Newgarden wins IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix to trim point gap

Washington (AFP) –

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Defending champion Josef Newgarden won Friday's IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix, closing the gap on season points leader Scott Dixon with two races remaining in the campaign.

Newgarden refueled with 23 laps remaining in the 85-lap race and surged to the finish over the 14-turn, 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

"We had a rocket ship," Newgarden said. "I had the quickest car. I'm pumped. I'm so excited."

Fellow American Alexander Rossi was second with Dutch 20-year-old rookie pole-sitter Rinus VeeKay third and American Colton Herta fourth.

It was Newgarden's third victory of the year after oval triumphs at Iowa and Gateway and his 17th career IndyCar win as he chases a third series crown in four seasons.

New Zealand's Dixon, who started 12th and finished ninth, still leads the season points battle with 478 to 438 for Newgarden.

No other drivers are within reach of the crown with a maximum of 54 points available in each of the last two races.

"It is still a bit of a hill. We've made it smaller," Newgarden said. "I said we had to have three perfect races to win it. This is one down. Two to go."

Dixon seeks his sixth career IndyCar season title, one shy of A.J. Foyt's all-time record.

VeeKay enjoyed his first IndyCar podium finish.

"Not satisfied," he said. "But couldn't be more happy with it."

Rossi was unhappy at track officials ordering him to surrender a place to Dixon after a pass for going too far below the white lines marking the inside of the asphalt.

"Weird penalties," he said. "It has been a huge effort to find some sort of pace here."

VeeKay and Herta exchanged the lead from the start with Newgarden third, Herta seizing the lead on an quick outside-to-inside pass on lap 21.

Newgarden refueled on lap 22 and returned to the track just ahead of Herta, who overtook with a first-turn braking move on lap 24 to reclaim the lead.

Herta kept it to the last stop but Newgarden returned to the track after his final pit stop well ahead of Herta. Rossi made a late charge and VeeKay passed Herta with three laps remaining to reach the podium.

A reduced crowd of 10,000 spectators attended due to safety measures for the coronavirus pandemic that disrupted the season and led to the creation of a Harvest double-header Friday and Saturday.

The season-ending event is an October 25 street race at St. Petersburg, Florida.