Josef Newgarden was living life at the speed of light. On his way to a second dominating performance in as many days at Iowa Speedway, the Team Penske driver felt something go "pop" at the back of his car, and just like that he was into the wall at Turn 4 and his race was over.
The benefactor of his misfortune was Pato O'Ward, who managed to hold off Newgarden's teammate, Will Power, to capture the win Sunday at the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300.
As dominant as Newgarden was, O'Ward wasn't that far off him. Neither was Power, who started the race from the pole but had Newgarden, then O'Ward, get past him as the race wore on.
"The guys in the pits were awesome," O'Ward said. "I did my job and kept it safe. It was different every lap out there. We knew we had a great car, and we were able to capitalize on things.
"The best thing to do is just do your thing. ... Hopefully we can win a coupe of more. We dumped two wins in the past couple of months. It's been frustrating, but now rewarding, the past few weeks."
As the track temperature came down, the Arrow McLaren SP driver just seemed to get faster. The win is his second of the season and fourth of his IndyCar career, and he stands fifth in the chase for the drivers' championship behind leader Marcus Ericsson, Power, Newgarden and Scott Dixon.
As for Newgarden, he can only wonder.
"It was a bit of a shock," Newgarden said. "I don't know what happened. I just feel terrible for us. Something went wrong."
About 40 to 50 laps before his accident at Lap 235, Newgarden radioed his pit crew that he was feeling a vibration but was told the telemetry looked good and to ignore it. There's no telling if that was the issue, but the fact remains that something broke and Newgarden was done.
"I'm not sure if the vibration had anything to do it," Newgarden admitted when asked about it. "It's wasn't abnormal. ... Diabolical. It just caught me by surprise."
He only has a week to push it out of his mind, as the series now returns to the road course at Indianapolis on Saturday, July 30 for the Gallagher Grand Prix.
Unofficial finishing order
- Pato O'Ward, Arrow McLaren SP
- Will Power, Team Penske
- Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske
- Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing
- Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing
- Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing
- Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP
- David Malukas, Dale Coyne Racing
- Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport
- Takuma Sato, Dale Coyne Racing
- Callum Ilott, Juncos Hollinger
- Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport
- Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing
- Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
- Devlin DeFrancesco, Andretti Autosport
- Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter Racing
- Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing
- Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport
- Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing
- Jack Harvey, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
- Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing
- Dalton Kellett, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
- Simon Pagenaud, Meyer Shank Racing
- Josef Newgarden, Team Penske
- Kyle Kirkwood, A.J. Foyt Racing
- Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
What we learned
Forget the misfortune on Sunday. Newgarden put everyone on notice that he will go down fighting in the chase for the 2022 IndyCar Series drivers' championship. Including the upcoming race on the Brickyard's road course, there are five events remaining (streets of Nashville, the 1.25-mile oval at Worldwide Technology Raceway, the 1.964-mile road course at Portland International Raceway and the season ender at the 2.238-mile road course at Laguna Seca) and Newgarden is comfortable on all of them. Fighting right there with him and the rest of the field will be his teammate, Power, who just needs to convert some better qualifying efforts on street and road courses to be in better positions to finish well.
But Ericsson, Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing isn't going to just step aside and let them on through. After winning the Indianapolis 500 and vaulting to the top of the table, Ericsson has been Mr. Consistent with finishes of seventh (Detroit), second (Road America), sixth (Mid-Ohio), fifth (Toronto), eighth (Iowa No. 1) and sixth (Iowa No. 2). Dixon has been right there with him, mixing in a win at Toronto to boot. CGR doesn't have time for any driver contract controversy with Alex Palou, himself still sixth in the standings. They are in the championship hunt.
Likewise with O'Ward, who would be in an even better situation if not for two forgettable results at Road America (26th) and Mid-Ohio (24th). He and Arrow McLaren SP can't afford any more bad finishes if he wants to win his first IndyCar drivers' title.