Josef Newgarden has claimed his second IndyCar Series race win of 2020 — sharp pit-stop strategy helping him vault to first in the second race of the Bommarito 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway.
The race was largely straightforward, but late traffic in the last 10 laps would spice up proceedings. Newgarden was under threat from Patricio O’Ward, but a race-finishing safety car shot down any chance for the McLaren driver to steal the win.
Scott Dixon ended up finishing fifth, where he sat for most of the race. Dixon has claimed a top-five finish in every race of the season so far, bar one. His championship lead is now 96 points.
From pole, Takuma Sato led the race early over the improved Penske cars of Newgarden and Will Power. Dixon started the race from sixth, and settled into fifth for the opening phase.
The top six, completed by O’Ward in fourth and Colton Herta in sixth, held a holding pattern for much of the opening stint — rarely separated front to back by more than three seconds. Among the few moves in the group was a pass from Power on Newgarden at turn one on lap 35.
The first pit-stops began unfolding 40 laps into the race, although the leaders hung out for longer. O’Ward, Newgarden and Dixon were the first front-runners to stop. Sato ran much longer, stopping only on lap 60.
With the post-pit order shaking out; O’Ward stole the lead and Sato had dropped to sixth behind Power, Rinus Veekay, Newgarden, and Dixon. The one big improver was Veekay, who had jumped up the order by virtue of an early pit-stop and time made on fresh tyres. Sato then lost out to Herta and Felix Rosenqvist also.
O’Ward comfortably led until lap 96. By this point Power had caught him and was threatening to pass, and simultaneously O’Ward had been instructed to make his second pit stop. Power and Dixon pitted on lap 99 — Power narrowly reclaiming the corrected lead when he rejoined the track ahead of O’Ward. Dixon lost two spots in the melee to Herta and Sato, resuming in seventh after the second pit cycle had completed just over the race’s halfway point.
Dixon’s third and final stop came on lap 149, with Sato and Rosenqvist doing the same. The move gave Dixon clean air, but also required the Kiwi to save fuel as well as he could to make the 50 lap run to the flag. Things got exciting when Newgarden narrowly beat O’Ward out of pit-lane, and then Power got held up at pit entry by Ed Carpenter in route to his last stop.
The series of events meant Newgarden would take the lead over O’Ward, Power, a quick-stopping Herta, Veekay, and then Dixon in sixth. Herta was the weakest link of the top five, fading into the clutches of Veekay before making minor contact with the rookie at turn three. The exchange saw Herta slide wide, allowing Dixon to get by to fifth with over 30 laps to go.
As the race finish approached traffic became the biggest factor. O’Ward was catching Newgarden at the front, and Power, Veekay, Dixon, and Herta were all compressing. Sato was approaching the group, too, only for him to run wide at turn two with three laps to go — gently hitting the wall and prompting the race’s only safety car.
It looked like the race might have finished with a one or two-lap shootout, but the length of the safety car period meant that it would finish under yellow — handing Newgarden victory over O’Ward, Power, and Veekay. Dixon would claim fifth, having successfully fended off a challenge in traffic from Herta.
More to come.