20 September 2016

Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud stormed to a maiden IndyCar championship with a fifth win of the season at Sonoma.

Pagenaud and team-mate Will Power were the only two mathematically in the title hunt heading into the double-points finale but a gearbox issue for Power on lap 36 of 85 put him out of contention. Pagenaud led team-mates Power, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya at the start and enjoyed a 5.4-second lead after the first stops.

A yellow for the slow-moving Power prompted a second flurry of stops that left Pagenaud leading by 3.9s from Castroneves. Castroneves had already switched to an alternative strategy a handful of laps earlier in a bid to claim a first win since Detroit in 2014 but wasn't able to make the early pitstops work, leaving Pagenaud defending from Graham Rahal and Montoya.

Pagenaud had enough pace in hand to cross the line first by 3.5s for a fifth win of the season that confirmed his 2016 IndyCar title.

Rahal and Montoya did enough to secure the podium places, ahead of the strong Andretti pair of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in their Dallara-Hondas. Josef Newgarden signed off his season with a sixth, holding off Castroneves in seventh. The finale was a largely trouble-free race with only one yellow flag period for Power's issues, although Mikhail Aleshin and Tony Kanaan came together at the Turn 7 hairpin on lap one. Both were able to continue and finished 11th and 13th respectively.

Pocono Raceway

24 August 2016

LONG POND, Pa. – Simon Pagenaud entered the ABC Supply 500 with a 58-point lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship over Will Power.

As the Team Penske drivers left Pocono Raceway, the silver No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet of Power was much larger in the figurative rear view mirror. Power won the 500-mile race at Pocono Raceway by 1.1459 seconds over pole sitter Mikhail Aleshin, while Pagenaud crashed out in 18th place to heat up the championship battle with three races yet to be completed. Ryan Hunter-Reay, last year’s Pocono winner, charged from the last starting position to finish third.

Enough to trim Power’s points deficit to Pagenaud to just 20 points. Josef Newgarden, who finished fourth in the race, moved into third in the point standings, 100 behind Pagenaud. Aleshin, in the No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda, accounted for several of those lead changes. The 29-year-old Russian battled up front all day after earning his first career pole on Saturday and led 87 laps en route to his matching his best Verizon IndyCar Series finish. Hunter-Reay’s wild day began on the first lap, storming from his 22nd starting spot to 14th. The driver of the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda later took the lead on Lap 49, capping his last-to-first run despite racing his backup car after the primary was damaged in a practice crash on Saturday.

The complications weren’t done for Hunter-Reay, however, who later lost power after taking the lead on Lap 163, losing a lap as he reset the car’s electronics while driving through pit lane. A late caution helped the 2015 Pocono winner get back on the lead lap and he cut through the field in the final 20 laps to the bottom step of the podium. Poor fortunes also struck Hunter-Reay’s teammate and reigning Indy 500 champ Alexander Rossi, who was part of a bizarre incident on pit road on Lap 64. Upon exiting his pit stall, Rossi (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda) made contact with Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet, went airborne and bounced over the top of the No. 3 of Helio Castroneves (Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet). All three were eliminated from contention, and Rossi and Castroneves’ days were done.

For Pagenaud, it went pear-shaped on Lap 158, when the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevy wiggled in Turn 1 and slapped the outside wall. Pagenaud was uninjured but the damage cuts a major chunk out of the points lead he has held since the second race of the season. After a final caution on Lap 176 for debris allowed all leaders to pit, a 20-lap sprint to the finish saw jostling for position all around the track.

But after a few laps, Power and Aleshin had stretched a three-second lead on the rest of the pack. The Russian stalked Power but could not find a way alongside in the closing laps. Power won his fourth race of the season and made it six straight races finishing in the top two, darting to the second race at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit in June.

Power also claimed his 29th career win, tying him with Castroneves and Rick Mears for 11th on the all-time list.

There is no break for Verizon IndyCar Series, as the field heads Saturday to Texas Motor Speedway for the resumption of the Firestone 600. The race was suspended after 71 laps in June due to rain. There will be a brief practice session (5:30-6 p.m. ET, before the race resumes under the lights on the 1.455-mile oval. Race coverage begins 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Mid Ohio

01 August 2016

Simon Pagenaud marched to a fourth win of the season at Mid Ohio after a pair of cautions swung the advantage to a handful of different drivers.

Pagenaud had been leading Team Penske team-mate Will Power when the first caution hit on lap 15 of the 90. A tangle between Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon into the Keyhole hairpin brought the yellow flags out and handed the advantage to Mikhail Aleshin and the other drivers who had already pitted on the undercut strategy.

After the pitstops cycled out Aleshin looked like he would take a maiden series win but the second caution caused by Jack Hawksworth slamming into the Turn 1 barriers on lap 60 proved his undoing. As the final pit window opened following Hawksworth's crash, the whole field other than Dale Coyne Racing team-mates Conor Daly and RC Enerson took to the pits. Aleshin's Schmidt Peterson mechanics waved him out of his box but the incoming Josef Newgarden who occupied the pitbox in front meant Aleshin careered into the Ed Carpenter Racing driver and put him out of contention when he had to pit again one lap later for a new wing.

That left Daly gunning it from the front on the restart in a bid to make his four-stop strategy work but with limited fuel and older tyres he had to pit in the dying laps, swinging the advantage and the race win back to Pagenaud.

The championship leader eventually crossed the line 4.1 seconds ahead of Power. Carlos Munoz completed the podium, taking advantage of the same undercut strategy as Aleshin and crossing the chequered flag as the highest Honda-powered Dallara. Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe did well to finish in fourth and fifth respectively after Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais - who had been running ahead - touched with just three laps to go. A final splash and dash meant Daly picked up respectable points in sixth.

It was an anonymous race for both Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Kanaan who could only manage 12th and 13th respectively. Enerson had been running well in his IndyCar debut before the engine cutting out on one of his pitstops meant he finished 20th.

Autosport 31 July 2016


18 July 2016

Will Power took advantage of valuable track position in Toronto to take a third IndyCar win in the last four races.

The race looked like it was polesitter Scott Dixon's to lose amid a dominant first half in which he had built a solid near eight-second lead after the first pit phase. But Dixon's race unravelled when Iowa winner Josef Newgarden clobbered the peeling kerbs at Turn 5 on lap 59 of 85 and launched himself into the wall. That brought out the yellow flags right as the final pit window opened, which meant race leader Dixon, championship leader Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya were all forced to cede track position and pit under the caution period.

The yellow flags helped Power, who had already entered the pits just seconds before the crash and his Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves, who had pitted the previous lap.

Dixon and Pagenaud came out of the pits outside the top 10, leaving Power to comfortably bring home the win despite a late yellow caused by Jack Hawksworth and Montoya clouting the walls.

The final caution gave home favourite James Hinchcliffe the opportunity to sneak onto the podium with a ferocious final stint of fuel-saving. Tony Kanaan, on an alternative three-stop strategy, and Takuma Sato also benefited and were fourth and fifth Dixon and Pagenaud eventually came home eighth and ninth respectively.

Despite missing the first race of the season in St Petersburg with a medical issue, Power now lies second in the championship standings, leapfrogging Newgarden.

Autosport 17 July 2016

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