Photo: Chris Owens
Points lead Simon Pagenaud (#22 Team Penske Chevy) started on the pole, followed by Josef Newgarden (#21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy), Helio Castroneves (#3 Penske), rookie Max Chilton (#8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy), Charlie Kimball (#83 Ganassi), Tony Kanaan (#10 Ganassi), Ed Carpenter (#20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy), Will Power (#12 Penske), and Mikhail Aleshin (#7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) in the first Honda (P9).
Newgarden took the lead from the start, followed by Pagenaud and Castroneves. This order remained intact 22 laps into the 300-lap race. Newgarden’s lead over Pagenaud after the first round of pit stops measured 12.4 sec, with Castroneves running third 66 laps into the race and Newgarden having lapped all but five of his competitors.
This running order remained intact on Lap 97, with Newgarden close to lapping Pagenaud. Newgarden hadn’t made it past before the race’s first caution, 110 laps in as Ryan Hunter-Reay (#28 Andretti Autosport Honda) blew his engine on the back stretch. Everyone pitted under the caution, Newgarden beating Pagenaud out.
Eleven cars were on the lead lap following wave arounds, Newgarden leading Pagenaud and Castroneves. Racing resumed to start Lap 129. Juan Pablo Montoya (#2 Penske) passed Castroneves for third during Lap 177. The Brazilian took his third stop immediately afterwards. Montoya’s engine let go three laps later, bringing out a second caution and moving Scott Dixon (#9 Ganassi) into third.
The leaders pitted under the caution. Newgarden and Pagenaud exited 1-2, with Power moving up to third and Dixon slipping to sixth. Green-flag racing returned on Lap 189. Kanaan took third from Power on the restart, Power taking it back on Lap 193. Dixon passed Power for third in Lap 229 and Pagenaud for second three laps later. Newgarden held a 9-sec lead.
A yellow flew during Lap 247. The leaders pitted. Newgarden, Dixon, and Pagenaud exited 1-3, with Power leaving the pits in fourth. The green flew with 40 laps to go. With 26 laps left Newgarden had grown his lead to 2.5 sec. It was out to 4 sec with 11 to go. Power passed Pagenaud for third with 6 laps left and Dixon for second 2 laps later.
Newgarden won, followed by Power, Dixon, Pagenaud, and Aleshin. Newgarden led a record 282 laps. The victory was the third of Newgarden's 6-year Verizon IndyCar Series career and first on an oval track. It also vaulted him three spots into second place in the point standings after 10 of 16 completed races. His 282 laps led are the most ever by a driver in an Indy car race, surpassing the 250 by Ryan Hunter-Reay when he led every lap to win at Milwaukee in 2004.
"It was a lot of fun, mainly because the car was so good," said Newgarden, who finished second to Hunter-Reay in each of the past two Iowa races. "It would go anywhere, it wasn't really falling off much. It was fun. In some stints it seemed like a video game. You put on new tires, you catch people at the right point and you could just slice and dice."
"Fifth is definitely a decent result and really good for the whole team,” said Aleshin. “The guys did an amazing job to put the SMP Racing car together overnight after some technical issues we had yesterday. The car was pretty good to drive compared to most of the field. We were moving up in position constantly during the race, and I was pretty patient. I knew that we were going to be up there, but at the same time. I knew that we had to be aggressive with some things. Overall, we put everything together today and P5 was definitely good."