Auto racing roundup: Tennessee driver’s bid to repeat as IndyCar champ gains hope with win

MADISON, Ill. — Josef Newgarden raced to his second IndyCar victory of the season Sunday, holding off rookie Pato O’Ward before the event at World Wide Technology Raceway finished under caution — one week after Takuma Sato won the Indianapolis 500 in the same fashion.

In the second of two weekend races at the short oval just outside of St. Louis, it was Sato who brought out the caution with four laps remaining when he hit the wall. With no time for a restart, O’Ward was denied a chance to challenge the reigning series champion for the win.

Newgarden, in a Chevrolet for Team Penske, won for the 16th time in his career, and the Hendersonville, Tennessee, native closed the gap on championship race leader Scott Dixon — who won Saturday — in the season points standings.

Dixon has won four of IndyCar’s nine races so far this season.

Newgarden was put in position to win the race when his crew got him off pit lane on the final stop ahead of O’Ward. Newgarden and the Mexican driver had a drag race back onto the track that Newgarden won.

“This was a pit stop victory for me,” Newgarden said. “Really proud of my team. I didn’t win the race, they won it.”

O’Ward, the top rookie in the Indy 500 with a sixth-place finish, earned his second podium of the weekend for Arrow McLaren SP. He was third Saturday and has six finishes this season of eighth or higher.

“We’re knocking on the door,” O’Ward said. “We are very close, and we are going to keep pushing. I know our time will come.”

Newgarden praised the progress O’Ward is making in his first full IndyCar season.

“He did an amazing job. He’s going to do great things in the sport,” Newgarden said.

Although O’Ward seemed to be waiting for the final laps to make a move on Newgarden, he said he didn’t think he had a shot at catching him even if the race had one final restart.

“I was pushing, pushing, pushing to get close to him to try to strike, and I just couldn’t do it,” O’Ward said.

Will Power had a shot at winning the race until his final pit stop, when he was slowed behind Ed Carpenter as both cars drove down pit lane. Power finished third to put two Team Penske’s on the podium but was aggravated with his result.

“We had a very good car, I thought we had the car to win, but obviously it’s a traffic game,” Power said. “We certainly have had a lot of potential this year, it’s a very strange year.”

Rinus VeeKay finished fourth and was met after the race by Colton Herta, who finished sixth but was angry at how the rookie had raced him late. Herta and VeeKay exchanged words.

“I really don’t have too much fun driving against him,” Herta said, noting the 19-year-old “still has a lot too learn.”

Chevrolet had a breakthrough as its drivers swept the top four positions after Honda went 1-2-3 at Indy. Dixon, who finished fifth, was annoyed with fellow Honda driver Zach Veach for slowing both Dixon and Sato’s pace in the closing laps.

Dixon assumed Veach was trying to assist Andretti Autosport teammate Herta but said Veach should have had engine manufacturer loyalty to help a Honda reach the podium.

“Veach totally screwed us. He’s two laps down, and the guy is just trying to slow everybody down,” Dixon said. “When you are a fellow Honda team, I thought they would have stepped in a little bit, especially when you’ve got four Chevys out front.”

Dixon still holds a commanding 96-point lead in the standings with three races remaining on the official schedule. A postponed doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Race course is expected to be rescheduled soon to give IndyCar five races to close the year.

“We can’t give up on it yet,” said Newgarden, a two-time champion. “We’ve been pretty bitten by bad luck this year. What are you going to do? Sometimes it comes your way, sometimes it does not.

Sato was out front for a race-high 66 laps, one of five drivers who had a turn in the lead.

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AP photo by Jeff Roberson / Josef Newgarden celebrates after winning Sunday’s IndyCar event at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill.

F1: Hamilton dominant in Belgium

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — Lewis Hamilton led from start to finish at the Belgian Grand Prix to secure his 89th win in a Formula One race, moving two behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time series record.

The six-time season champion was untroubled from pole position, beating Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by eight seconds and finishing 15 seconds ahead of third-place Max Verstappen of Red Bull. Hamilton was even set to clinch the extra point for fastest lap until Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo took it on the 44th and final circuit on his way to fourth place.

Hamilton’s fifth win this year extended his lead in the points standings to 47 over Verstappen — Bottas is 50 back in third — as the 35-year-old from England tries to match Schumacher’s record seven championships.

The dominant days are great for Hamilton’s title hopes, but he understands F1 fans might be getting a little bored.

“You generally know I don’t make too many mistakes. I can imagine it’s definitely not the most exciting (race),” Hamilton said. “Of course I would love a wheel-to-wheel race. I hope we have more of a race moving forward.”

Bottas vowed, before this season and last, that he could take Hamilton’s crown. Yet he has won only one race.

“It’s not over, there are 10 left. I had a puncture in Silverstone, lost a lot of points with that,” Bottas said. “If I gave up now, I’d rather stay home.”

Schumacher won five of his F1 titles consecutively during a glorious era for Ferrari, but the proud Italian team is struggling badly now. Four-time series champion Sebastian Vettel finished 13th with Charles Leclerc 14th, and they are not anywhere close to Hamilton in terms of speed, let alone challenging him.

Having secured a record-extending 93rd career pole, which he dedicated to American actor Chadwick Boseman, who died Friday, Hamilton made a clean start and Bottas was unable to exert pressure on the long straight up to the second turn on the course.

Verstappen, meanwhile, would love a faster car to take the fight to Hamilton, but Red Bull has yet to bridge the gap with Mercedes.

“It was pretty boring, to be honest, not much to do,” Verstappen said. “It was not really enjoyable out there.”

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