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Josef Newgarden wanted to thank the pet service who helped him adopt his 30-pound pooch, Axel, who is now part of his family.
The Team Penske driver repaid the shelter – literally – with his driving performance.
Newgarden earned a $1 million bonus on Sunday for his victory at Road America, where his third victory of the season completed a trio of victories on the various IndyCar circuits. This means, among other things, that the Nashville chapter of Wags and Walks can build a new dog adoption center.
“They solve all kinds of dogs — all kinds,” Newgarden said. “You should hear some of these heartbreaking stories that these guys go through to find these dogs. We’re very happy to be able to bring money to this group because they’ve done so much for us and for so many people in Nashville.”
Newgarden has won at the Oval in Texas and the Long Beach Street Circuit this season, and headed to Road America in search of a road course win that would make him the first IndyCar driver this season to win. on all three circuits.
The reward was a $1 million payout from the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge, which split the bonus between Team Penske and Newgarden’s chosen charities. The American selected Wags and Walks of Nashville and SeriousFun Children’s Network.
“Having something like this challenge, I think, makes you more competitive,” Newgarden said. “You want to do it for them.”
Officials from both charities took part in Newgarden’s post-race press conference via Zoom to thank the driver.
“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Kathryn Hurley of Wags and Walks. “This will literally impact thousands of dogs here in Nashville and allow us to build an incredible adoption center.”
It was the Challenge’s first year and was won before the IndyCar season was halfway through; Newgarden is the only driver to have multiple wins in eight of 17 races.
Newgarden beat Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing by 3.371 seconds after two late restarts, but Ericsson regained the points lead with second place.
This is the seventh time the points lead has changed hands this season.
“I think it’s going to be a tough season, a long season, but we’ve put ourselves in a really good position now for that kind of second half,” Ericsson said. “We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Alexander Rossi, the Andretti Autosport driver who started on pole in search of his first victory in three years, finished third and was followed by teammates Romain Grosjean and Colton Herta.
Chevrolet won the race with Newgarden, but Honda took the next four spots. Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist and Penske’s Scott McLaughlin finished sixth and seventh for Chevy.
Newgarden had a 2.8 second lead over Rossi when Pato O’Ward’s engine failed with six laps to go to set up the first late restart. Then Helio Castroneves sped off for another warning.
INDYCAR DRIVER TAKES STAR FOR A RIDE AND DOESN’T KNOW WHO HE IS
Newgarden took a big leap over Rossi in both late restarts and never looked back.
Rossi had his hands full first with Ericsson and then with his own teammates as his losing streak stretched to 45 runs. His pole position on Saturday was his first in three years.
“It’s always a bit disappointing to start on pole and not be able to convert, but it was generally a good day,” Rossi said. “I think Josef had a bit better pace than us. I think we were the second best car. I got quite aggressive on the restart there to try and do something and just overshot a bit. manage.”
Newgarden won for the second time at Road America, as he also won here in 2018. He was on his way to victory a year ago until his gearbox failed in the closing laps and it gives victory to reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou.
“I hadn’t thought of (last year),” Newgarden said. “I was just focused on today. The thing I focused on is that we’re in position. You don’t get a lot of chances to be in a position to close. I just wanted to close .”
FIGHT FOR TITLE CONTAINERS
Palou’s chances of defending last year’s win vanished almost immediately due to an early tangle with Ganassi teammate Ericsson. When Ericsson moved inside Palou, the right-rear of the Swede’s car made contact with the left-front of Palou’s, and the Spaniard went off the rails.
“He was trying to win the race on the third lap,” Palou said. “The car broke. That’s it. Game over.”
Ericsson said he did nothing wrong.
“It may have been early in the race, but it’s a track position race,” Ericsson said. “If you have an opportunity, you have to go. There was nothing wrong with that move.”
Will Power, meanwhile, lost the IndyCar points lead due to his own early incident. A poor qualifying effort put Power in 15th at the start and he was rammed from behind by rookie Devlin DeFrancesco just eight laps into the race. Power finished 19th.
SCOTT DIXON SET THIS RECORD AT THE INDY 500
DeFrancesco received a stop-and-go penalty for making avoidable contact. Power fell to second place in the standings, 27 points behind Ericsson.
O’Ward’s engine failure dropped him from third to fourth in the standings; Palou went from fourth to fifth place. Newgarden’s win, meanwhile, moved him from fifth to third.
JIMMIE’S FIRST RIDE
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson had a frustrating day due to contact with Tatiana Calderon at the back of the field on the first lap. Johnson went off the rails to pull out a full yellow. He finished 24th.
Calderon was on the field with Simona de Silvestro, marking the first time an IndyCar event included two female drivers since de Silvestro and Pippa Mann competed in the 2015 Indianapolis 500.
Not all Newgarden bonus money goes to charity. He also gets a big payout himself and doesn’t know how he’s going to spend it all.
But he has a good idea of his first purchase.
“Probably a bunch of McDonald’s,” Newgarden said. “Probably over $100 at McDonald’s at least.”
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There is a two-week break in the IndyCar schedule before the July 3 race at Mid-Ohio in Lexington, Ohio. Josef Newgarden won at Mid-Ohio last year.