For the first time since April, an IndyCar race weekend was contested without Alex Palou extending his championship lead.
Anybody who has watched Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden compete at Iowa Speedway in recent IndyCar seasons knew it was going to take a heroic effort of gargantuan proportions — or another fluke shock failure — to keep him from sweeping the Hy-Vee doubleheader weekend. And such an effort did not come to fruition.
Despite not taking the pole position for either 250-lap race around the four-turn, 0.894-mile (1.439-kilometer) Newton, Iowa oval, Newgarden led the majority of both races for a total of 341 laps en route to the first IndyCar doubleheader sweep since Graham Rahal’s Belle Isle sweep in 2017. The wins were his fifth and sixth at the track.
Newgarden climbed into second place in the championship standings following his Saturday win, and he moved enen closer to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou for the points lead following his Sunday win.
Palou, who is tied with Newgarden atop the wins list through 12 races this season with four, still owns an impressive 80-point lead, thanks to his consistency. Short ovals have been viewed as his weakness, yet he recorded finishes of eighth and third place this weekend. He has recorded 10 top five finishes this year and hasn’t finished lower than eighth.
But this was the first IndyCar race weekend since April during which Alex Palou did not extend his championship lead.
Following the race at Barber Motorsports Park at the end of April, Palou sat in third place in the championship standings, nine points behind teammate and points leader Marcus Ericsson.
After winning the following race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Palou took the points lead, and he hasn’t looked back. He owned a six-point lead over Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward following this race.
With a fourth place finish in the Indy 500, Palou extended his points lead to 20 points, with Ericsson taking over second from O’Ward.
Palou then went on a streak of three straight victories. He extended his lead to 51 points over Ericsson following his victory on the streets of Detroit before extending it to 74 points following his victory at Road America. Following his win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, he owned a 110-point lead over teammate Scott Dixon.
The race weekend at Toronto did not go Palou’s way, yet he still managed to finish in second place and extend his points lead to 117 points over Dixon.
Following the first race at Iowa Speedway, when Newgarden moved into second place, Palou’s lead was 98 points, and Newgarden reduced it to 80 following the second. It was slated to be in the 60s before Palou’s late charge from 13th to third.
Even more interestingly, this past weekend is actually the first race weekend of the entire 2023 season (excluding the opener) in which Palou didn’t either extend his championship lead or move closer to it.
For the sake of a comparison, this streak would have ended after race weekend number two of the Formula 1 season for Max Verstappen. Including Indy 500 qualifying weekend, which saw Palou score the maximum 12 points for taking the pole position, it took 12 race weekends for Palou. Twelve!
Palou opened up the season with an eighth place finish on the streets of St. Petersburg and sat 27 points out of the lead.
Following a third place finish the following race at Texas Motor Speedway, he found himself 22 points out of the lead, and following a fifth place finish on the streets of Long Beach, he found himself only 19 points back. His fifth place finish at Barber Motorsports Park further reduced that gap to nine.
Can Palou build upon his points lead once again in the next race on the 2023 IndyCar schedule? The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, which he finished in seventh place in 2021 and third in 2022, is set to be broadcast live on NBC from the Nashville Street Circuit beginning at 12:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 6. If you have not yet begun a free trial of FuboTV, do so now!