Newgarden Snaps Streak on the 50th Anniversary of the 1st Penske Win | Win Sport News

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By JENNA FRYER, author of AP Auto Racing

LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) – On the final warm-up lap before the IndyCar race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Josef Newgarden heard “an audible vibration” in his engine that worried him enough to alert his team.

If he had shortened the warm-up one lap, another race weekend might have been ruined.

Team Penske and Chevrolet pulled Newgarden’s engine ahead of Sunday’s race, saving him from a potentially catastrophic third straight defeat. Instead, it ended its streak of late race gaps and won for the first time this season – and took Team Penske’s first IndyCar win of the year on the same weekend the traditional organization celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first win.

“If we’d cut the warm-up by one lap, who knows? As far as we know, the engine could have gone on the parade lap, ”said Newgarden. “That would only have been demoralizing.”

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Newgarden led all but seven of the 80 rounds in Mid-Ohio to take an overdue win. The two-time IndyCar champion dominated the two races before Sunday, but late yellows changed the result and denied Newgarden two drives on the winning road.

The American insisted that nothing had to change in Team No. 2 because the performance was okay. After all, he had started from pole and led 99 of 125 laps in the two races that he had lost after late restart.

Now he led 172 of 205 laps – or 83.9% – over three races and finally brought Team Penske onto the winning road in the 10th race of the season. The last time the Penske Organization went without a win this late in the year was their winless season in 1999.

“The speed, everything is there,” Tim Cindric, team president and Newgarden’s strategist, told The Associated Press. “It’s about keeping up morale with the team. We have led so many rounds, it’s ridiculous not to have won. “

Team Penske celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first IndyCar victory with Mark Donohue in Pocono on Saturday. The team celebrated by presenting Roger Penske with a commemorative trophy for Donohue’s victory, which was incorporated into the design as Pocono’s “Tricky Triangle” with the original program covers, ticket, parking pass and other memorabilia.

Penske was one of the first to greet Newgarden on the road to victory, where he celebrated his 19th victory – an IndyCar record for an American driver.

“Josef’s confidence has never wavered, this is the quality guy he is – he doesn’t walk around with a long face, he puts his arms around the guys and tries to get going with the team,” Penske told AP. “Ironically, to win we needed this on the weekend 50 years after we won with Mark Donohue.”

This seemed to be back in his pocket for Newgarden – especially after a couple of slow pit stops took Colton Herta out of the front row – but a tough attack from Marcus Ericsson put Newgarden on the defensive. He had to fight his way through the 13 corners on the last two laps to stop the Swede by 0.8790 seconds.

IndyCar front runner Alex Palou finished third, followed by six-time and reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, while Chip Ganassi’s Honda cars went 2-3-4. Ganassi said earlier this week that he had sold his NASCAR team and will focus on his IndyCar, IMSA sports car and Extreme-E teams by the end of the year.

“We had a great day, the whole team to get 2-3-4 was a great result,” said Ericsson. “We pushed very, very hard out there to catch up with Josef, and we could have fought for it a few more laps.”

Will Power, one of four Penske drivers in the field, was involved in one of the three previous warnings at the start of the race when contact with Dixon brought Power into a blind turn. Incoming traffic couldn’t see Power stop in the middle of the track and it was drilled by Ed Jones.

Power had his right hand wrapped when he left the care center and did not return to the race.

Palou took his sixth podium of the season and extended his lead in the championship race to 39 points ahead of Pato O’Ward.

The Spaniard has six races left to fend off the challengers – including former champion Newgarden and his own team-mate Dixon. Palou is 56 points clear of Dixon while Newgarden is 69 points behind.

“We’ll win this championship simply by being here every weekend and getting more wins,” said Palou. “I mean, I would stop the count now, but I don’t think they would allow me to. We’ll try to win a few more races and be on the podium. “

Newgarden said Palou is the greatest threat among the four young drivers who have taken the series by storm this season. Palou is the oldest of the four at 24 and has had a breakout year since joining Ganassi this season, his second in IndyCar.

Palou has two wins in 10 races and was only finished under seventh twice.

“I would give him the top grade of all young people. I think it’s the most complete, ”said Newgarden. “You are looking at the young harvest. There is some serious top-to-bottom talent in this series, whether young or middle boys or old boys, but among the newcomers and the younger generation it seems like the whole package. “

Budding star Kyle Kirkwood went undefeated in Mid-Ohio by sweeping the Indy Lights double races.

Kirkwood’s win on Sunday was his second of the weekend and fifth in the last six races. The 22-year-old has won six of the twelve Indy Lights races so far this season and leads the points classification for Andretti Autosport.

Kirkwood is notable in Mid-Ohio, having won all seven races he has competed in on the Road to Indy ranking system.

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