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Newgarden Back On Top; Kanaan Out The Door

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 31 2020

Driver Pato O’Ward and Josef Newgarden head up pit road on Sunday. They would be side by side in their cars on the track as well. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden began the tedious, lap-after-lap task of reeling in runaway NTT IndyCar Series point-leader Scott Dixon Sunday afternoon at World Wide Technology Raceway.

The two-time/reigning series champion, Newgarden parlayed a late-race pit strategy call and daring pit-exit to claim his second victory of 2020 in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Race 2 on the 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Ill.

Newgarden pitted for the final time on Lap 153 from third in a bid to undercut the lead pack. Exiting pit lane, Newgarden found himself locked into a side-by-side drag race with Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP.  Newgarden won their game of chicken, pulled ahead of O’Ward and cycled through into the lead on Lap 157 of the 200-lapper.

Newgarden had O’Ward in-check during the final laps until Takuma Sato, winner of last Sunday’s 104th Indianapolis 500, made contact with the wall in Turn 2 with four laps to go. The resulting caution froze the running order and a podium of Newgarden, O’Ward and Team Penske’s Will Power. Sato, of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, finished ninth.

Dixon, the five-time/reigning series champion from Chip Ganassi Racing, finished a workmanlike fifth after scoring his landmark 50th career series victory Saturday. Dixon, who began the day with a 117-point lead over Newgarden, saw that advantage shrink to a still-sizeable 96 points. O’Ward sits 119 points behind Dixon in third.

“This was all a pit stop victory right there for me,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet. “We got pretty dicey with Will and Pato on-track. My guys have been amazing in the pits. They’ve put me into position every time. They won the race. I didn’t win it, they won it.

“It was really fun racing Pato out of the pit. That was for the win right there, that race when we went side-by-side out of the pit exit. He did an amazing job. He’s going to do great things in this sport, so good job to him.”

Newgarden finished 12th on Saturday, failing to lead a lap or even pressure Dixon, Sato and/or O’Ward. With the schedule winding down, Newgarden basically saved his season point-wise with this win.

Tony Kanaan speeds out of his pit stall during his final scheduled IndyCar Series drive of the season.

“Well, we can’t give up on it yet,” Newgarden said. “Yesterday was a pretty big blow. We’ve been pretty bitten by bad luck this year. The yellows have really gone against us probably three or four of the eight races, so what are you going to do? Sometimes it comes your way; sometimes it doesn’t. I feel like this year they really haven’t come our way, but that’s racing. You’ve got to hopefully get on a good cycle, and maybe this will be a little kick-starter for the end of the season for us.”

O’Ward’s second-place finish matched his career-best result from earlier this year on the road-course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on July 12. It was the third podium of the season for the 21-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico.

“Man, we had a great weekend,” said O’Ward, who finished third Saturday in his McLaren SP Chevrolet. “Our objective was to come in and try and score two podiums, and we did that. It would have been great to score a win. We’re so close. This Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet was very strong right out of the gates. We were super, super-competitive. We’re knocking on the door, man. We’re very close, and we’re going to keep pushing. I know our time will come. We have to stay there.”

O’Ward admitted he likely would not have been able to catch and pass Newgarden if the race had gone green to the checkered flag.

“It would be great to say I did, but honestly, I was really struggling,” said O’Ward, the 2020 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year. “Whenever I got the countdown to 10 laps to go, I was pushing, pushing, pushing to get close to him and try and strike, but I just couldn’t quite do it. Today was harder than yesterday for passing. The asphalt on the track was quite a bit hotter, so that makes it quite a bit tougher with big trains of cars. We got to the back of the pack, and we kind of got stuck there.”

Power led 40 laps in his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and was leading as the final round of green flag pit stops began. But the 2014 series champ got caught in traffic attempting to enter pit lane, found himself behind the No. 20 United Chevy of owner/driver Ed Carpenter and lost additional time.

“I felt like we had the car to win,” Power said. “Obviously, it’s a traffic game. I’ve got to thank all of the guys. The Verizon 12 Chevy was really strong today. We had great stops, great car. The strategy certainly didn’t work out obviously at the end, but still very happy to get a podium.”

Rookie Rinus VeeKay was fourth in the No. 21 Chevrolet entered by ECR followed by Dixon in his  No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

VeeKay, a 19-year-old native of The Netherlands, scored his best career finish and third top-10 result of the season, besting a fifth-place run in the GMR Grand Prix on July 4 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course. VeeKay was the biggest gainer of the day as he climbed from the 18th starting position.

“It was a great race, one of the best races I have ever driven,” VeeKay said. “Yesterday, I started 14th and finished sixth, so today, starting 18th, I was aiming for a top-10 finish. I had an amazing first lap, got around a lot of guys. The strategy was brilliant, so shout out to my team for making this possible. Those last few laps were very tough; everyone was all over the place. Just missed out on the podium but I don’t care about that right now. P4 was the best I could do.”

Dixon _ third on the all-time winner’s list and only two behind open-wheel icon Mario Andretti’s 52 _ started sixth and basically held serve as drivers in the lead pack deployed several different strategies to try to one-up one other. Dixon was, however, quite upset with Zach Veach of Andretti Autosport.

“The PNC Bank crew did a great job today,” said Dixon, 40, a four-time winner this season. “We got into a little bit of traffic in those sequences, and Zach Veach totally screwed us. He was laps down and was totally slowing everyone down. I’m not sure if he was trying to help his teammate (Colton) Herta, but he screwed my race and Sato’s race. I’m not sure how that happens when you are fellow Honda teams. I would have expected something else, especially with the other manufacturer running P1-4. It was a decent points day, and we just made the most of what we had.”

NTT P1 Award-winner Sato led the first 59 laps in his No. 30 Abeam Consulting Honda on the oval across the Mississippi River and Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis. But a pit strategy call to stay out longer than the rest of the field hurt him as he lost the lead and fell to eighth after green flag stops cycled through. Sato led seven more laps throughout the race for a race-high 66.

From there, O’Ward and Power traded the lead on the following green flag pit stop cycles and hounded each other for the lead on green flag runs while Newgarden patiently waited to capitalize for his second win at WWTR. Newgarden also won this event in 2017 en route to his first series championship.

A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan.

Meanwhile, 2004 series champion Tony Kanaan finished a bittersweet 19th in the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Sunday’s race was the final scheduled start of Kanaan’s “TK Last Lap” tour, in which he has competed in only the oval-track races this season. The 2013 Indy 500 winner, Kanaan holds the record for the most consecutive starts in the series at 318, an “Iron Man” streak that ended after the COVID-19 delayed season-opening Saturday night race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on June 6.

During the parade lap for his 383rd career series start, Kanaan radioed this message to his crew: “Whatever happens, let’s enjoy this day. Love you guys!”

Kanaan, 45, is second on the all-time open-wheel starts list, trailing only Andretti’s 407. But Kannan began the race No. 1 in laps completed with 51,726, including 4,071 laps-led (11th). Kanaan has 17 wins (tied for 27th), 15 poles (20th) and 78 podiums (10.2 average finish). 

“I wish I could have given the boys and A.J. (Foyt) and Big Machine a better result, but the rest of the day was fun,” the popular native of Brazil said. “It was a good way to end it. I want to thank my fans, my team and everyone who has been involved in this journey, my family. It’s been good. I’m done for this year but hopefully not done totally, but we’ll see. My fingers are crossed that maybe I could come back for a proper last lap with my fans, but for now, drop the mic.”

Next race on the schedule is the INDYCAR Harvest Grand Prix Doubleheader Oct. 2-3 on the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course.

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Results Sunday of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Race 2 NTT IndyCar Series event on the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1.(2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (4) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (3) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (18) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
5. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
6. (10) Colton Herta, Honda, 200, Running
7. (9) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 200, Running
8. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (1) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
10. (16) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 200, Running
11. (12) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
12. (14) Alex Palou, Honda, 200, Running
13. (5) Jack Harvey, Honda, 200, Running
14. (11) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
15. (20) Marco Andretti, Honda, 199, Running
16. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 199, Running
17. (13) Oliver Askew, Chevrolet, 199, Running
18. (21) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 199, Running
19. (19) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 199, Running
20. (23) Graham Rahal, Honda, 198, Running
21. (22) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 197, Running
22. (17) Zach Veach, Honda, 196, Running
23. (7) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 190, Running

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 162.594 mph
Time of Race: 1:32:15.2431
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 2 for 5 laps
Lead changes: 8 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders
Sato, Takuma 1 – 59
O’Ward, Pato 60 – 95
Power, Will 96 – 97
Newgarden, Josef 98 – 101
Sato, Takuma 102 – 108
Herta, Colton 109 – 113
Power, Will 114 – 151
Herta, Colton 152 – 156
Newgarden, Josef 157 – 200

NTT IndyCar Series point standings _ 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 416; 2, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 320; 3, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 297; 4,Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 274; 5, Colton Herta, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport, 250; 6, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 237; 7, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 236; 8, Will Power, Team Penske, 226; 9, Santino Ferrucci, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan, 216; 10, Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing, 208.

UPDATED 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE/RACE WINNER

Saturday, June 6 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 4 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course 1 (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 11 _ Road America Race 1, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, July 12 _ Road America Race 2, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Friday, July 17 _Iowa Speedway Race 1, Newton (Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske)

Saturday, July 18 _ Iowa Speedway Race 2, Newton (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Sunday, Aug. 23 _ Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing)

Saturday, Aug. 29 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 1, Madison, Ill. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, Aug. 30 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 2, Madison, Ill. (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Friday, Oct. 2 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 1

Saturday, Oct. 3 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 2

Sunday, Oct. 25 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 31 2020
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