Newgarden Earns Million Dollar Bonus With Road America Win

Team Penske driver finds redemption after suffering heartbreak here at Elkhart Lake last season.
Newgarden Earns Million Dollar Bonus With Road America Win

After an uneventful month of May, a frustrating weekend in Detroit, and painful memories from a year ago, Josef Newgarden found redemption today at Road America. The Team Penske driver dominated the four-mile circuit in Elkhart Lake and captured his third win of the season.

Newgarden was able to get around Alexander Rossi during the first round of pit stops, and retained the lead for the majority of the afternoon. He was being constantly hounded by Rossi, and was able to hold off two late-race charges following a caution with just eight laps remaining.

“I was just trying to stay focused on what I had to do,” he said. “Just an unbelievable job by everyone at Team Penske. Great to have PPG on board with us. We’ve had a lot of success with this car and Team Chevy. That first stop really set the tone for us. I felt like our car was really hooked up and we had everything we needed from Chevy on the power side.”

Newgarden led 26 of the 55 laps today, and won by 3.3 seconds. "It’s what makes IndyCar so tough," he said. "It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen! That’s just what makes this series so difficult, and it makes it fun to be in. You’ve got to be on your toes at all times."

After eight events, Newgarden is the only driver to win multiple races this season and collected a cool $1 million bonus for winning on a street circuit, road course, and oval track. The money is being split between his team and the SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags and Walks Nashville charities, thanks to the PeopleReady organization.

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This is Newgarden's second victory and fourth podium finish at Road America, and the 23rd race win of his career. That ties him for 19th on IndyCar's All-Time Wins list with Tommy Milton.

While Rossi managed another podium finish today, it was actually Marcus Ericsson that came away with the runner-up finish. The Indy 500 winner got around Rossi on the final restart, in what was an eventful day for the Ganassi driver.

The big moment came on Lap 4 when Ericsson got together with teammate Alex Palou while battling for 3rd place. Marcus made a late move on the inside of Alex in Turn 5 and the toe-link broke on the No. 10 car when he tried to turn behind the No. 8 Honda after the pass was made. Palou was extremely frustrated after the contact.

"I just think he was trying to win the race on the third lap, and the car broke and that’s it, game over,” Palou said. "I was surprised that my teammate hit me, not that the car broke. It’s a single-seater, right, so if you have a hard hit it just breaks. We can play this game as well, so we’ll see."

Ericsson apologized to Palou after the race. "First of all I’m really sorry, "Ericsson said. "You never want to have contact with another teammate, so I feel super sorry that Alex had to retire there. From my point of view, the door was open and I’m side-by-side, or even further than that, and I made the corner fine. It was a nice racing move, you see a gap and you go for it, and it’s important at the beginning of the race to get track position, but with that said it’s terrible that he had to retire at that spot."

Rossi was hoping to turn his pole qualifying effort into a race win. It has been three years since his last victory, which came at this same track. A podium was still a nice result for the Andretti driver, but he wanted more.

"Josef had a little better pace than us," Rossi admitted. "I don't think we could have beat him. A good day. Always disappointing to start on Pole and not win it. It's been a good couple races so we'll take the positives from that."

Andretti Autosport didn't score the win today but they did have three cars finish inside the top five. It nearly didn't happen though, as Rossi, Colton Herta, and Romain Grosjean were all battling wheel-to-wheel in the frantic closing laps of the race. It was an impressive run for Herta, who collected his fourth consecutive top-five finish here despite starting 11th after a six-spot grid penalty for an engine change.

Herta also had some issues with dirt in his eyes during the race. "It's one of the more difficult races I've done," he said. "Lap 30, I had stuff in my eyes. Couldn't open them all the way. Constantly trying to get stuff out. Lap 54 I got it out. The towel I used at the pit stop, that did nothing."

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Felix Rosenqvist had a fantastic return to Road America after missing last year's race due to injury. The driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet scored a 6th place finish in what was a bittersweet day for the Arrow McLaren SP team. Pato O'Ward was running near the front for most of the afternoon but his engine quit just eight laps from the finish. It was a major blow to the young driver's spot in the championship standings.

Scott McLaughlin and Scott Dixon both had a quiet afternoon but still managed a top-ten finish. Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard also scored top-ten results today, which were a major uplift for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team. Jack Harvey, the team's third car, finished 13th on Sunday.

Will Power entered the weekend as the championship points leader but suffered a big setback early in the race on Lap 8 when rookie Devlin DeFrancesco misjudged a move going into Turn 5 and sent the No. 12 Chevrolet into the outside concrete wall. A furious Power vowed revenge. "Wait til I see DeFrancesco, man. Wait til I see him."

Nothing transpired after the two drivers got back to pit road but the rookie did defend his move. "I had a run into Turn 3, banged wheels a little. Then I had a run into Turn 5. He went inside, I went to outside. I saw him move right so I went to dive bomb and we made contact. I need to look at it but that's what I saw. You could say I made contact with him - I did. But from my vantage point, he moved. We need to look at it better."

It was another mediocre outing for Ed Carpenter Racing, as their two drivers finished 14th and 17th. Rinus VeeKay was pushed off course on Lap 4 of the race but was happy to be back at Elkhart Lake after missing the race last year due to his shoulder surgery.

Ericsson now takes a 27-point lead over Power in the championship heading into Round 9. Newgarden is 32 points out of the lead with O'Ward and Palou rounding out the top five in the standings.

With the Indy 500 paying double points, the season has effectively reached the halfway point. The series will now have a couple of weekends off before the next round on the 2022 calendar. That next race will be the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 3. Coverage for the event begins at Noon ET on NBC.

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