The 2021 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 was destined to be a chaotic one, riddled with crashes and mechanical failures that shook up both the race order and the current championship standings. But at the end of the day, it was Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden who took victory, managing to stay clean and steady as many other cars fell apart around him.
Team Penske’s Will Power led the field to green for the 260-lap event, but it wasn’t a great start for everyone; James Hinchcliffe struggled to get fired up ahead of the event and joined the rear of the field. Colton Herta, hungry for a win, sliced onto the inside for a pass on lap two after having fended off Josef Newgarden.
The first caution came out on the third lap after Graham Rahal and Ed Jones went side-by-side at a narrow part of the track. Jones’ right rear tire rode up on the floor of Rahal’s car, and both cars lost control. It appeared to be a standard racing incident, where both drivers could have given each other more space. Jones was out, but Rahal’s crew attempted to repair his vehicle and get him back out.
Before the green flag could wave, Dalton Kellett was victim of a slow restart, where Ed Carpenter then touched the back of Kellett’s car.
The race then went green on lap 16, with Rahal dropping out of the event. Herta held the lead well. Simon Pagenaud attempted to pass Josef Newgarden, with the two drivers making contact. Pagenaud lost a wing, which was thrown back out onto the track. A yellow flag again came out, forcing Pagenaud, who tried to pit, to drive through the pits and reenter the track. It was, yet again, another win for the aeroscreen, since the front wing struck Scott Dixon’s screen.
Another green flag on lap 21 — and immediately a yellow. The green flag waved while the track lights were still flashing yellow.
Things finally properly kicked off on lap 27, with Herta holding the lead and actually pulled a faster start, whereas before he was starting slow enough that it was bunching up the field. Herta built up a solid lead, and the field separated out.
On lap 56, another yellow flag flew. Ed Carpenter had struck the wall after losing control. He got out of the car of his own accord, but his day was over. It kicked off a cycle of frantic pit stops, where both Newgarden and Power managed to pass Herta. Romain Grosjean had his first negative taste of short track racing, almost making contact with Herta as he was entering his pit box and then making contact with Conor Daly after exiting. He picked up an unsafe release penalty.
Sebastian Bourdais led the field to green on lap 65, but it didn’t last long. Alex Palou, Rinus Veeay, and Scott Dixon all hit the wall. Veekay got into the rear of Palou, which caught Dixon in the process. Two championship contenders were wiped out in a single incident.
Newgarden led the field to green on lap 77. Alexander Rossi pushed forward on his teammate Herta, securing third place, then pushed past Power for second.
Grosjean proved to be the star of the restart, making moves on Tony Kanaan and Dalton Kellett for position. He then passed Daly on the outside, followed by Jack Harvey, then Scott McLaughlin. It was obvious he was hungry to make an impression on his first ever oval race. He found his first challenge with Ryan Hunter-Reay as his tire grip began to lessen and the veteran put up a serious challenge.
It only ended with the green flag pit stops just before the halfway point of the race. Grosjean, unfortunately, didn’t respond well to the cold tires and struggled hard to get back into the swing of things.
Just after lap 190, unfortunately, disaster struck again for Colton Herta. He lost a driveshaft while in the lead of the race and had to retire from the event. Newgarden inherited the lead, with O’Ward second and Rossi third.
After pit stops, Newgarden maintained his position, but a yellow flag soon came out: Rossi hit the wall on his out lap on lap 200 after getting into the marbles.
The race went green with 50 laps to go, with Newgarden leading the way. Grosjean took advantage of the fact that the track sweepers had removed the marbles to make a top-side pass on the competition in an effort to get a lost lap back after pitting before a caution flag.
As it turned out, no one could challenge Newgarden, though O’Ward did try on the final lap. Team Penske’s No. 2 took victory at one of the more chaotic races of the 2022 IndyCar season.
- Josef Newgarden
- Patricio O’Ward
- Will Power
- Scott McLaughlin
- Sebastien Bourdais
- Takuma Sato
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Simon Pagenaud
- Marcus Ericsson
- Jack Harvey