|Josef Newgarden forces his way past Pagenaud to win|
By virtue of an aggressive pass on teammate Simon Pagenaud with 29 laps remaining, Josef Newgarden drove the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske to victory lane in this evening's Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park. It was the fourth victory of 2017 for Newgarden, and 8th of his career. The win stretched Newgarden's championship lead to 31 points over second-place finisher Scott Dixon.
Pagenaud was third with Helio Castroneves coming home fourth. Conor Daly scored his best result of 2017, finishing fifth.
No one really knew what to expect going into this race. The track was newly paved, and as smooth and slick as a counter top. Teams brought their road course aero kits, and many of them ran their road course cars, trying to cope with a non-symmetrical slick oval.
Of course, this year that means that Team Penske would have a distinct advantage. The conventional wisdom is that the Penske shocks are the key, but don't discount that they (arguably) have 4 of the 5 best drivers. And if fact, the qualification results were a Penske sweep, with Will Power on the Pole.
But a funny thing happens when you actually start running the race. Even before the start, Tony Kanaan looped his car into the wall in turn 2. Kanaan soldiered on until, strangely, he parked his car on lap 168 in something of a huff. All is not well in Ganassi land, as Max Chilton pointed out at Pocono. TK was credited with 16th, probably only one spot lower than if he'd driven until the end.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]The green tried to wave again when Josef put a bold move on Will Power down the front stretch. Will's front tires lost grip and he hit pretty much the same spot that TK hit a few minutes earlier — but this time it wasn't a lone car deal. Ed Carpenter piled in, literally, on top of him, followed by Takuma Sato. Power's championship hopes faded almost to dark, and Ed looked to a long off season. Carpenter finished dead last, Power next to last, and Sato just one step above that in 19th.
The race finally started for real on lap 18. This time, they were single-file, and the tires were totally warmed up. The remaining Penske cars then set the pace, led by Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. Scott Dixon was fourth, and Ryan Hunter-Reay moving past Carlos Munoz to 5th.
The AJ Foyt cars of Carlos Munoz and Conor Daily were a pleasant surprise all weekend. Qualifying 9th and 11th respectively, they hung around the top 10 all night. Conor overcame a mistake in the pits to finish 5th, while Carlos battled back from an on-track incident with Charlie Kimball to finish 9th.
And so the race continued, settling into a follow the leader game for about the next 80 laps. On lap 102, JR Hildebrand had a suspension failure and quickly found the turn 4 wall. Completing an awful night for Ed Carpenter Racing, he finished 18th.
|Newgarden waves to the crowd|
The green flag flew again, and for another 50 laps, it was a game of Follow the Penskes. The only difference is that Helio has beaten Josef out of the pits when Josef's crew held him for an extra second (fearing a pit collision). On lap 161, Josef had take the lead again when Helio stalled in the pits, followed by Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Helio, and James Hinchcliff.
On lap 164, Max Chilton's perfectly miserable season continued, as he looped the car and hit the turn 4 wall. He suggested that the team had put more front wing into the car, and when he came out from behind a car, the front grabbed and spun him out. Chilton finished in 17th. And team mate Tony Kanaan took this opportunity to park his car as well, in circumstances that weren't exactly forthcoming.
Green once again on lap 174, but only for 30 laps this time, as Ryan Hunter-Reay grazed the wall in turn 4 while passing team mate Alexander Rossi. The two had a history back at Mid Ohio, but Hunter-Reay didn't blame his team mate one bit. A real story here is the miserable evening for most of the Andretti team — Sato crashed on the first lap, Marco went a lap down early and only got it back at the end, and Hunter-Reay crashed out. Only Rossi had a good evening, finishing 6th.
The restart on lap 212 gave us a chance for a real shootout. However, the aero package, the slow-warming tires as well as the new pavement made it very difficult for anyone to pass for position. Most of the passes for position were on restarts. At the end of the race, however, more risks are taken, and on lap 218 Josef Newgarden put a move on Simon Pagenaud that will be discussed for a long time. Yes, there was contact made. Yes, there was just barely room for Josef to get around. But Pagenaud left no doubt in his post-race comments that he lost all respect for Josef. "Anyone else and he'd be in the fence" was the repeated comment. No doubt it will be an interesting team meeting on Monday. Pagenaud was punted back to third, allowing Scott Dixon to break up the Penske podium sweep. Helio Castroneves finished 4th.
The feel-good story of the weekend was Sebastien Bourdais, who made his first start after his massive shunt on Pole Day at Indy. Sebastien started 19th, finished 10th, and actually lead 5 laps during pit stops sequences early in the race.
The other Sebastian, Saavedra, who replaced Mikhail Aleshan, started shotgun on the field and got lapped after only 30 laps of green flag running. However, he battled back, and finished 11th — a totally respectable run, especially since team mate James Hinchliffe finished 8th.
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): "We had a great race with the Menards Chevrolet. All of the adjustments left us with a great car at the end. When we needed to come up with a great pit stop, we did. Those guys really are the best. They always come through when they have to. Unfortunately, it didn't work out there at the end. I can't say that I'm overly pleased, but that's racing. We still have the championship out there, so we'll get ready for Watkins Glen."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a great night. First off, we had an awesome crowd. It was amazing actually what was out here tonight. I felt like the energy for this event, it really spurred everyone on. You should have seen all the drivers. I felt like everyone was a little extra nervous tonight because of the energy in this place. I remember watching this race when I was younger. They stopped coming here, I think 2003 was the last race. It's fun to have it back in 2017 and see it so well supported for the first year. It was a great night to go racing. I felt like the PPG Chevrolet was going to be good tonight. We had four good cars at Team Penske. Happy to get the win on the No. 2 car side because I felt like we had the car to beat. I didn't want us to be denied tonight for sure. Simon (Pagenaud) gave me a lane to work with. 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 worked out well for us. Pagenaud, didn't get up into the wall or anything like that, so I would say it worked out okay for him, too."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet): "The Shell Fuel Rewards Chevy was awesome tonight. We had a little mistake on pit road that cost us and that was unfortunate. The car was definitely good enough to win. It was fantastic to be back at Gateway. The crowd was amazing. It looks like the whole community has embraced this event."
CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "We had a good car all weekend. 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." (About close call with Charlie Kimball): "I won't say anything bad about (Kimball), but it was just one of those really late moves that, being on an oval it's not great to do. I mean everyone's racing hard, it's obviously tough on a short oval to make ground, but I mean that could have ruined my race right there. I thought the wing was gone going into the next corner, but it was still there. So thank you Chevy, for making strong pieces. But, yeah, I'm just happy to be here, and just hope I can be here for many more races."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "Solid day despite starting 10th and finishing eighth; for only a two-position swing, it was a lot more dramatic day than that. I think we made some good changes to the car throughout the night, and we were a lot racier than we were in second practice yesterday, so big credit to the engineers. The Arrow guys were awesome in the pit stops today, so we made up some spots there. We just ultimately got caught out on the last yellow. It was a wrong place, wrong time, and Conor (Daly) came around the outside of us there and took all of the air off us. I had to slide up the racetrack, and I think we maybe damaged a tire when we did that because after that we had a pretty big vibration and we couldn't really attack Charlie (Kimball) there at the end. Probably should have finished sixth, but we'll take a solid top 10 and hopefully build on that for Watkins Glen."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "We had a very interesting race altogether… a bit crazy. The cold (weather) and night definitely made the car quite slick, which took a couple people out of balance really. On my side, I was still in a learning process. Once I felt comfortable, I knew my cues and I managed to start committing. The whole Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew did an amazing job overnight to put an amazing race car together and that gave me the confidence to really start moving forward from the back. We took advantage of some yellows, which really put us in a good sequence to battle with the top 10. We really struggled on restarts, getting into a couple situations which almost took us out, but thankfully we managed to survive those and continue moving our way to the front. It's been three races with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and it has been so fun. I have to thank everyone at the organization – mechanics, engineering staff, commercial staff, everyone. They really welcomed me like one of them. I didn't expect the click to be so quick and so seamless; I think that has really shown in the three races we've done together. To be honest, it felt like home. I really wish everyone the best, no matter what happens next. I'm very happy to be able to have had these opportunities."
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "It just all happened very quickly. I was just stuck behind (Carlos) Munoz prior to that last stop for probably 40 or so laps. We came out just behind him on the exchange and were desperate to get around him. I had a really good run in Turn 3, but the car just turned around on me. We added a turn of front wing on that last stop and it just caught me out. We were struggling with straight line speed, so you had to stay as close as you could to the guy in front of you. That was it and it was game over pretty quickly for the Gallagher car."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): "I guess that's the best we could have hoped for. It was definitely going to be a tough race for us, but the car was actually very good. I think we had a better mechanical grip than the group we were racing with, with the Penskes, and especially toward the end of the run. We could sort of come back towards them. We had so much drag. We could get to them, but we couldn't pull out and pass them. Definitely pretty hard to defend right there at the end with Simon (Pagenaud). It was pretty exciting to watch Josef (Newgarden) 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, but huge credit to everybody on the NTT Data No. 9 car. Strong tonight. Strong pit stops. And how about the fans, man? This was awesome to come back to St. Louis and see the fans and how excited they were for this race."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It wasn't a fun ride. Josef (Newgarden) went around the outside and got some of his dirty air and just lost it. Unfortunate. Very frustrating. Unbelievably frustrating for the whole Verizon Chevrolet team. It was just slippery. Super slippery. I wish I had done a few more burnouts to get more heat in the rear tires. The fronts were very slippery too. He just took my air going around on the outside. I tried to get back to power and got some dirty air. It just went. Unfortunate."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "It was a race with ups and downs. The whole team did a great job the whole weekend. Happy for Conor, he did a really good job finishing fifth. And with me ninth we had two cars in the top 10. I just needed a little more speed in Turns 1 and 2 especially compared to my teammate. Finishing like that in the last stint, I had a really bad vibration that cost me a little bit but I'm really happy for the team overall."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda): "It was a close race and the Fifth Third Bank car was pretty good. The Penskes didn't take off like we expected. Most of all, I'm disappointed and sad about the last stop. I hope Brad (Ward), our fueler, is OK. He's a key part of our team and you never want to see that happen. I thought I saw Donny (Stewart, chief mechanic) waving me to go, so I went and obviously it wasn't time to go. We had a (fuel) probe failure early in the race that didn't prevent that sort of thing, so it was my fault. I just went, simple as that."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 UNIFIN Honda): "It wasn't an easy race. We knew the car wasn't perfect and I had some really complicated restarts. I don't know what was going on, but I got loose three times and I almost stuffed it, and so I went to the back of the pack. The guys did a really good job in the pits and got us back in contention there at the end. I finally had a good restart and a couple of wobbles in front of me and I benefitted from it. I'm just really happy with my top 10. It's a good way to salvage something this weekend."
ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "It was a tough race. 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."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It was slick, even warming up the tires. It may have been the combination of tires that had run before us. We ran a little bit after Indy Lights, but just for the pit stop practice, so it wasn't a lot. Even with the tires warmed up, it was hard, but that's no excuse. I saw Will (Power) get loose in front of (Takuma) Sato. I was under Sato, he was sliding around. I finally got loose like those guys were. I corrected and went under Sato, but once we made contact, it sent me around. I'm just super disappointed. I had such a chance to get a good result tonight in front of tons of family and friends from Indianapolis. 2018 can't come fast enough. I'm thankful that Fuzzy's Vodka is behind us so much to give us an opportunity to come back and be even better next year. But man, it is disheartening right now. It's going to be a long offseason to get this taste out of my mouth."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "All of a sudden, we had no steering and were going straight. I feel like something must have broke or we had some sort of an issue. Hopefully, for the sake of everyone else, we can isolate it on our side just for the certainty of the race. That's about all I have to say. We were having a pretty good run. It is just a bummer to have both of the Fuzzy's Vodka cars out of the race so early."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "Will (Power) started struggling and spun, I had to lift to avoid it. At the moment, I could go through it, but then others checked up and I think Ed (Carpenter) had a problem. I had nowhere to go. We took the car to the garages to see how much damage there was and if we could fix it, but it was too much. We were hoping to collect some points, but our day ended early."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda): "It was definitely a frustrating day. We spent most of the race just trying to hang on and unfortunately couldn't really attack. All we could do is make sure we brought the car home, which is disappointing. The Oberto Circle K team did a heck of a job trying to keep the car in the race and getting us back on the lead lap. We kept the guys in the pits busy all night making adjustments on nearly every stop and they still got me out of the pits quick."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We were really working to get around Alexander (Rossi). We had the speed to get by him, but I just pushed it too hard into (Turn) 1. If you're two inches high in Turn 1 or 2 – I got up there earlier and got away with it, but not this time. I just lost the front and smacked the rear. It was completely my fault; I was just pushing really hard. Sorry to the No. 28 DHL guys. We deserved to be somewhere in the top 10, and certainly not going home early."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "I'm just really proud of the guys. We didn't get the chance to test here, but we learned from the No. 9 car's test. We made the car better and better from first thing yesterday afternoon, through qualifying, even though we didn't get the qualifying result we wanted. Through the race tonight, the car was actually pretty good. We just kept making it better. It was just tough racing. With the package like it was, it was really hard to close up and pass anyone, especially into the first turn. We took advantage of some momentum shifts, like when guys didn't get great restarts. I'm really happy to come away with a seventh tonight, especially here when we knew it might be a little bit compromised."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda): "It was a pretty hard night, but I think the whole NAPA Auto Parts team really capitalized on the opportunities that were given to us. To come home sixth on a track that's dominant for the other manufacturer, I think is a solid result and that's what we were looking for all weekend. Maybe we could have been a couple spots higher, but at the end of the night, we brought the car home and that was a solid race. The pace was good and there was really nothing to complain about on a track where we knew we were going to be at a deficit. It's nice to come away with a top six (finish)."
|15||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||205||7 LAPS||7 LAPS||5||24.832||14||Honda|
|16||10||Tony Kanaan||168||4 LAPS||3 LAPS||7||24.832||17||Honda|
|17||8||Max Chilton||164||5 LAPS||3 LAPS||4||24.888||3||16||Honda|
|18||21||JR Hildebrand||100||7 LAPS||5 LAPS||1||24.907||15||Chevy|
Winner's average speed: 139.465 mph
Time of Race: 2:13:22.0358
Margin of victory: 0.6850 of a second
Cautions: 5 for 43 laps
Lead changes: 11 among 6 drivers
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.