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IndyCar St. Louis doubleheader: Championship rivals Dixon and Newgarden are the winners

NTT IndyCar Series Bommarito Automotive Group 500 #1 at World Wide Technology Raceway
• Dixon turns the tables on Sato for the win

PHOTO DIXON SATO JGS 2020 GATEWAY 144742 1 Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato - Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Race 1 - Aug 29, 2020 -- Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Madison, IL, Aug 29/20 (GRW): At the Indy 500 the week earlier, Takuma Sato had held off a charging Scott Dixon to win the race. This time, in the Saturday race here, the roles were reversed and it was Sato who tried and failed to catch Dixon in the closing laps. This was Dixon’s 50th race win in Indy car racing, all but one of those wins coming when driving a car for Chip Ganassi.

The next generation of Indy car drivers filled the next four finishing positions: Pato O’Ward, Colton Herta, Marcus Ericsson and Rinus Veekay. Oh, perhaps Ericsson, at 29 and with five years in F1, is a bit old to be counted as the next generation.

The first caution of the race came as the cars exited Turn 4 on their way to the starter’s green flag. Chaos erupted at the back of the starting field when Alex Palou swerved out of line to jump forward. This let Simon Pagenaud shoot ahead into the now-empty slot which faked Oliver Askew into jumping on the gas, thinking the race had already begun. Zach Veach, seeing the other cars accelerating, gunned it and drove into his teammate Marco Andretti. This eliminated Andretti, Alex Rossi, Veach, and Ed Carpenter. Pagenaud’s car suffered a lot of damage and, despite efforts to repair it, he was forced to withdraw after failing to maintain the required minimum speed.

After this, the race got underway in earnest. Power led the race through the run to the first round of scheduled pit stops but a slowish pit stop saw him fall to third behind O’Ward and Dixon. After this, O’Ward held onto the lead for the next 94 laps of the 200-lap race.

Then, during the final round of green-flag pit stops, Dixon was able to beat O’Ward out of the pits. It looked like O’Ward was now set up to follow Dixon home in second place but Sato, who opted to delay his pit stop as long as possible race took over the lead for the next 14 laps. His strategy might have paid off if this pit stop had been perfect, but it was slow and he came out of the pits behind Dixon – but ahead of O’Ward.

After that, all Dixon had to do was to maintain his small gap ahead of Sato. Despite Sato’s best efforts, he was able to stay ahead, crossing the finish line a mere 0.14 seconds ahead of Sato.

Although this win was not comparable to the one he failed to earn at Indianapolis, it helped make up for that loss.

“It’s awesome,” Dixon said. “I can’t thank the PNC Bank crew enough. Superb race all day. Sato was going to be strong at the end, but I didn’t realize how strong he was coming. We were kind of going into a reserve mode, looking after the engine, and he was there with a head of steam. Just so happy for this team. Last week at Indianapolis was a bit of a bummer. So, it was nice to get a win.”

• Click HERE for the results of this race, Race #1 at WWFR.

PHOTO PODIUM GATEWAY 2 JGS 2020 GATEWAY 149154 1Race #2 Podium: O'Ward (2nd), Newgarden (1st) and Power (3rd) -- Photo by: Joe Skibinski

 

NTT IndyCar Series Bommarito Automotive Group 500 #2 at World Wide Technology Raceway

• O’Ward finishes second to Newgarden

Madison, IL, Aug 30/20 (GRW): Coming into the final round of pit stops, Will Power had been leading for 38 laps but when he came back out in traffic he was unable to get back up to full speed quickly and his hopes of regaining the lead were dashed. This left the battle for the lead to Pato O’Ward and Josef Newgarden. On this final round of pit stops, Newgarden and O’Ward raced out of their pit stalls to re-enter the track but Newgarden edged forward and beat the Mexican to the end-of-pit-lane line to take over the lead.

Power’s slow stop had dropped him to third behind the other two and for the remaining 43 laps Newgarden was able to hold off O’Ward. Takuma Sato had been running in eighth place as the laps counted down and, on lap 197, he slid up and hit the wall in Turn 2. This brought out the race’s second caution and, with so few laps left to run, the race ended behind the pace car with Newgarden taking the checker ahead of O’Ward. Before the yellow flew, O’Ward had been half a second behind Newgarden, but despite his best efforts, he would have unable to catch him.

After the race, O’Ward said as much. (Did you have anything for Josef at the end?): “It would be great to say I did, but honestly, I was really struggling … 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.”

Newgarden credited his race out of pit lane with the win over O’Ward. “This was all a pit stop victory right here for me. We got pretty dicey with Will (Power) and Pato (O’Ward) there on track. My guys have been amazing in the pits. They have put me into position every time. 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.”

Will Power finished third, Rinus VeeKay fourth and Scott Dixon fifth.

Although on his radio Power was very critical of his team’s pit stop work after his final, slow stop, he was more diplomatic in the post-race interviews. “I felt like we had the car to win. Obviously, it’s a traffic game. I’ve got to thank all of the guys. The Verizon No. 12 car 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.”

With three races (or maybe five; see below) races left in the 2020 season, Dixon has a comfortable points lead over Newgarden with 416 points to Newgarden’s 320. O’Ward is third in the points standings with 297 points. Each subsequent race win will pay 50 points.

• Click HERE for the results of this race, Race #2 at WWFR.

• At this time of writing, it is uncertain when the next IndyCar race will happen. The postponed Mid-Ohio weekend has been pencilled in as a double-header on the weekend of September 12-13. But this has not yet been confirmed and it seems as if it is conditional on the State of Ohio giving the organizers, Green Savoree, permission to let in 10,000 spectators. INDYCAR President Mark Miles said that he thought that there was a 90 percent chance that the Mid-Ohio race weekend will be held. Stay tuned. The next race scheduled after that is the IndyCar Harvest GP double-header on the Indianapolis road course on October 2+3.

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