Freak failure robs McLaughlin chance at IndyCar win

Scott McLaughlin was left to rue a freak failure that cost him a chance at victory in the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 at Iowa Speedway.

The Team Penske pilot ran competitively in the top five throughout the race only to have his right rear wheel nut part company and force him to the pit lane on lap 174.

Having been fourth at the time, the Kiwi would end up 22nd while Team Penske stablemate Josef Newgarden ran away with the win.

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The two-time champion claimed his fourth IndyCar Series win at Iowa Speedway, leading 208 of the 250-lap race distance.

A strong run home saw McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward challenge for the lead, but fade through traffic to come home second ahead of pole position winner Will Power.

“I was surprised at how hard these guys were pushing on these restarts,” said Newgarden.

“This was a long-game day and I think O’Ward definitely looked like he was the toughest competitor today to beat.

“I was disappointed after qualifying, I just hate losing. I felt like we had enough to get the job done and we didn’t.

“That motivated me. I knew we had a car today to win this race.”

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The lion’s share of the race saw Newgarden and Power go toe-to-toe. Even before racing got underway, the Team Penske front-row starters rubbed wheels coming to the green flag.

Power commanded proceedings initially, holding a comfortable 1.5s advantage over Newgarden by the end of lap 10. Standout qualified Conor Daly of Ed Carpenter Racing held down third but would fade as the race wore on.

Power soon came up on lapped traffic, but before Newgarden could threaten for the lead the caution flew after Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jimmie Johnson spun on lap 17.

Newgarden got a good getaway on the lap 23 restart, pinching the lead from Power into turn one. Points leader Marcus Ericsson, meanwhile, continued his charge and was fifth from 12 by lap 30.

After his early spin and subsequent pit stop, an off-strategy Johnson rose to top spot. In a distant second after his first pit stop, Newgarden was effectively the leader ahead of O’Ward, Power, Ericsson, Herta, McLaughlin, Scott Dixon, Rinus VeeKay, and Felix Rosenqvist.

By lap 80, Johnson peeled off into the pit lane from the lead and came out in 15th, although he quickly rose his way back into the top 10 on fresher rubber.

After a long green flag run, the yellow flag flew on lap 111 when Rosenqvist lost control of his McLaren SP entry and backed his car into the outside wall.

That neutralized the race and drew the front-runners to the pit lane. Newgarden retained his lead over O’Ward, Ericsson, Power, and McLaughlin.

Having come on strong in the opening stint to run inside the top three, Colton Herta’s hopes were dashed during his pit stop under yellow when he couldn’t get the car out of neutral.

That dropped the Andretti Autosport driver several laps down, eventually going on to finish 24th.

Racing restarted just shy of the halfway mark, but it was a short green flag run as debris on the track drew the caution once more.

On the lap 133 resumption, second placed Ericsson came under threat from Power who had dispatched O’Ward on the previous restart, but soon turned to attack leader Newgarden.

With a strong run heading into the final turn, Ericsson looked to the inside of the leader and made the lightest of touches. Fortunately, both got away with the exchange.

That would prove costly for Ericsson though, allowing Power to strike on lap 137 to make it a Team Penske one-two again.

Ericsson haemorrhaged positions on lap 163 after going three-wide and up into the marbles, losing out to McLaughlin, VeeKay, Alex Palou, and Romain Grosjean.

The final caution would come out with less than 100 laps to go when owner-driver Ed Carpenter crashed his car on lap 165.

As the field came to green 10 lapses later, drama befell fourth placed McLaughlin who pulled into the pit lane with a loose wheel. That dropped him down two laps, eventually finishing 22nd.

The final stanza of the race proved to be a battle of tire attrition. With clear air in front, Newgarden ruled the roost. However, it was hard charger O’Ward who rose from fourth to second late in the piece and would challenge for the lead.

With 25 laps to go, less than one second separated the pair. However, traffic would ultimately scupper O’Ward’s hopes.

In the end, the Mexican faded and wound up six seconds adrift at the checkered flag. Power completed the podium, albeit nearly a lap down some 20 seconds in arrears.

Palou slipped to sixth in the end after a sterling drive to fourth was undone by excessive tire wear, ending up behind VeeKay and Dixon.

Grosjean was seventh while Ericsson suffered with tire wear and wound up eighth ahead of Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard.

The second leg of the double-header at Iowa Speedway takes place on Monday at 5am (AEST).

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