MADISON, Ill. — The Bommarito 500 at World Wide Technolgy Raceway had huge implications on the NTT IndyCar Series Championship hunt as Josef Newgarden led 138 of the race’s 260 laps to claim his second win of the season Saturday night.
“Team Penske is good here,” Newgarden said. “We wanted to get back into this fight. I couldn’t ask for much more. We know it’s going to be a climb over these last four events. Any win is important. Wish we had a couple more in getting to this point.”
When the green flag dropped, Graham Rahal and Ed Jones were early dismissals from the race as they got into each other on Lap Three. Both cars had to be retired.
Coming into the season’s final race on an oval, Alex Palou had just a 21-point lead in the championship standings. His engine failure in Indianapolis, not even a week prior, cut his championship lead in half.
That lead would disappear completely at WWT Raceway.
On a restart early in the race, out of a caution caused by Ed Carpenter’s spin into the Turn One wall, Palou would get tangled up with Rinus Veekay heading into the first turn, collecting his teammate Scott Dixon with them. The incident ended both Ganassi cars’ nights and vaulted Pato O’Ward into the lead in the points halfway through the race as he ran in the top five all night long.
“It was hard to get up to the top 10,” Palou said. “We just wanted to have a clean race, we just wanted to get some points, and I thought we had a good race car. Nothing we could do today. It’s just a shame it played out like that.”
“I’m very sorry for Alex and Scott,” said Veekay. “I had a really good restart on the inside of Alex and behind Scott. I get into Turn 1, and I was really focusing on Scott, just to stay behind him, and it just kind of stacked up.
Midway through the race, Newgarden would exchange the lead with Colton Herta who had yet another fast car, but after the final round of pit stops, Herta broke a half shaft in the rear of his car, rendering one of his rear tires inoperable. He was forced to retire his car finishing 18th.
But, most people were paying attention to Romain Grosjean, who was running in his first-ever oval race. Grosjean is a rookie and had spent 10 years in Formula 1 before jumping to IndyCar.
At one point in the race, he made five passes in six laps and ran in the top ten. Throughout, he showed spurts of talent and inexperience on ovals.
“It was amazing,” Grosjean said. “The passing was certainly more complicated I made a few mistakes on cold tires, but for a while, it was absolutely incredible.”
Grosjean finished 14th after making some mistakes and being caught out by a late caution caused by Alexander Rossi, who bobbled on an out-lap and hit the wall, the second Andretti car to go out in just a few laps at that juncture.
Herta’s and Rossi’s misfortune played into the hands of both Newgarden and O’Ward, who ran 1-2 to the end with Newgarden gaining his third win at WWT Raceway, his 20th career IndyCar win, and Team Penske’s 222nd win as an IndyCar team.
Newgarden’s teammates Will Power and Scott McGlaughlin took third and fourth. Sebastien Bourdais had his best night of a season that has certainly been forgettable taking fifth,
“We got a little bit lucky,” Bourdais said. “it was that last yellow that helped us. the car wasn’t the best, but we just played the long game and didn’t make any mistakes.”
Newgarden’s win moves him into third in the championship standings. Pato O’Ward will take the p0ints-lead into the Grand Prix of Portland in just three weeks on Sept. 12th. Alex Palou is now trailing in second place by ten points. Newgarden is 22-points behind O’Ward.
Only three races remain in the season with just three races remaining in the 2021 season.