Rain Artist Pagenaud Paints Winning Indycar GP Picture

25 May 2019

INDIANAPOLIS – As chaos erupted around him in the pits – crew members hugging and high-fiving, people coming at him from all directions to offer congratulations – the man who called Saturday’s rainy, come-from-behind strategy remained as calm as he had been throughout it.

Not surprising, really. Kyle Moyer has called a few of these before.
Moyer decided to forego track position for rain tires by asking Simon Pagenaud to pit from the lead under caution with 22 laps remaining in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The decision dropped Pagenaud and the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet back to sixth place, but Pagenaud used the newfound grip and his skill at racing in the rain to pass five drivers – including Scott Dixon for the lead on the final lap – to win the sixth annual NTT IndyCar Series event on the IMS road course for a third time.
As the crew celebrated, Moyer, Pagenaud’s strategist and Team Penske’s general manager, stood on the pit wall, headset still on, quietly talking to Pagenaud and others on the team’s radio channels.
Once he finished the radio congratulations, Moyer, a veteran of more than 30 years with five Indy car teams, turned to praising his driver.
“You see things like that every so often, but it’s nice to be on this side of it, for sure,” Moyer said. “That’s a guy who can win a championship for you and also can win any race for you.”
In the wet, though, Pagenaud is more than a winner. He's an artist.
“I honestly always hope for rain because I love to drive in the rain,” Pagenaud said. “It’s such a fun exercise. You have to balance the car with your feet and your hands and play with it, dance with it. That’s where driving really comes out. On a dry track, it’s very much repetitive. In the wet, it’s more like what I grew up on – dirt racing.”
As the sky couldn’t decide whether it wanted to rain or not during the waning laps, Pagenaud was at his wet-surface best, shining bright in his day-glo yellow car despite the dreary conditions. On the restart with 17 laps remaining, Pagenaud trailed Dixon, Jack Harvey, Spencer Pigot, Matheus Leist and Ed Jones. Seven laps after the restart, Pagenaud had tracked down Leist, then in third place, with a move around the outside in Turn 1.
“My car was very, very good under braking,” Pagenaud said. “I could really experiment with that and fake some moves on people. By doing that, they were thrown off their game, and I would gain time in corners and get them on the exit.”
Five laps after overtaking Leist, Pagenaud chased down Harvey, passing him for second place – again in Turn 1 – with six laps remaining.
“I saw this yellow dart suddenly just like arrive straight at the apex,” Harvey said, “and thought, ‘Man, that was pretty brave,’ and ‘thank God his car is so bright.’ Clearly, Simon had a very quick car today.”
Pagenaud and his yellow dart weren’t finished. Dixon was several seconds ahead, but Pagenaud was rapidly gaining ground while Dixon was struggling to control the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. On the penultimate lap, Pagenaud approached Dixon in Turn 7, raced alongside through Turn 8, then emerged with the lead as the cars exited Turn 9.
Just as Moyer had planned, rain or otherwise.
“Simon's a good driver in the rain, but the car was fantastic from the start of the race to the end,” Moyer said. “We were actually planning on the rain and hoping for the rain, but then at the same time we were probably one of the fastest cars in the dry, too.”
Dixon, who led 39 of the race’s 85 laps, knew Pagenaud was closing quickly but was powerless to prevent the pass.
“I just couldn’t turn,” Dixon said. “I was almost helpless to stop the car to get it to rotate. … I had fantastic traction, but I couldn’t get the car to turn.”
As the mayhem in the No. 22 pit began to subside, John Menard, the longtime former Indy car team owner and current sponsorship partner with Team Penske, reveled in what he just witnessed with his home improvement store’s logo on the side of the winning car for the second time in four years at the race.
“That was all Simon with a good strategy and a really good car,” Menard said. “Wow! The rain and everything played out just right. We thought we were in trouble there at one point, but it all worked out. … Simon is good. Really good.”
Good enough, indeed. The 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion and native of Montmorillon, France, further entrenched his reputation as the rain king with a memorable drive he credits to his upbringing that included extensive wet testing in sports cars.
“Quite frankly, in France it rains all the time, especially where I’m from,” the 34-year-old Pagenaud said. “I’ve done a lot of laps in the rain in my career, and always loved it. The first few laps I did in the rain (as a young driver), I crashed a lot, but I was fast. I just had to figure out how to dial it back a little bit. It’s working.


Newgarden’s Middle Maneuver Leads To St. Pete Victory In End

24 May 2019

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – When Josef Newgarden ran longer, harder and faster in a middle stint of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, it paid off with victory at the end.
Newgarden kicked off the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season victorious by 2.8998 seconds over reigning series champion Scott Dixon. It was the 11th triumph of Newgarden’s eight-year NTT IndyCar Series career but first on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street course that incorporates a runway of Albert Whitted Airport.
“I feel like we executed today,” Newgarden said. “We were very patient in the beginning of the race. We had a right-to-left, different tire strategy again today, and it really paid off. I actually think it's what helped us create the opportunity.
“We found our footing (in Saturday qualifying) and finished it off right today.”

The win by Newgarden extended Team Penske’s run of success at St. Petersburg to nine victories in the event’s 16-race history. It was also the 204th win all time by the Indy car team, most in the sport, and returned Chevrolet atop the podium after the engine supplier went winless on temporary street circuits last season.
Newgarden started the 110-lap race second in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet behind teammate and NTT P1 Award pole sitter Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Content to run in the top three early on, Newgarden made the decisive move by extending his second race stint one to five laps longer than the other frontrunners. It allowed the Tennessean to lay down key quicker laps on an open track, so that when he pitted for fuel and tires on Lap 55, Newgarden returned to the action in first place and on a new set of Firestone alternate tires while his nearest competitors were on the harder primary tires.
The 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion led 59 of the final 60 laps, pushing the advantage to more than seven seconds before Dixon trimmed the gap near the finish.
“When we went out on brand new reds (alternate tires), we were able to open up a huge chunk,” Newgarden said. “It was just really good timing and positioning, and once we established that gap, it was about managing it, really. We didn't have to blow it wide open and we didn't need to see it shrink too quickly, but we let it seesaw back and forth how it needed to.”
Power led 17 early laps before finishing third. It’s the 71st time the 2014 series champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner has been on the podium in a 15-year career.

“Definitely a lot better points here than I’ve done in the past two years, so I’m really happy about that,” said Power, who finished 10th last year at St. Pete, 19th in 2017 and didn’t race in 2016 due to illness. “We put ourselves in a really tough position pitting early there.
“I just kind of did my best to maintain a third-place finish. I got more points than the last two years so we’re in the game (for the championship).”
The race was slowed by two early full-course caution periods, tying for the fewest in race history. The first came on Lap 20 when Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay suffered a mechanical failure in the No. 28 DHL Honda on the frontstretch.
The second caution occurred on Lap 26 when Ed Jones hit the wall in Turn 9 in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Chevrolet and Matheus Leist clipped Jones’ car while racing past in the No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Both cars were eliminated in the incident and Jones sustained a small non-displaced fracture of the distal fourth metacarpal in his left ring finger, according to Dr. Geoffrey Billows, INDYCAR medical director. Jones had the finger splinted and is scheduled to see a hand surgeon, but it is expected that proper splinting will permit him to continue participating in racing activities.
Sunday’s race is the first of a diverse and demanding 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule this season. Newgarden takes a 13-point lead over Dixon to the next event, the INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, March 24.


Bommarito Automotive Group 500

30 August 2018

Will Power went from worst to first at Gateway Motorsports Park in the span of a year and moved into closer contention for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship in the process.

Charging hard from the start, Power took control over the final 100 laps of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline on Saturday (25 August) night to pick up his third win of the season. He guided the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet across the finish line 1.3117 seconds ahead of Alexander Rossi for the 35th victory of his career to tie Bobby Unser for seventh most in Indy car history.

The triumph came a year after Power completed just five laps at Gateway before a crash ended his night and title hopes. Saturday’s victory lifted the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion to third in the standings and within 68 points of leader Scott Dixon, who finished third in the race. Rossi, with his third straight podium finish following a pair of wins, maintained second in the championship and crept within 26 points of Dixon with two races remaining.

James Hinchcliffe passed Dixon for first place on Lap 150 of 248 on the 1.25-mile oval. The 37-year-old Australian then zoomed away to a gap of more than seven seconds before making his final pit stop for a splash of ethanol 18 laps from the end, surrendering the lead back to Dixon.

Power regained the lead on Lap 240 after Dixon and other drivers made their last stops for fuel. Rossi, attempting to complete the race in one less pit stop – as he did in winning the 2016 Indy 500 and four weeks ago at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, nursed his No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda home in second place for his eighth podium finish of 2018.

With the victory, Power joined Dixon, Rossi and Josef Newgarden as three-time winners this season. Power swept the May races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the road course and 102nd Indianapolis 500 on the oval – but Saturday’s win was his first with team owner Roger Penske calling the race strategy.

Dixon led 145 laps from the pole position in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and earned his eighth top-three result of 2018. The four-time series champion has seen his lead shrink from 62 to 26 points over the past three races despite finishing in the top five each time.

Newgarden, the reigning series champion and defending Gateway winner, finished seventh in the race and fell to fourth in the standings, 78 points behind Dixon. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion, finished 20th when mechanical issues parked his No. 28 DHL Honda after 172 laps. At 147 points behind Dixon, Hunter-Reay is fifth in the standings and the only other driver with a mathematical chance to win the championship.

The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Grand Prix of Portland on Sept. 2, marking Indy car racing’s return to Portland International Raceway for the first time since 2007.


Road America, Wisconsin

26 June 2018

ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – He made it look easy, but Josef Newgarden said winning the KOHLER Grand Prix was anything but that on Sunday.

The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion led all but two laps to claim victory at the iconic Road America circuit. Driving the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Newgarden won by 3.3759 seconds over Ryan Hunter-Reay to pick up his third victory of the 2018 season and 10th of his seven-year career.

Starting from the pole position after winning the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying on Saturday, Newgarden led the first 13 laps on the 14-turn, 4.014-mile permanent road course until making his first pit stop. Scott Dixon, the points leader driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, led two laps before also stopping, with Newgarden reassuming first place and never relinquishing it the rest of the way.

Newgarden wound up leading 53 of the 55 laps to give Team Penske its fifth win at Road America and victory No. 202 for the team in 51 years of Indy car competition. The race ran caution-free for the ninth time at Road America and first since 2000, with Newgarden’s speed average of 132.101 mph establishing a race record.

Hunter-Reay, in the No. 28 DHL Honda, secured his best Road America finish in five tries with the runner-up finish. It moved the Andretti Autosport driver into second place in the championship after 10 of 17 races, trailing Dixon by 45 points.

Dixon, the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2017 winner at Road America, recovered from his worst starting position in five starts at the track (eighth) to finish third.
Two championship front-runners suffered issues that saddled them with disappointing finishes. Will Power, winner of the 102nd Indianapolis 500 last month, had a mechanical issue at the start, completing just two laps in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and finishing last in the 23-car

Alexander Rossi was running fourth when he was forced to pit with a front suspension issue on the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda with 17 laps remaining. The Andretti Autosport driver finished 16th.

The standings after 10 of 17 races have Dixon in the lead with 393 points, followed by Hunter-Reay (348), Rossi (348), Newgarden (343), Power (328), Graham Rahal (278), Robert Wickens (274), Simon Pagenaud (255), Sebastien Bourdais (235) and Marco Andretti (232).

The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to action Sunday, July 8 with the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway.


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