Newgarden Wins Gateway; Provokes Teammate

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 27 2017

Josef Newgarden celebrates his victory at Gateway Motorsports Park Saturday night. Not everybody at Team Penske was celebrating that victory, however. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

If big-time, open-wheel racing truly is a matter of trust and respect, a potential problem is percolating at Team Penske.

Josef Newgarden’s daring pass under teammate Simon Pagenaud gave the first-year Penske driver a victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to a refurbished Gateway Motorsports Park Saturday night.

Newgarden passed Pagenaud on the 218th of 248 laps around the recently repaved 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Ill., en route to victory in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline. Newgarden, who finished 0.6850-seconds in front of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, posted his third win in the past four races and fourth victory this season. Additionally, the 26-year-old Tennessean pushed his championship point lead to 31 over Dixon with two races remaining.

On the flip side, however, were Pagenaud’s pointed post-race comments towards Newgarden _ remarks that likely will not resonate well with team-owner Roger Penske.

Addressing the media alongside Dixon before Newgarden’s arrival, Pagenaud was asked if he had lost a bit of trust racing against his newest teammate.

“Absolutely. And respect, too,” said Pagenaud, the reigning series champion. “He doesn’t have respect for me. I’ve never seen Scott do that to his teammates in his career, whole career. I respect the hell out of this guy here (Dixon). Four-time champ. You know you can race him. He’s a perfect example. You know you can race each other. Especially on an oval it’s quite dangerous if you have an accident.

As a teammate I think we need to work together. Because if we (fail to) work together, he (Dixon) wins the race, it’s terrible for the team. That’s the kind of thing that’s

Josef Newgarden in the No. 2 Penske Chevy leads teammate Simon Pagenaud in the No. 1 car at Gateway. The two Penske drivers sounded nothing like teammates after the race. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

disappointing. At the moment it’s not something I really want to talk about with him. But it will come to a conclusion, I’m sure.”

The race marked the Series’ return to the St. Louis market for the first time in 14 years. A packed main grandstand roared when Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet, slipped inside of Pagenaud and his No. 1 Penske Chevrolet, heading into Turn 1. The cars touched mid-corner, forcing Pagenaud to slow as he moved up the track.

“Simon gave me a lane to work with,” said Newgarden, who used an impressive crossover move to pass teammate Will Power and win the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 30. “I had a good tow on him, put my car inside in the opening, got about halfway alongside of him.

“One thing I didn’t want to do was touch him too hard. I think if I would have stayed too far left, I would have jumped the curb and that would have taken both of us out. I tried to get Simon to move over a little when we were coming to the opening of the corner. We both had to slow up. Fortunately, (it) worked out well for us on the (No.) 2 car side.”

Pagenaud’s loss of momentum on the decisive pass opened the door for Dixon and his No. 9 Honda to grab second place. The normally laid-back Pagenaud understandably was upset with finishing third.

I think if it wasn’t me, he (Newgarden) would be in the fence with somebody else. That’s what I’ve got to say,” Pagenaud said. “I think on a road course, that was a beautiful pass. But we’re not on a road course. There, we are going 40-50 mph (slower). Here, we’re doing 190 (mph). It’s a completely different story.

“Obviously, I wanted to win. We all want to win. Sometimes, you know, it is what it is.”

Pressed further, Pagenaud said he was not surprised that the winning pass was not reviewed by INDYCAR’s Race Control panel of three stewards.

“No, because there’s no crash,” Pagenaud said. “It’s more, how do you call it, a ‘driver rule.’ It’s how much you respect each other. When you think the gap is open enough to risk it on an oval.

“Wasn’t much contact. It was a bit of a bump…that’s all. I was just busy trying to stay off the wall. So that was it. My momentum was dead. So, you know, at the time I was trying to get around Scott again, and the car felt great. It’s just a real shame I couldn’t stay out front.”

Newgarden led 170 laps in collecting his seventh career win while delivering Team Penske its fifth straight victory and 10th this season. It also was the 196th Indy car win for “The Captain’s” organization.

“For me, I think what allowed the pass to happen was Simon left me a lane. I took the lane,” Newgarden said. “That’s about as far as I was going to get up on him. We ran hard into the corner. Had to check-up and both got through there.

I tried to get Simon to move over a little when we were coming to the opening of the corner. We both had to slow up. Pagenaud didn’t get up into the wall or anything like that, so I would say it worked out OK for him, too.”

Newgarden added he had looked at a replay of the pass post-race and confirmed his car made contact with Pagenaud’s.

“I moved over on him one time,” Newgarden said. “But that was right as the corner was closing. I kind of was hoping he would open the door a little more when I was alongside of him. He didn’t open it any further.

I honestly thought Simon was going to lift and move over once I was there. And he didn’t. So then it was a matter of trying to sort it out when we were getting into the corner.”

Newgarden also dismissed the notion that Pagenaud may not have been expecting the pass attempt.

“I think if you look at his car positioning, he was definitely expecting it,” Newgarden said. “I would be surprised if he was putting his car there not expecting me. Yeah, he for sure saw me and was expecting it. He knew I was having runs at him lap after lap, setting it up. He was prepared for it. Especially in the situation where we were leading most of the laps, we were in position to win the race, we lose out on a pit stop exchange. He’s got to know I’m going to try to get back by him. That’s not the way we want to lose the race.”

Newgarden added he was confident team-owner Penske would back him on the controversial pass.

“For sure. That’s the great thing about Team Penske, they let us race,” Newgarden said. “They want to make sure we secure a victory for the team with one of the cars. I think he was happy we were able to win the race with one of our cars. If it’s not me it needs to be Simon, Helio or Will (Power). He was just happy we had a team victory tonight. Certainly Simon and Helio were not far behind. They were a couple spots behind. He seemed pretty happy. I think it was a pretty good day for points.”

Finally, despite Pagenaud’s critical public remarks, Newgarden said he would approach the Frenchman as he always has this season.

He knows we’re racing,” Newgarden said. “He knows we’re going to race in the future. We’re going to race for many years. This isn’t the first time we’ll battle, I’m sure. Hopefully he knows next time it’s getting a little tight in the corner, give me a little more room.

But I think he’s one of the world-class drivers that you race against. That’s what made that work. I can trust him to not lose the race car and hold his own into the corner. That’s really what made the move work. Any other guy, he might not have had the ability to make it work. Simon has that and even more. So he’s one of the best drivers in the world to go head-to-head with.”

Dixon deftly dodged comment on Penske’s brewing intramural squabble. “Definitely pretty hard to defend right there at the end with Simon,” Dixon said. “It was pretty exciting to watch Josef and Simon with that pass into Turn 1, which was pretty interesting, pretty tight. I was hoping it went a little bit different than what it actually did and could have picked up two spots.

“It’s a tough situation. Everybody is here to race to win. High-risk game, man.”

Dixon added he felt fortunate to finish second, considering he started seventh and Team Penske had secured the first four spots during qualifying Friday evening.

“I’ll be honest, we didn’t expect to finish on the podium,” said Dixon, the four-time series champion. “But I think we saw in the warmup (Friday night practice) that the gap had closed significantly with the trim level that we were able to achieve. I think mechanically our car was very good.

“Then also we had some misfortunes (for other drivers) that played in to help us out, especially with Simon and Josef in Turn 1.”

Helio Castroneves gave Team Penske three of the top four finishers when he placed fourth in the No. 3 Chevrolet. Castroneves led 52 laps to become the fourth driver in Indy car history to surpass 6,000 laps-led in a career. But his race was marred when he stalled on pit road during a late-race stop.

We had a little mistake on pit road that cost us and that was unfortunate,” said Castroneves, who is chasing his first series championship. “The car was definitely good enough to win.”

Conor Daly finished fifth in the No. 4 the A.J. Foyt Racing car. It was the driver’s best result in his first season with the team owned by “Super Tex,” and his best showing since placing fourth last year at Watkins Glen International in Upstate New York.

“We had a good car all weekend,” said Daly, who started 11th. “I was really upset with myself after qualifying, just had a big moment at the exit of (Turn) 1, but we redeemed ourselves. Then I tried to screw it up for myself again in the pits, but we were able to drive back. The car was just fantastic. I have to thank the team, I have to thank ABC Supply for sticking with us. I know it’s been a tough year, but I know we can do it. I know this team can do it. We’re just improving and it takes time. This is a hard sport.”

The start of the race was marred by a pair of incidents. Tony Kanaan of Chip Ganassi Racing spun in Turn 2 on the pace lap and backed his No. 10 Honda into the SAFER Barrier. Kanaan, the 2004 series champion whose future with team-owner Ganassi is uncertain, immediately went three laps down while the car was repaired. Kanaan eventually finished 16th.

When the green flag did wave, record-setting pole-sitter Power spun in nearly the same place as Kanaan and hit the wall in his No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet on Lap 6. The cars of owner/driver Ed Carpenter and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato of Andretti Autosport touched as they slowed to avoid Power, sending both into the wall as well. None of the drivers was injured but their races were over.

“It wasn’t a fun ride,” said Power, who had moved back into championship contention with his victory at Pocono Raceway last Sunday. “Josef went around the outside (to pass for the lead) and (I) got some of his dirty air and just lost it. Unfortunate. Very frustrating, unbelievably frustrating. … It was just slippery, super slippery.”

The championship standings show Newgarden in the lead with 547 points, Dixon second with 516, Castroneves third at 505, Pagenaud fourth at 504 and Power fifth with 464. Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (436 points), Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport (422) and Sato (410) remain mathematically alive for the championship as well.

By finishing 13th, Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones clinched Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

“It was a tough race,” said Jones, driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda. “We had a lot of downforce on the car. Earlier on in the race we were all right, but as the race went on the pace of the car wasn’t quick enough to move forward, so it was a bit frustrating. I did have some good battles early on. It’s just a shame that I didn’t have the speed at the end. It’s a great event. Everything, the way that the organization has done it, is right. It was great to see all these fans come out and support us.”

The Series returns to action next weekend with the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen on the 3.45-mile Watkins Glen International road-course. The race will air live at 1 p.m. (EDT) Sept. 3 on NBC Sports Network and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Dixon is the defending event champion on the historic, natural-terrain layout.

The season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, scheduled for Sept. 17 at Sonoma Raceway in California, is worth double the normal race points.


Santi Urrutia of Belardi Auto Racing passed Juan Piedrahita of Team Pelfrey with two laps to go in the Indy Lights race at Gateway Motorsports Park and drove on to his second win of the season. Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) finished fourth and needs only to start the Sept. 3 season-finale at Watkins Glen International to clinch the championship and $1-million Mazda scholarship to move up to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018.

Also, Victor Franzoni passed championship rival Anthony Martin on Lap 19 and went on to win the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race at Gateway. With the victory, Franzoni (Juncos Racing) took a two-point lead over Martin (Cape Motorsports) with a doubleheader race weekend remaining Sept. 2-3 at Watkins Glen.  


Results of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis/engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 248, Running 
2. (7) Scott Dixon, Honda, 248, Running
3. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 248, Running
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 248, Running
5. (11) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 248, Running
6. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 248, Running
7. (18) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 248, Running
8. (10) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 248, Running
9. (8) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 248, Running
10. (19) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 248, Running
11. (21) Sebastian Saavedra, Honda, 248, Running
12. (13) Graham Rahal, Honda, 248, Running
13. (12) Ed Jones, Honda, 248, Running
14. (20) Marco Andretti, Honda, 248, Running
15. (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 205, Contact 
16. (17) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 168, Mechanical
17. (16) Max Chilton, Honda, 164, Contact
18. (15) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 100, Contact
19. (6) Takuma Sato, Honda, 6, Contact
20. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 5, Contact
21. (5) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 5, Contact         

Race Statistics:
Winner’s average speed: 139.465 mph
Time of Race: 2:13:22.0358
Margin of victory: 0.6850-seconds
Cautions: 5 for 43 laps
Lead changes: 11 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Power 1-5 
Newgarden 6-60 
Bourdais 61-65 
Chilton 66 
Newgarden 67-193 
Pagenaud 104 
Castroneves 105-156 
Newgarden 157-158 
Chilton 159-160 
Newgarden 161-205 
Pagenaud 206-217 
Newgarden 218-248 

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Newgarden 547, Dixon 516, Castroneves 505, Pagenaud 504, Power 464, Rahal 436, Rossi 422, Sato 410, Kanaan 365, Hinchcliffe 351.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 27 2017
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