NEWTON, Iowa — Josef Newgarden collapsed in the RV after his crash late Sunday at Iowa Speedway and was airlifted to hospital in Des Moines for evaluation.
IndyCar medical director Dr. Geoffrey Billows said Newgarden was airlifted to MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center because the on-site care center lacked equipment to properly assess the Team Penske driver. , who ripped open the back of his head when he collapsed.
Billows said Newgarden was awake and alert, but the hospital was a 45-minute drive from the track and heavy traffic for Blake Shelton’s post-race concert would have delayed the trip.
Newgarden dominated and led 148 of the 300 laps while trying to sweep the weekend. But something on his Team Penske car snapped with 64 laps remaining and the 31-year-old Tennessee driver slammed into the outside wall, creating an opening for Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward SP to win the race.
Two-time IndyCar champion Newgarden was visibly shaken after his compulsory check-up at the on-site care center following the crash.
“It was really a bit of a blow. I feel like crying, so sad for my team. I don’t know what happened,” Newgarden said. “Everything was fine for me. Totally unexpected and it took me by surprise. Team Penske are the best. I never have that stuff, so maybe we were due.
“We can’t afford it this year. But we will fight. We have a great team here.”
Chevrolet’s initial diagnosis was that the suspension had broken on Newgarden’s car. There was no immediate word on how hard Newgarden hit the outside wall.
Billows said Newgarden took all the tests in the post-crash care center and was spoken to by medical staff a second time before returning to the motorhome. IndyCar had also planned to reevaluate him on Thursday in Indianapolis before he collapsed returning to the RV.
According to IndyCar regulations, a driver receives a secondary rating when a crash registers more than 80 G-Forces. There was no immediate word from IndyCar or Team Penske on the strength of Newgarden’s blow.
“Thinking about my bus bro right now,” tweeted Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin.
O’Ward made the pass for the pit road win with a quick save from his Arrow McLaren SP team and held off Penske teammates Will Power and Scott McLaughlin. It’s the second win of the season for the Mexican driver, who finished second on Saturday and remains firmly in the IndyCar title chase with five races remaining.
O’Ward is fifth in the standings, 36 points behind leader Marcus Ericsson. His win ended Team Penske’s dominance of the 0.894-mile oval, where Roger Penske’s riders had won six of the last seven races before Sunday.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon finished fourth and was followed by teammate Jimmie Johnson, who raced hard with Indianapolis 500 winner Ericsson for his best finish in two IndyCar racing seasons. Ericsson is also a Ganassi driver, and the Newgarden crash helped the Swedish driver retain the lead in the IndyCar standings, which makes Johnson’s aggressive racing a bit unnerving for the Ganassi camp.
“I run with my teammates with as much respect as possible, every race I’ve been in I’ve given in,” Johnson said. “It was really the first time I fought for a position and I felt like I should have been up there by the way [Dixon]. Today I had it in me and raced clean, hard and just had a great day.”
Ericsson said Johnson’s experience on the ovals was the difference. The seven-time NASCAR champion made 686 stock car starts and won 83 races.
“Yeah, you know, he’s got a few more oval races under his belt than me. I think that’s what I was thinking when he was fighting me,” Ericsson said. “All the time I was trying to get him out in my dirty air. Every time I looked in my mirror, he was in, out, in, out. Oh, My God. Get behind me, please.”
It was another podium for Chevrolet, which did it on Saturday with Newgarden, O’Ward and Power.
Newgarden was marked as the points leader at the time of his crash and fell to a tie with Dixon for third in the standings after his crash. There are five drivers separated by 36 points in the standings and Ericsson leads Power by eight points.