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Pagenaud drives from last to first, holds off Dixon for stirring Iowa victory

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Friday, July 17th, 2020

Simon Pagenaud celebrates after winning the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race 1 at Iowa Speedway Friday, July 17, 2020. Photo by Chris Owens

 

Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

NEWTON, Iowa (July 17, 2020) Simon Pagenaud charged from last to first to win Race 1 of the INDYCAR Iowa 250s Friday night, July 17 at Iowa Speedway.

Simon Pagenaud wins the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race 1 at Iowa Speedway Friday, July 17, 2020. Photo by Joe Skibinski

Pagenaud held off Scott Dixon by .4954 of a second for his first win of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet. Pagenaud started last in the 23-car field after a fuel pressure problem prevented him from making a qualifying attempt earlier in the day.

CLICK HERE: Official Race 1 Results

It’s the first time a driver has won from the last starting spot on the grid since March 2017, when Sebastien Bourdais drove from the rear to the front of a 21-car field to win the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“This place is tough,” Pagenaud said after his 15th career win and his first at the 7/8th-mile oval. “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.

Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon and Oliver Askew celebrate on the podium following the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race 1 at Iowa Speedway Friday, July 17, 2020. Photo by Chris Owens

“I can’t believe it. I have to rewatch 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.”

Pagenaud’s win for Team Penske ended Chip Ganassi Racing’s dominant start to the season in which Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda won the first four NTT INDYCAR SERIES races. Five-time series champion Dixon opened with three straight wins in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, with Rosenqvist earning his first career victory last Sunday at Road America.

Rookie Oliver Askew rounded out the Iowa podium Friday night with a third-place finish in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, marking the best-career NTT INDYCAR SERIES finish for the defending Indy Lights champion. 

Oliver Askew during the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race 1 at Iowa Speedway Friday, July 17, 2020. Photo by Joe Skibinski

“I wish you could see my smile right now,” Askew said. “This Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet came alive once the track started to get cooler. We were really good on new tires and when they were very used. If that yellow didn’t come out on the restart there (on Lap 156), I think we would have had a really good shot at finishing at least 1-2 with Pato (O’Ward) and I. We’ll go get them tomorrow, but I’ll sleep really well tonight. Honestly, that’s probably one of the funnest races I’ve ever done in my life.”

Askew’s teammate Pato O’Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights champion who scored his career-best finish of second last Sunday at Road America, drove his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish. Defending series champion Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Oliver Askew during the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race 1 at Iowa Speedway Friday, July 17, 2020. Photo by Joe Skibinski

2016 series champion Pagenaud wasted no time making his march through the field. Within the first 10 laps, Pagenaud already had made his way into the top 15. The long green flag runs throughout the 250-lap race opened the field for strategy that helped Pagenaud and other drivers gain ground from the rear.

A caution period on Lap 144 allowed leader Pagenaud to pit for the final time and get fresh tires for the run to the finish. He retook the lead from O’Ward on Lap 178 with his fresher Firestone tires.

As the end of the race neared, Pagenaud’s rear-view mirror was filled with Dixon’s orange-and-blue Honda. But the Frenchman held off the late charge from the Kiwi and led a race-high 83 laps on the night, including the final 72. He averaged 132.220 mph.

Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay collide the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race 1 at Iowa Speedway Friday, July 17, 2020. Photo by Chris Jones

Askew, who was charging hard on the freshest tires among the leaders, finished 7.2128 seconds back.

Series points leader Dixon also drove through the field from a low starting spot after qualifying 17th.

Pagenaud will look to sweep the weekend in Iowa tomorrow night with the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race Two (8:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) from Iowa Speedway. Qualifying for tomorrow’s event was also held Friday, and Newgarden will lead the field to green, and he will be joined on the front row by his Team Penske teammate Power.

Both Pagenaud and Dixon will have their work cut out again Saturday. Pagenaud again will start last due to his problem during qualifying, and Dixon will start 18th.

‘What They’re Saying’ from the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Race 1

Top-10 Finishers

1st – SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “Wow. This place is tough. But what a night. What a day for us. First of all, amazing group effort from the whole Team Penske group to recover from Road America. We unloaded really well. This morning was really fun. Qualifying was disheartening, but these guys never give up. And that’s what this team is all about. It’s amazing. To get the Menards car to be shining here in Iowa is awesome. I’m really proud for John (Menard) and everyone at Menards and Chevy. Obviously, we had the horsepower and fuel consumption, but most importantly I can’t believe it. I have to rewatch 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’ve got to hit your marks. It certainly wasn’t easy with lapped traffic, and I knew we had a really good car on long runs. That was really my chance. I was really keeping up with my tires and they behaved really well, the Firestone tires tonight. I was a little worried about the McLaren guys (Askew and O’Ward) because they pitted for new tires, and new tires had so much speed, so I was a little worried. In the end, just thanks everyone at Team Penske. And thank everyone who supports us. That was an amazing team effort. Thank you. If I have to do it again, this was certainly a cool win on an oval. Indy will always be the top, but this one was pretty cool, too.”

2nd – SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “First of all, congratulations to Simon Pagenaud. That was an awesome race, and I’m sure he’s happy after the mess-up they had with qualifying. I’m proud to be powered by Honda and HPD. They did a tremendous job on fuel mileage. I think that’s what enabled us to really stay out and get that fuel mileage and jump a couple of cars. And those cautions really did help, especially because when you pit on such a small track, you fall down a couple laps. We had a pretty dreadful car in qualifying. We worked on it, but unfortunately with the way the race is this weekend you can’t change anything after qualifying, so it took us awhile to get us going. Huge credit to the PNC Bank crew. They did a hell of a job. Unfortunately, we’re starting at the back again tomorrow, so we’ll have another long night tomorrow in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda car.”

3rd – OLIVER ASKEW (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “I wish everyone could see my smile right now. This No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet just absolutely came alive when the track became cooler. We were good on new tires and when they were used. If that yellow didn’t come out there near the race end, I think we would have had a shot at least 1-2 there. We will go again tomorrow, and I’m sure I’ll sleep well tonight. That’s probably one of the funnest races I’ve done in my life. Big hats off to everyone at Arrow McLaren SP. Awesome night.”

4th – PATO O’WARD (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “Arrow McLaren SP and Team Chevy gave Oliver (Askew) and I great cars tonight. We could really fight in a pack out there on track. It was a fantastic team result, but we are going to keep pushing. We have the pace for both of us to be on the podium tomorrow. So, I think we just have to execute, no mistakes, and I think we will be right there tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it. Having a race under our belt at Iowa Speedway will be a huge help. Let’s go get it.”

5th – JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “The caution was certainly the nail in the coffin. Not to sound too overconfident, but we had the car to beat tonight, hands down. It is just bad luck. The yellow coming out when it came out, you can’t predict that stuff. You weigh the pros and cons when you’re trying to go long or trying to go short with your pit windows. I can’t fault my Hitachi guys. I think they did a great job. I had a rocket ship, and I’m sad we couldn’t put our car in Victory Lane because I feel that we had that potential. Like I said, I’m really proud of my guys. They always do a great job for me. We just chalk it up to bad luck tonight. We got to try and make up for it tomorrow. Look, all you can do is go forward. This is racing. Some days the racing gods shine down on you and some days they don’t. And today they definitely didn’t. But that’s how it works. You need to take the good days when you get them and accept the bad days when you have them. So, we’re going to try and regroup for tomorrow. But Chevy has done a great job for us. We had the package to beat tonight, in my opinion, and having Hitachi support us always means the world. We’re going to try again tomorrow and try and get them.”

6th – ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 AutoNation / NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I think our car was all right. I think we went on the strategy to win the race, but we didn’t have the car to do that amount of laps. Ultimately, it was the right strategy but the wrong car for that strategy. Our strength was the first 30 to 40 laps of the stint, but then we couldn’t look after the tires like the people that beat us. It’s disappointing because I thought that we the AutoNation / NAPA team was looking good for at least a podium, but it slipped away from us with tire degradation.”

7th –JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda): “Today was a really solid day. Getting to drive this track in an Indy car is much different from the Indy Lights car, but the competition and intensity are still the same. As anticipated, the race was non-stop, and I definitely learned a ton that I can take with me into tomorrow. This type of finish is what we needed and finally we were able to get a result that was reflective of our pace. I’m hoping that we can improve for tomorrow.”

8th– CONOR DALY (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “It was definitely a rollercoaster of a day for us. Obviously, we were so excited to win the pole for tonight’s race in the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. That’s just such a major accomplishment for myself and this team. We’ve all been working so hard and the guys gave me a great car to qualify, so I was pretty excited that I was able to get that pole. We started the race tonight OK but just really struggled with keeping the rear underneath me and trying to figure it out as we went. It was just tough, and we just didn’t have the pace that we needed. The yellow really killed us. Some people just got so lucky with that, but unfortunately it didn’t fall our way. We chose to extend the last stint and make the tires last, but it was really tough driving absolutely to the limit on older tires and trying to hold people off there at the end. It was tough end to the day, but it was seriously awesome to get the first INDYCAR pole for both Carlin and myself, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow night’s race where we’ll start up front again in third.”

9th – MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “We didn’t have a great start, but the car was good and we got into a rhythm. I think we were really strong in free air, but when you’re in traffic, it’s another story. We had P6 solidly and were competitive. The other guys had fresher rubber at the end, and we dropped to P9. I think we need to work on the car a bit more in traffic, and we’ll be competitive again tomorrow here at Iowa in the Huski Chocolate car.”

10th –TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic/Mi-Jack Honda): “I was a tough race, but I think we improved a lot in the race although obviously were not able to change the car between qualifying and the race. We focused for the race (in practice), and I think that was right. At one stage we led the race, and we were competing in the top three, top five. But unfortunately on the last period of the yellows, we decided to divide the two stints, so we pitted. Most of the people who finished high today basically stayed out. We need to review the strategy. Nobody knew how it would play out until we finished. I think the boys did a great job, and I think we gained quite a lot of good experience today, so we should be better tomorrow.”

Remainder of Drivers (alphabetical – with finishing position):

MARCO ANDRETTI (Finished 22nd – No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “We attempted the undercut, which was powerful as you saw with (Oliver) Askew today. But we burnt a clutch line and couldn’t get out of the (pit) box. The guys were able to push start me and we saved another stint, but then the next stop it gave way, and our day was done. Really not the way we’ve wanted the Iowa doubleheader – or the season – to start, and we’ll keep fighting to turn it around.”

ED CARPENTER (Finished 15th – No. 20 US Air Force Chevrolet): “This has always been one of my favorite tracks, but I don’t remember ever having as difficult of a night here. I was excited to run the U.S. Air Force colors and want to do a good job for them. I’m embarrassed about the performance tonight. The good thing is we have another chance tomorrow, so long as it’s not a repeat. It was pretty brutal. It’s hot in the cars, it’s uncomfortable and with a poor performance, I am pretty disappointed.”

COLTON HERTA (Finished 19th – No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda): “I’m not positive where things went wrong on that restart. (INDYCAR) waved off and didn’t throw the green, but I was never told that it didn’t go, that it was still yellow. I’m glad Rinus (VeeKay) is OK; I’m glad I’m okay. I know the Capstone Honda was fast tonight, and hopefully we can show it again tomorrow. Thanks to the 88 crew and the whole team for all the hard work they’re putting in to get the car ready for Race 2.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (Finished 16th– No. 28 DHL Honda): “We had a good start, moved up a few spots around the outside. On the first stop, I just lit the rears up in first gear trying to get a good run out, but lost the rear and smacked the left front into the pit exit wall, continued on but lost some front wing downforce and some front wing pressure that we had to work at getting back all night. We had the pace at the end of the night; it was just too little too late. Hopefully we can capitalize on starting P4 tomorrow night in Race 2.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (Finished 13th – No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “At the start of the race, there was some slight contact that cracked the front wing, so we lost a lot of aero balance, which made things really tough. We made some adjustments during the race but didn’t realize the extent of the damage until the car was back in the pits after the race. The SealMaster crew worked hard tonight, and we are looking forward to coming from 16th on the starting gird tomorrow to get back into the top 10 and score some good points.”

TONY KANAAN (Finished 18th – No. 14 Bryant/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was a shame. I think we had a consistent car but the tire deg for us was more than other people, so we need to figure out what’s causing it. It’s on the setup. We’re pretty decent halfway through the stint, and then the car will fall off really quick. And in one of those, I got loose, and not to spin I went wide, got in the marbles, brushed the wall a little bit, so that cost us 18 laps. But track position is really important, so we have that for tomorrow (starts eighth). I think we have overnight to think about it and another hour session tomorrow to try to make the tires last a little bit longer and then go from there. I truly believe we have a top-10 car for tomorrow.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (Finished 17th – No. 4 Tresiba AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “I think it was a disappointing night for both AJ Foyt Racing cars. The No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet was not what I wanted to feel underneath me, but I know the engineers will do really good work making it better tonight. I felt like everyone did a good job with what we had. Today was busy, practice, qualify and straight into the race – especially racing what you qualify. We had to compromise on gears, ride heights and setups and stuff, but it was the same for everyone and we just didn’t maximize it. But we’ll review it and be ready to go for another 250 laps tomorrow night.”

ALEX PALOU (Finished 11th – No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “It was awesome. It’s my first short oval and the first oval race that I finish. I think the result wasn’t as good as we would have wanted it, but I’m super happy with the car and the race. I felt really comfortable, and I was getting more and more comfortable with every lap. It was tough because the strategy we did, we had to do a lot of laps on old tires, and those laps were really hard to do because everybody around me was running so quick and we just had to maintain our pace. But it worked out. It’s a shame that we were not in the top 10, but I think 11th place is good, and tomorrow we’re starting P7, so it should be a bit easier. I learned so much tonight, and I have a lot to process before the race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (Finished 21st – No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Yeah, I just got loose, and the front end took off and I went into the wall. Not a good feeling. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know what I’m going to do, and it’s frustrating. So, so, so frustrating. It’s unbelievable, man. I don’t know what to say but fortunate for me and my Verizon Chevy guys we get another shot tomorrow. Man, I can’t thank INDYCAR enough for everything they’ve done safety-wise with the Aeroscreen and halo inside the Aeroscreen. You just saw Colton Herta go over the top of someone, and they’ve just done a tremendous job. It’s better than any other series that have invented something like it. Just a very good job.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (Finished 12th – No. 15 One Cure Honda): “It was kind of an up-and-down night for us. I thought that the One Cure car had periods in the race where we were OK and were able to make up time. You look, we fell down a lap very early in the race, and we only finished two down, so obviously the pace was all right through the middle stints. But we put ourselves in a hole to begin but then we got around some guys a couple of times. It was hard to get by and kind of lost track there a little bit. But I thought our guys did a good job in the pits; I thought the strategy was fine. We had one set of tires that we struggled on, but other than that, we were just kind of trying to work our way to the front. Obviously, Simon did a great job. But when you start where we did and struggled like we did today, it is hard to win a race like this. Hopefully tomorrow is a little better.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (Finished 14th – No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think we had good pace, and the whole team did a great job preparing these cars for us. It seems like every race one of us, if not all three, are in the hunt or feel like we have pace to contend. Obviously it’s not the finishing position we wanted with the NTT DATA car, but the thing about doubleheader races is that you have the chance to immediately bounce back, and that’s our goal for tomorrow.”

ZACH VEACH (Finished 23rd – No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “This was one of the hardest nights of my career. We had a huge moment in qualifying with the car not being right, and per the rules we couldn’t change the car between qualifying and the race. We tried to make the best of what we could, but the car was just too far out of the window to be as competitive as we usually are here. At the second pit stop, we had a clutch fail, which turned into a small fire which ended my night. Glad everyone is OK. Just a tough night.”

RINUS VEEKAY (Finished 20th – No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “There was nothing I could have done. I had a good start, but I was told it was a no-start, so I went off the throttle. I think the other car was too late getting that information; I really don’t know. I got hit – that’s clear. It’s very tough. We could have gone for a podium or a win today. We’ve got to go for it tomorrow. I’m happy that we’ll have a Take 2.”.

 

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