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IndyCar doubleheader at Iowa: Pagenaud wins from the rear; Newgarden wins from the pole

IndyCar doubleheader at Iowa: Pagenaud wins from the rear; Newgarden wins from the pole

NTT indyCar Series Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race #1 at Iowa Speedway
Pagenaud wins from back to front!

Newton, IA, July 17/20 (GRW): How did he do it? After failing to come out for the two-in-one qualifying session on Saturday due to fuel pump problems, Simon Pagenaud was relegated to the rear of the starting grid for both races of this Friday-Saturday doubleheader. But, after he somehow managed to dumbfound everyone by winding up in the winner’s circle on Friday, all bets had to be off for his prospects for Sunday’s race.

Of course, Pagenaud’s last place starting position was not because his car lacked pace; his team had been optimistic that he had had a shot at winning the pole before the problem showed up. So, when the race began he was able to make up place quickly. He was up to 15th after just the first 10 laps.

The race ran caution-free for the first 143 laps of the 250-lap race. Pagenaud had cycled up to the lead by lap 138 as others were making their planned pit stops. Then chaos erupted. First Will Power had a big crash when his left-front wheel came loose – apparently after the nut had been cross-treaded during the green-flag pit stop.

PHOTO HERTA IOWA 1 4CJ1453CColton Herta and Rinus VeeKay collide during the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race 1 (Chris Jones/INDYCAR)

Now, those drivers who had not yet pitted in this round of pit stops, came in for fresh tires and fuel. It took some time before the mess from Power’s crash was cleaned up but, finally, on lap 156, they got set for the green. Unfortunately, the green was waved off and the field slowed again. Brian Herta was unaware of this and he had his foot hard on the gas. He slammed into the rear tire of Rinus VeeKay’s car ahead and his car was launched right up and over the other car. Given that the green had never been displayed, this turned into an even longer caution period. Fortunately, despite looking like a very serious accident, everyone escaped unscathed.

Pagenaud was now in sixth place and Scott Dixon was right behind him in seventh place. Once the race went green again, it turned into a battle between these two. Neither of them pitted again – making it a two-stop strategy for them – while most of the others did make an additional stop for fuel.

In the final 20 laps, Dixon had closed to within less that a second behind Pagenaud but the Frenchman had enough speed to stay ahead. This continued lap-after-lap until the checker flew with Pagenaud crossing the line just half a second ahead of Dixon.

“This place is tough,” Pagenaud said. “What a night. What a day for us. First of all, amazing group effort from the whole Team Penske to recover from Road America. We unloaded really well. This morning was a lot of fun. Qualifying was disheartening, but these guys never give up. That’s what this team is all about. I can’t believe it. I have to re-watch the race. How did I get there? I don’t know. But the last 50 laps were certainly a lot of tension. When (Scott) Dixon is chasing you, you better hit your marks.”

Had the cautions – and hence the pit stop strategy – played out a bit differently, the two young ARROW McLaren drivers – Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew might well have been vying for the win. As it was they come home in a very impressive third for Askew and a fourth for O’Ward.

This track has the reputation of belonging to Josef Newgarden after his dominant win here last year. But this time, things did not go his way. Although he started from the front row alongside polesitter Daly Connor and he led twice for 68 laps, he took the restart after the race’s only caution period a lap down in tenth place. During that final long run he did manage to get back onto the lead lap and to work his way forward over the final ten laps, taking the checker in fifth place. Looking forward to the Sunday race, he was going to be starting on the pole and he still had hopes of a win here this year.

Click HERE for the results of Friday’s Iowa IndyCar 250s Race #1

 PHOTO NEWGARDEN IOWA 2 JGS 2020 IOWA 78279 1Josef Newgarden during the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race 2 at Iowa Speedway (Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR)

NTT indyCar Series Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race #2 at Iowa Speedway
Newgarden back on form, winning from the pole

Newton, IA, July 18/20 (GRW): Newgarden may have had a disappointing night the day before but, in Race #2, it went all his way and he dominated this race, leading 214 of the race’s 250 laps and winning it by a three-second margin over his teammate Will Power. This win was something of a redemption for Power who had had embarrassing results in each of the previous two races. With Pagenaud having won on Friday, this win made is a two-race sweep for Team Penske.

“Feels really good,” said Newgarden,“I don’t know what we’ve got to do to keep the bad luck off us, but hopefully this is a good start. Our guys did an amazing job yesterday. I was so disappointed for them. I was angry for them because I thought they had the winning car. They put in the work and weren’t able to get rewarded for it. I was so determined to come back today. I think everyone was determined to come back and have a really good race, and we just ran hard. We ran hard all day.”

Newgarden had been leading ahead of Pato O’Ward when the second round of pit stops began and O’Ward took the lead for a lap when Newgarden pitted first under green. But he soon cycled back into the lead ahead of O’Ward – who was looking like his strongest challenger. Then, when O’Ward pitted he pulled away before the rear tire was secured and he had to stop while they put the tire back on properly - falling two laps down to Newgarden and dropping out of contention.

O’Ward’s teammate Oliver Askew, who was on a different pit-stop strategy, took the lead briefly after Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed when he lost control entering the pits. A few laps later, when Askew pitted, the order reverted to Newgarden-Power with 60 laps remaining. After that the Penske duo cruised around in the lead the rest of the way to the checker. Late in the race, Graham Rahal took over third place when Connor Daly pitted with just a few laps to go. This made the finishing order behind him – Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon. Dixon had only led this race once for a couple of laps early on during the first cycle of green-flag pit stops.

As for the ARROW McLaren boys, Askew finished sixth behind Dixon and O’Ward, who could never make up for the time lost in his bad pit stop, finishing in 12th place.

• Click HERE for the results of Saturday’s Iowa IndyCar 250s Race #2

• The next IndyCar race will be run in three week’s time on Sunday, August 9th at Mid-Ohio.

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