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Road America IndyCar: Palou snatches win after Newgarden gearbox drama

Newgarden had controlled the entire race through four caution periods but, on the final restart preceding a two-lap shootout to the end, the two-time champion’s car was stuck in fifth gear and left the Penske driver having to drive at a crawl.

Palou could simply nip past before Turn 1, and put together a healthy buffer over Colton Herta to claim victory – following up his impressive form at the circuit where he chalked up his first podium finish last season driving for Dale Coyne Racing.

Newgarden had held onto pole at the start of the race and built up a healthy 6.5s lead over Palou after the first round of stops, before his lead was wiped out after a spin for Jimmie Johnson introduced the first caution period.

The seven-time NASCAR champion caught the grass at Turn 7 propelling his Chip Ganassi Racing-run car into the opposite wall to put a dampener on his most complete performance yet as an IndyCar driver.

Palou stayed with Newgarden at the restart, sitting just within a second of the leading Penske, but racing was put on ice once more when Detroit Race 1 winner Marcus Ericsson produced the second caution, catching the dirt on the exit of Turn 3 and spinning while under pressure from Graham Rahal.

All but two cars stopped during that caution, with Kevin Magnussen and Takuma Sato staying out – leaving Magnussen to pick up the lead of the race in his first IndyCar start as a replacement for the out-of-action Felix Rosenqvist at Arrow McLaren SP.

Kevin Magnussen, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Kevin Magnussen, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

But after Magnussen stopped at the end of Lap 31, and ground to a halt three laps later at Turn 7 as his engine cut out, a third caution period was added into the mix.

Sato’s prior stop brought Newgarden and Palou back up to the front, both holding station following the final pitstops and through having to deal with a further collection of off-strategy cars.

But with five laps to go, Ed Jones’ left-rear suspension appeared to break and put him off at Turn 11 – producing a final caution.

That caution proved fatal for Newgarden’s victory chances, which further extends Penske’s IndyCar win drought having not had a driver on the top step of the podium since last year’s St. Petersburg finale.

Palou finished 1.9s clear of Herta, who spent the opening part of race battling Andretti Autosport team-mates Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay, before drawing clear of his stablemates after the second caution.

Will Power claimed third, finishing just over a second clear of Scott Dixon – who managed to gain a slight overcut on a number of runners during the final round of stops.

Romain Grosjean put in a livewire performance in fifth, showing excellent car control in his wheel-to-wheel action and capping it off with an excellent outside pass on Alexander Rossi at Turn 1 before the final caution.

The Dale Coyne Racing driver just held off fellow ex-Formula 1 driver Ericsson, who finished two and a half seconds clear of Rossi.

Sato managed to make an out-of-sync strategy work, albeit helped by the final caution, to claim eighth, fractions behind Rossi.

Pato O’Ward finished ninth, losing ground to Palou in the title battle, as Max Chilton performed a similar strategy to Sato and claimed 10th – having led the race ahead of the final yellow period.

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