Newgarden back in championship fray with WWTR win

Sean Birkle/Penske Entertainment

Josef Newgarden re-energized his championship hopes with his fourth career win at World Wide Technology Raceway in tonight’s Bommarito 500.

The 31-year-old Tennessean motored away from Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin on a restart with 36 laps remaining after a two-hour rain delay. He fended off a thrilling surge by rookie David Malukas to take his fifth win of the season.

McLaughlin obtained the lead on the final round of pitstops as Newgarden was held up by the lapped car of Christian Lundgaard upon exiting his pit stall. Rain and lighting arrived at the 1.25-mile oval at Lap 217 and halted the action.

Things turned frantic for Newgarden as his No. 2 Chevrolet didn’t refire when the field returned to life at 9:05 PM local time. His Team Penske crew managed to refire the car and Newgarden assumed his second place position.

Newgarden hounded his teammate for half a lap before dispatching his teammate in Turn 3 on Lap 225.

The Penske Pair ran nose to tail while David Malukas stole the show as he slithered through traffic. He besieged Will Power for fourth on Lap 230 and picked off Pato O’Ward for the final step of the podium on Lap 253.

Malukas joined the Penske party as the trio encountered lapped traffic with the laps clicking off. Malukas worked the high line in Turn 1 on McLaughlin on the final lap to take over the second position.

He ultimately ran out of time and crossed the line .4708 of a second behind Newgarden.

“I think this crew has been very patient with me,” Newgarden said. “I’ve lost my cool probably a couple of times (behind) closed doors out of frustration for us. We’ve had small miscues, timing-wise. That’s not really anybody’s fault. Just sometimes wrong time, wrong place. I feel like that’s been happening a lot this year. It kind of happened again tonight. We put ourselves in position, it’s time to close and there was just a barrier that got in front of us again.

He added that overtaking McLaughlin on the restart was the priority after losing the lead on the pit sequence.

“We just had to have a good start,” Newgarden said. “I knew Scott was going to be good at the end there. He had a great restart. I just tried to work the high lane. It worked earlier for me, and I tried to do it again, and we just had enough to get by him. He was no slouch this weekend.

“Scott’s done an amazing job, he could have easily won this race himself. You have to give him credit. I’m glad we were able to come back out on top.”

O’Ward claimed fourth while Takuma Sato gave Dale Coyne Racing two cars in the top five.

Power led a race-high 128 laps but settled for sixth which reduced his points lead over Newgarden to three heading into the penultimate round at Portland in two weeks.

Chip Ganassi Racing drivers took the next three positions with Marcus Ericsson in seventh followed by Scott Dixon in eighth and Alex Palou in ninth.

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