NEWTON, Iowa — When Josef Newgarden did not win the pole during Friday’s qualifications, the normally cheerful Team Penske driver was cranky, irritable and short. He believed he had the best car and came up short.
He took his frustrations out on the field with a dominant victory in the Iowa 300 — a race that started Saturday night and ended early Sunday morning.
It was the latest local time start to an IndyCar Series race in history at 10:46 p.m. Central Time (11:46 Eastern) and it was by far the latest finish to a race in IndyCar’s very long history.
The checkered flag waved at 1:30 a.m. local time with Newgarden defeating hard-charging, five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon by 2.8527 seconds.
Newgarden started third and led 245 of the 300 laps in the race. He took the lead for the first time on Lap 49 and on the final time on Lap 258. He was able to defeat Dixon, who at one point was one lap down and in 19th place, after Dixon’s team had him pit under caution late in the race. With fresh tires, Dixon was able to easily race his way up to second place but couldn’t close the gap on Newgarden.
James Hinchcliffe was third followed by Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud with Spencer Pigot rounding out the top-five. There were five caution periods for 45 laps, but none of the incidents were serious.
It was Newgarden’s fourth victory of the year. He increased his lead over Alexander Rossi in the NTT IndyCar Series points standings from four points entering the race to 29 points after the win.
“I don’t normally like to be short and externally frustrated,” Newgarden said. “But I was just frustrated. Sometimes when you’re feeling competitive, you’re always feeling competitive, but a lot of times you can hold it back if you’re pissed off about something. Sometimes you just want to go back out and redo it. That’s kind of where I was yesterday.
“But after an hour of being pissed about it, we just went to practice and we move on. That’s all there is to it. Yeah, I mean, you’re going to get that. Look, we all want to kick each other’s butts. That’s what it’s all about. Like I was saying, it’s a competitive sport. We all want to be the best. That’s what makes it fun.
“I was fine after we got to practice two.”
The victory also gave Newgarden a sense of redemption from last year’s race, when he led 229 laps, but finish fourth with James Hinchcliffe the winner.
“That’s why I was ready to race immediately,” Newgarden said. “Let’s just go. I’m ready to go, because we got the best car, I thought. So, you know, tried to still take the opportunity obviously in practice two to get better.
“I felt ready to rock. I just wanted to make amends for not getting the pole. The pole is not the most important thing. I kind of look at it like it’s two races in the weekend. Qualifying is its own race and the race itself is its own race. The race specifically is more important. You want to win both.
“That’s where that competitive spirit was. Yeah, I wanted to get it right tonight. That’s when I really wanted to make it work.”