NEWTON, IA – No one could touch Team Penske all weekend here at the Iowa Speedway. In the two NTT IndyCar Series practice sessions, they’d run 1-2-3 in the first session on Friday morning and 1-2 in the final one-hour practice on Friday evening. In qualifying, they’d even go 1-2-3 as they were over 2 mph quicker than everyone else.
That translated well over to what was shaping up to be a dominating night in the Iowa 300. Penske, ran 1-2-3 for a majority of the race with their trio of drivers leading 296 of 300 laps in the rain delayed event. In fact, it took until Lap 254 for someone other than them to lead a lap around the .894-mile bullring.
But, on that final pit sequence is when it all went downhill for two of their three car fleet.
Josef Newgarden checked out and would easily win for the second career time in Iowa and the 14th time of his career. It was a pure domination for him. It looked like Simon Pagenaud was going to finish second but his car faded a bit in the end as he had to settle for a fourth place run in his No. 22 Chevrolet.
Pagenaud, battled front grip all night and struggled to keep his car balanced to the way that he needed to. Despite starting on the pole, Pagenaud led only two laps all evening as both came under yellow at the start. It was his fourth straight top 10 finish on the season though but this was one that got away as James Hinchcliffe was stronger than him in the end and Scott Dixon had 15 laps fresher tires.
For Will Power, it was a disaster. He was hit with an “improper pit entry” penalty on his final stop which forced him to serve a drive through penalty. He would have been third if not for that. But, that penalty dropped him down a lap as he’d finish 15th place as a result. That all but eliminates him from championship contention as while he’s still mathematically eligible, he’s now 165 points out in fifth.
“I went just a bit wide getting onto pit road and then you get into the marbles,” said Power. “Once you get your tires dirty, it is almost impossible to drive and I really had no chance. It was an unfortunate end to a pretty strong day for the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team. We jumped out to the lead early before Josef (Newgarden) got around us. He was very strong tonight, but we definitely had a podium tonight before the pit road penalty.”
So, while it was a strong weekend for Penske that saw one of their drivers celebrating in victory lane, it didn’t end like it could have either.