NEWTON – As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin taking humanity’s first steps on the moon, race fans at Iowa Speedway were reminded of the first lunar landing and its impact on society and science.
Just before the command to start engines was given, former NASA flight director Gene Kranz renamed Saturday’s INDYCAR race the NTT IndyCar Series Apollo 11 Moon Walk 300 via video from the recently restored Apollo Air Mission Control Room at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
The moon landing marked the culmination of America's Cold War human spaceflight program and positioned itself as a global leader in science and technology. STEM represents the backbone of motorsports.
The start of the NTT IndyCar Series Apollo 11 Moon Walk 300 Saturday night at Iowa Speedway was delayed by severe storms and lightning.
Following an initial delay of more than four hours, Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud led the field to green with teammate Will Power beside him.
Josef Newgarden, who started third, took the top spot from Power amid Turn 1 traffic on Lap 46.
The race was red flagged on Lap 56 because of rain with Newgarden leading. When the clouds cleared and the track dried, it was Newgarden who led the most laps at The Fastest Short Track on the Planet for the fourth time in five years.
"Let me thank the fans that stayed,” said Newgarden. “I'm sorry it took so long, but glad we got it in tonight. We can't help the weather.”
Last year, he led 229 of the 300 laps but didn’t win the race. This time he went to Casey’s General Store Victory Lane for the first time after leading 245 laps in Team Penske’s No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet. In 2016, Newgarden led 282 laps in an Ed Carpenter Racing car – he won that race – and in 2015 he led 111 laps.
“Chevy brought it tonight. They had all the horsepower in the world, and the reliability, and good fuel mileage,” said Newgarden. “You saw all three [Team Penske] cars were fast tonight and that’s what it takes. You’ve got to have all three of us pushing each other.”
Newgarden’s fourth victory of the season and the 14th of his career extended his series points lead to 29 over Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, who finished sixth.