Josef Newgarden wins IndyCar race at Road America and scoops $1 million prize
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Josef Newgarden wanted to thank the pet service that helped him adopt his 30-pound dog, 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 help all kinds of dogs — all kinds,” Newgarden said. “You should hear some of these heartbreaking stories these guys go through to find these dogs. We are very happy to be able to bring money to this group because they have done a lot for us and for a lot of people in Nashville.
Newgarden has won at the Oval in Texas and the Long Beach Street Circuit this season, and he headed to Road America in search of a road course victory 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.
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 pretty aggressive on the reboot there to try and do something and just went a bit overboard. That’s what got Marcus out of it.
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 are in position… You don’t have many chances to be in a position to conclude. I wanted just close.