until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Palou handed IndyCar win by cruel late blow for Newgarden

by Jack Benyon
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Alex Palou took his second win of the IndyCar season for Chip Ganassi Racing and retook the championship lead, as Penske’s Josef Newgarden lost the victory on the penultimate lap when his car developed a gearbox problem at Road America.

Newgarden built up a 6.5s lead in an absolutely untouchable first stint, but a caution for Jimmie Johnson spinning erased that gap and put Palou on Newgarden’s tail.

The pair were then glued together – within a second or two – for the rest of the race, until the last round of stops when Newgarden peeled off for fuel and tyres a lap earlier than Palou.

The undercut for Newgarden worked a treat as he emerged 2.5s to the good and on track to give Penske its first IndyCar win of the year, but there was another factor in the fight for the win as well as Palou.

Road America IndyCar 2021

A lap 34 caution – for Arrow McLaren SP’s debutant driver Kevin Magnussen who had to stop on track when he lost power – meant four cars pitted in an attempt to stretch fuel saving and gamble on a late caution to jump to the front.

Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey from seventh was the most significant driver to attempt that strategy, but he was jumped by Oliver Askew – subbing for Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay who has a broken clavicle – after the stops and then fell back further with 10 laps to go.

Max Chilton and Takuma Sato tried a similar strategy but those two drivers pitted inside the last 10 laps and then Askew came in with four to go.

Incredibly, as Askew was in the pits, a caution came out as Ed Jones had a tyre issue and spun at Canada Corner – bringing out the caution that likely would have won Askew the race. He finished 12th after his pitstop.

That caution ended with two laps to go, and immediately on the front stretch Newgarden – who complained of being stuck in third gear earlier in the race – looked sluggish.

Palou dived past into Turn 1 and then Newgarden fell all the way to the back of the order, trundling in emergency mode.

“I couldn’t get it to shift into sixth gear,” Newgarden explained.

“And then I got it stuck in fifth in Turn 1 and finally got it to go down, but just could not get it to upshift after that.

“So I got it down to first essentially. So was just trying to stay out of the way after that because I couldn’t get it to upshift. I’m not sure what happened.”

Palou becomes the second double-winner of the season, taking the points lead from the other driver with the same achievement, Pato O’Ward.

Alex Palou Ganassi Road America IndyCar 2021

Colton Herta started second and finished third. He had to work past Will Power and Alexander Rossi during his drive – with a particularly unruly Andretti car amid high tyre degradation caused by a vibration – before finishing ahead of Power, who was strong all day long after working through the weekend to get closer to Newgarden’s driving style here.

Scott Dixon pulled off an excellent drive to fourth. After he had started 13th he made sensible moves on track before undercutting a train of cars on the last pitstop to gain track position. The late caution helped keep his soft tyres alive longer, too.

Rookie Romain Grosjean was one of the stars of the race as he fought back from falling from fifth to 13th with a slow second stop.

His bravery at Turn 5 was almost unmatched and he made brilliant passes there throughout the race including on Graham Rahal, and then fought series veteran Rossi wheel-to-wheel, disposing of him with a move around the outside at Turn 1 with fewer than 10 laps to go.

Marcus Ericsson was the comeback king after he spun and brought out a caution earlier in the race. The Detroit race one winner fought back using strategy and dicey moves on track to make it three Ganassi cars in the top six alongside Palou and Dixon.

Rossi was seventh, while Sato and Chilton took eighth and 10th using their unusual strategy which required a quick splash at the end of the race to make it to the end.

Between Sato and Chilton in eighth was O’Ward, who couldn’t achieve the same pace while saving as much fuel as Newgarden and Power, and he struggled throughout.

He started on the hard tyres, but he stopped with the soft tyre runners earlier on, seemingly struggling with tyre wear as he did last year.

That event last year was significant as Palou’s Ganassi predecessor Felix Rosenqvist passed O’Ward for victory late in the second race of the double-header.

Rosenqvist’s now O’Ward’s team-mate but was replaced by Magnussen for this race after his Detroit crash.

Before retiring, Magnussen had an off track moment in the grass but had a solid run towards the back of the field, moving up from 21st to 17th early on.

He decided to stay out on the lap 24 caution in order to try to get to the end on just one more stop.

That meant he briefly led the race, pulling out a two-second lead over Sato – who was on the same tactic – before Sato reeled him in and made it past. Magnussen’s later retirement made his tactic futile.

The other debutant in the race, NASCAR regular Cody Ware, also delivered an impressive performance and set a faster best lap time than NASCAR convert Jimmie Johnson, who’s done all of the road and street circuit courses this year.

Ware finished 19th, just behind sixth-place starter Simon Pagenaud.

Race Results

Pos Name Team Car Laps Laps Led Total Time Fastest Lap Pitstops Pts
1 Alex Palou Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 55 5 1h50m55.053s 1m48.565s 3 51
2 Colton Herta Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 55 0 +1.911s 1m48.984s 3 40
3 Will Power Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 55 0 +2.985s 1m49.288s 3 35
4 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 55 1 +3.905s 1m49.069s 3 33
5 Romain Grosjean Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Dallara DW12-Honda 55 0 +4.714s 1m49.008s 3 30
6 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 55 0 +5.181s 1m48.98s 3 28
7 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 55 0 +7.722s 1m49.46s 3 26
8 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 55 2 +7.914s 1m49.724s 4 25
9 Patricio O'Ward Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 55 0 +9.024s 1m49.246s 3 22
10 Max Chilton Carlin Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 55 7 +9.373s 1m49.436s 4 21
11 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 55 0 +9.803s 1m49.397s 3 19
12 Oliver Askew Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 55 2 +11.302s 1m49.852s 4 19
13 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 55 0 +11.938s 1m49.311s 3 17
14 Scott McLaughlin Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 55 0 +12.193s 1m49.717s 3 16
15 James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 55 0 +13.948s 1m49.26s 3 15
16 Sébastien Bourdais A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 55 0 +14.117s 1m49.276s 5 14
17 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 55 0 +15.594s 1m49.142s 3 13
18 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 55 0 +16.461s 1m49.669s 4 12
19 Cody Ware Daley Coyne Racing with RWR Dallara DW12-Honda 55 0 +16.993s 1m50.282s 3 11
20 Conor Daly Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 55 0 +17.556s 1m50.054s 3 10
21 Josef Newgarden Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 55 32 +1m30.789s 1m48.657s 4 13
22 Jimmie Johnson Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 54 0 +1 lap 1m50.434s 3 8
Ed Jones Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Dallara DW12-Honda 50 0 DNF 1m49.627s 3 7
Kevin Magnussen Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 33 6 DNF 1m50.007s 2 7
Dalton Kellett A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 19 0 DNF 1m50.789s 3 5
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