad pit stop during the final caution period.
Among the second five, Andretti-Herta Autosport’s Alexander Rossi drove a steady race to finish sixth, his best result since he won the 100th Indianapolis 500 in May. After running as high as third during the final green flag period, Tony Kanaan fell back to handling problems and settled for a seventh place result. Sebastien Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe, and Charlie Kimball completed the top ten.
After winning three of the last four editions of the Iowa Corn 300 entering Sunday, Ryan Hunter-Reay endured a frustrating weekend, only qualifying 20th on Saturday and then falling out of the event early due to mechanical failure and finished 22nd and last. Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya’s recent run of disappointment also continued on Sunday as the Colombian fell out of the event after 180 laps due to an apparent engine failure and finished 20th.
The victory is the first oval track score for Newgarden and his first of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, joining his successes last year at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama and at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Canada, which will host the next round of the 2016 championship in seven days time.