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Newgarden Dominates to Win Iowa Corn 300

After this display, they might just have to rename the hometown of Iowa Speedway to Newgarden, Iowa.

Josef Newgarden has been the bridesmaid the last two years at Iowa Speedway, finishing runner-up at the Iowa Corn 300 in 2014 and 2015. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver wasn’t to be denied this time.

Driving the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevrolet, Newgarden cruised from a front-row start to his third career win. Newgarden, who sustained a fractured clavicle and right hand in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway last month, showed no signs of struggle from the injury as he led a record 282 laps en route to his first oval win by 4.2828 seconds over Will Power.

The win vaulted Newgarden into second in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series standings, 73 points behind Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, who finished the race in fourth. The 282 laps led is an all-time Indy car record, breaking the previous mark set by Ryan Hunter-Reay when he led all 250 laps at The Milwaukee Mile in 2004.

“I’m just so elated that we were able to get that oval win,” said Newgarden, who became the seventh different winner in 10 Indy car races at Iowa and the seventh different winner in 10 Verizon IndyCar Series races this season. “We’ve been so close, finishing second here twice the last couple of years and second at other ovals, but this team, they got it done. They had an amazing car and made it easy on me.”

The Iowa Speedway bullring is known as one of the most physical tracks on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, but as the series made its 10th visit to the 0.894-mile oval, it celebrated a milestone for two of its ironmen. Team Penske's Helio Castroneves made his 321st career Indy car start, passing Al Unser for fourth all time, while Chip Ganassi Racing's Tony Kanaan tied Unser for fifth by making his 320th start.

Pagenaud won Team Penske’s 500th pole position in all forms of racing when he earned the Verizon P1 Award on Saturday. The driver of the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevy led the field to the green flag today, but Newgarden quickly made the lead pass on the first lap and never looked back.

By Lap 100, Newgarden had lapped everyone but Pagenaud, but the battles remained tight in the top 10 as Scott Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet), Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet) and Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) fought for fourth place.

The first caution of the race came when Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay's chances at a third straight win literally went up in smoke, suffering a mechanical failure on Lap 109. Hunter-Reay, the three-time Iowa winner finished 22nd in the No., 28 DHL Honda, his first finish outside the top two at Iowa Speedway since 2011.

“(The engine) just popped without warning, but that was the least of our problems today,” the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champ said. “That was the most out of shape I think we have ever been. I’m not really sure.”

Andretti Autosport saw its six-race Iowa win streak come to an end, with all four team cars struggling to find speed. Alexander Rossi (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda) used pit strategy to come home sixth, with Carlos Munoz finishing 12th and Marco Andretti 14th.

A second caution came out on Lap 179, just as the third round of pit stops was beginning, when Montoya also suffered a mechanical failure. The Colombian was classified 20th, marking his third DNF in as many Indy car appearances at Iowa Speedway.

On Lap 246, rookie Max Chilton spun his No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet coming out of Turn 2, bringing out the third caution of the day and setting up final pit stops. The caution bit Kanaan, who pitted from the top 10 on Lap 245 and, like earlier this year in Phoenix, was buried in the field and went a lap down, ultimately finishing seventh.

Restarting the race on Lap 260, Newgarden led the field with just six cars on the lead lap, fighting off an initial challenge from Dixon. As Newgarden began to pull away in the final laps, Dixon, Pagenaud and Power fought hard for second. Power, winner of the last two races this season, overtook Pagenaud for third on Lap 294 and Dixon for second two laps later.

“It was a really good run – I think we had a very good long-run car,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who is third in the championship despite missing the season opener at St. Petersburg. “We had people come back to us at the end of the stint, so I was very happy that it went full green there at the end. That allowed us to get up to second – just stoked to finish well at Iowa.”

For Dixon, a third-place finish was a relief following a difficult start to the weekend.

“Considering how the weekend, started it was pretty dang good,” said the four-time and reigning series champion who won on the schedule’s other short oval at Phoenix in April. “We were in a hole as of (Saturday), so we had a wholesale change for the race today.

“It almost seemed like (Josef) had another set of wings on that car – huge credit to him and everybody at the team there. They did a helluva job.”

Championship leader Pagenaud lost slight ground to his competitors by finishing fourth, but did not seem too concerned.

“We just didn’t have enough pace at the end to contend for the win,” Pagenaud said. “So, fourth today, I think is a great day, honestly. I’m very pleased with second in Phoenix and fourth here. Our short oval program has improved massively compared to last year.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series heads north for its 11th race of the 2016 season at the Honda Indy Toronto. Practice begins July 15 on the streets of Exhibition Place, with qualifying at 1:30 p.m. ET July 16 on NBCSN. The 85-lap race on July 17 airs live on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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