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Josef Newgarden converts pole into first win of season at Mid-Ohio

Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden (2)  and Will Power (12) talk Sunday, May 30, 2021, after the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden (2) and Will Power (12) talk Sunday, May 30, 2021, after the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Josef Newgarden held off a hard-charging Marcus Ericsson to seal the deal on his first win of the 2021 IndyCar Series season Sunday at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Newgarden started from the pole for the third straight race and finally found a way to capitalize. Two races ago in Detroit, Pato O’Ward passed Newgarden for the lead with three laps to go. Newgarden lost a late lead again last week at Road America when a gearbox failure was dealt his way.

Newgarden, the 2017 and 2019 series champion, led 73 of 80 laps and beat Sweden’s Ericsson by 0.879 seconds. The driver of the No. 2 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet was relieved it wasn’t a repeat performance of his previous two races.

“I’d start each stint and feel like I had everything under control,” Newgarden told NBC Sports. “You get to the back end of it and I thought I was starting to fall apart. So it was really hard to hang on, but I had my wingman (Team Penske president Tim Cindric) coaching me all the way, just making sure I knew what was up to date.

“I don’t know what to say other than this team’s been doing the job. Everyone’s been giving me a hard time, asking what’s up with us not winning the race. But I don’t think these people at Team Penske could have done anything different.”

Series points leader Alex Palou of Spain took third. Scott Dixon of New Zealand and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five.

Newgarden’s 19th career win also marked the first victory of the season for Team Penske — one day after the 50th anniversary of the team’s first IndyCar win on July 3, 1971.

–Field Level Media