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A real feel good story emerged Sunday evening in Iowa, with Josef Newgarden winning his third IndyCar race and first since sustaining serious injuries at Texas in June. As usual, Iowa Speedway provided plenty of passing and thrilling oval track racing. In still more good news, the series announced its return for at least the next two years. The positive vibes were everywhere.
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Newgarden was feeling good in the car Sunday, despite his broken clavicle and hand still healing. He lapped and ran away from the field in the Fuzzy’s Vodka machine that was clearly the class of the field. Starting second, he took the lead from pole sitter Simon Pagenaud on the first lap and never let up. Mad Will Power battled his way up to second, while Scott Dixon equaled his best finish at Iowa in third. Racy Russian Mikhail Aleshin was top Honda in fifth for SPM.
In a largely clean, green race there were three cautions, two for engines and one for a spin. Ryan Hunter-Reay did his best Simona de Silvestro impersonation as his Honda power plant blew up in spectacular fashion. It typified Andretti Autosport’s day. Not surprisingly, Juan Montoya’s “Devil” sponsored Penske Chevy also encountered problems, belching smoke and bringing out the second caution. This extended Juan’s string of consecutive DNFs at Iowa to three. Once again we found ourselves asking, “what’s wrong with Juan?”
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Max “Paris” Chilton then spun out to bunch the field up for the final fifty or so laps. Nobody had anything for Newgarden though, as his feel good story couldn’t be denied. He led a record two hundred and eighty two laps on his way to victory. It seemed like nearly everyone else’s car experienced some sort of issue or another, as problems struck everything from roll bars to paddle shifters. The bumpy bull ring took a toll on man and machine alike.
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During a pit stop, Helio Castro Neves clearly went “OVER THE LINE!” as Walter would say, though of course race control took no action. None whatsoever. In fact, there wasn’t a single penalty handed out all day by the slumbering stewards. As promised, there were exciting battles all over the track and even on pit road, as Scott Dixon fishtailed his car wildly to beat Pagenaud back onto the track late in the race. Iowa’s exquisite racing didn’t disappoint, and the fact that it was a likable young American lessened the sting of a runaway affair.
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NBCSN’s coverage was adequate, though Townsend Bell kept irritatingly saying “all night” during the day race. Not even too little screen time for Katie Hargitt, chatter about “dirty driving” and Brian Till’s “you gotta feel good” nonsense could make us feel bad about Iowa. Tellingly, the affable Mike Hull openly praised Newgarden during an interview from his pit stand. Rampant speculation during the broadcast about Josef going to Ganassi next year may have Ed Carpenter feeling less than good about his team’s future, though.