The complexion of the NTT IndyCar Series title race changed dramatically on Lap 65 of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline on Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway. During a restart, six-time and reigning series champion Scott Dixon, Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay were involved in a crash in Turn 1.
VeeKay’s No. 21 Sonax/Autogeek Chevrolet hit the rear of Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda at the apex of Turn 1 in a thicket of traffic during the restart, sending both cars into a spin into the SAFER Barrier. VeeKay’s car collected Palou’s No. 10 The American Legion Honda en route to the wall, eliminating Palou in 20th and VeeKay in 21st.
Palou had climbed into 10th place after starting 21st due to a nine-spot grid position penalty because of an unapproved engine change after the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix last Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I thought I was on the outside, and suddenly I got hit,” Palou said. “I had plenty of room with Scott, and Scott had plenty of room with the guy in front, and we just got hit. There was no space there. I don’t know where he (VeeKay) wanted to go.
“It was hard to get up to the top 10. We just wanted to have a clean race, we just wanted to get some points, and I thought we had a good race car. Nothing we could do today. It’s just a shame it played out like that.”
Said VeeKay: “I’m very sorry for Alex and Scott. I had a really good restart on the inside of Alex and behind Scott. I get into Turn 1, and I was really focusing on Scott, just to stay behind him, and it just kind of stacked up. I tried to slow down, but we’re in oval spec, and I think just before I hit Scott, I’m even locking up the fronts. Unfortunately, everybody knows how it happened. All night, people have been checking up, which for everyone is pretty annoying.”
Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing crew repaired his car, and he returned to the race to try to gain points. Dixon dropped out late in the race in 19th place, 160 laps down. He dropped to fourth in the standings, 43 points behind O’Ward.
It was the first time Dixon failed to finish a race since this event in August 2019, ending a streak of 28 consecutive races running at the finish.
Josef Newgarden drove his No. 2 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet to victory by 0.5397 of a second over Pato O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP. O’Ward didn’t enter Victory Lane, but he also was a big winner of the night by taking the championship lead by 10 points over Alex Palou, who placed 20th after being eliminated in a three-car accident early in the race.
Two-time series champion Newgarden leaped from fourth to third – 22 points behind O’Ward.
Kiwi Scott McLaughlin gave Team Penske three of the top four finishing positions by placing fourth in the No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske Chevrolet.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings: O’Ward 435, Palou 425, Newgarden 413, Dixon 392, Ericsson 375, Herta 324, Pagenaud 320, Rahal 319, Power 315, Sato 279.
Race results (order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any))
1/ (3) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 260, Running
2/ (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 260, Running
3/ (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 260, Running
4/ (11) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 260, Running
5/ (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 260, Running
6/ (16) Takuma Sato, Honda, 260, Running
7/ (13) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 260, Running
8/ (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 260, Running
9/ (6) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 260, Running
10/ (15) Jack Harvey, Honda, 260, Running
11/ (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 260, Running
12/ (24) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 260, Running
13/ (17) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 260, Running
14/ (14) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 259, Running
15/ (19) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 243, Running
16/ (10) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 211, Mechanical
17/ (7) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Contact
18/ (2) Colton Herta, Honda, 185, Mechanical
19/ (8) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Contact
20/ (21) Alex Palou, Honda, 64, Contact
21/ (23) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 64, Contact
22/ (22) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 54, Contact
23/ (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 4, Contact
24/ (12) Ed Jones, Honda, 2, Contact