Pagenaud, Penske receive Baby Borgs – with a twist

First, Simon Pagenaud’s dog Norman became the IndyCar paddock’s first four-legged social media star. Then he joined his owner on the yard of bricks after Pagenaud won this year’s Indy 500. And now, he has become the first dog to become immortalized on a Baby Borg.

Pagenaud and team owner Roger Penske collected their Baby Borgs in a ceremony at Team Penske’s headquarters in Mooresville, NC on Monday, and for the first time in history, Pagenaud’s has two faces on it; his Jack Russell’s portrait having been immortalized in silver alongside that of his owner.

The likeness ­­– the first non-human one created by sculptor William Behrends – was created via the same process as the traditional portraits.

“Seeing my face on the trophy was a unique experience of gratefulness and pride,” said Pagenaud. “Borg Warner has been such an amazing partner in building traditions around the Indianapolis 500. Because of these traditions and the fact that this trophy is the most valuable trophy in the world, it continues to build on the reputation of the fastest race in the world. I am mesmerized to see my face next to my models and heroes. Being part of the 500 club – and thanks to Borg Warner, having an engraved proof of that – will remain through time is very special. It is the only race and trophy in the world which allows you to travel through time like an artist may have done it with his art.”

In addition to presenting Pagenaud with his trophy, Borg Warner made a $20,000 donation in Pagenaud’s name to IndyHumane – The Human Society of Indianapolis.

While this is Pagenaud’s first Baby Borg, it is a record 18th for Penske, which has an unrivaled record of Indianapolis wins in five consecutive decades stretching back to its first in 1972.

Portland’s Turn 1 miracle goes to Newgarden

The Portland Grand Prix has become IndyCar’s prime source for Divine Intervention.

For the second year in a row, the seemingly impossible was on display as championship leader Josef Newgarden emerged from the Lap 1 melee without a scratch. Where Scott Dixon’s Turn 1 miracle kept his 2018 title chances alive and ultimately helped the Chip Ganassi Racing driver to score his fifth championship, Newgarden’s oh-so-close moments, as most of the cars around him got tangled in Graham Rahal’s bowling ball impression, allowed the Team Penske ace to vault from 13th to fifth at the checkered flag.

With cars colliding in front and on both sides of his No. 2 Chevy, Portland gifted the Tennessean with 2019’s Turn 1 miracle. As a result, he heads to the season finale with a handy 41-point lead over Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.

“I was just trying to stop,” he said of mayhem playing out as the field entered the tight chicane. “I had nowhere to go because it was right in front of me. And the decision-making process, I couldn’t really go right because Rahal was coming right at that moment. Then once they hit, they were kind of flowing to the left and then I was just kind of stuck right in the middle. So, I just waited for it all to stop and then went around it. I was kind of lucky in a way.”

With a maximum of 104 points available to earn at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on September 22, Newgarden’s happiness over avoiding the Turn 1 dramas were tempered by the efforts required to overcome a poor starting position.

“Yeah, 60 would have been better,” he said. “Well, really 70. Heck, 90. No, it’s honestly not enough with double points. It’s just not. I don’t think we’re very comfortable.”

Just as Portland gave Dixon the good fortune he needed to go on an win the title a year ago, it took it back on Sunday as the New Zealander had the race under control until a dying battery left his No. 9 Honda stalled and out of contention. With the electrical issue compounding a freak radiator problem last weekend, the Kiwi is all but out of the title picture.

“Yeah, maybe we’ve got Scott’s mojo from last year — it was like Scott could do no wrong last year,” Newgarden added. “Nothing ever bad happened to him. This year he’s had a couple of small things hit him here right at the end, the radiator and now the battery deal. I don’t know what it was, but it sounded like that’s what it was. It’s like he’s got the complete opposite of what he had last year.

“That’s IndyCar. Sometimes this cycles around. You’ll get the good years, you’ll get the bad. Hopefully, we continue to have a good year in Laguna and then kind of finish it off because you never know when you’re going to have a bad year again. It’s far from over, but I for sure would rather be in the position we are in instead of second or third.”

Daly tops dramatic final Gateway practice

Conor Daly topped the times on a Saturday evening practice session at Gateway that delivered mixed emotions for Carlin, and an unwelcome scare for championship leader and tomorrow’s pole-sitter Josef Newgarden.

Daly unseated Newgarden to stake his claim to the top spot with seven minutes left on the clock, and improved on his next lap to set the benchmark at 181.931mph. Would it be fast enough to keep him there during the last few minutes? We’ll never know, because less than a minute after Daly set his best time, Carlin team-mate Charlie Kimball ran high out of the final corner and pounded the wall hard enough to trash the front-right corner of his car and bring proceedings to a premature end.

This was bad news for Team Penske, which had spent the preceding minutes frantically trying to diagnose a murmur from Newgarden’s engine. Chevy engineers replaced the coil pack and had just gotten the No.2 fired up for an exploratory return to the circuit when Kimball had his accident. Now, the team that claimed pole just a short time ago now face a long night trying to determine whether they need to change the engine.

“It was something very faint,” said Newgarden. “It felt like a small hesitation. It’s normal; its big-time auto racing and you’re pushing these things to the limit. Maybe I was going too fast!

“The car felt awesome. Everything felt great. Chevy’s going to have a look and make sure we’re ready to rock; just trying to diagnose it here and make sure we’re in good order. But I’m feeling very confident. We’re doing everything we can to give information, they’ll look everything over and make sure we’re alright, and we’ll be ready to race tomorrow. No problem from my end. We’re going to be ready to rock tomorrow night.”

Down at the other end of pitlane, Daly acknowledged the importance of a strong session for a driver looking for a way back into the series full-time.

“That’s where we wanted to qualify,” said Daly, who will line up 18th tomorrow after catching a patch of oil during qualifying. “That was such a shame, because I love this track, and I know this car is fast and our long run pace was not bad. I’m just happy to be here and thankful to do this race. I’ve always wanted to do this race. I’m excited for tomorrow. It’s going to be a lot of work, though. Days like this are really important; we want to be able to do something strong every weekend. I’m trying to fight for a full-time seat. I want to be here with these guys fighting to win races.”

Zach Veach occupied the top of the timing screens for the first half of the session, and was quick enough to still be camped in third when Kimball hit the wall. Behind him, RLL’s Takuma Sato and Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top five.

Results to follow

Newgarden saves best for last to take Gateway pole

First place in points meant going last for Josef Newgarden in Friday night’s qualifying session at Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and the Team Penske driver made the wait work to his advantage to claim pole position for Saturday night’s Bommarito 500 with his No. 2 PPG Chevrolet.

“I’m glad we got this one finished off. It was kind of an Iowa situation where I’d said, ‘This is the car that can win the pole,’ and we just missed it by a little bit,” said Newgarden, who along with his teammates Will Power and Simon Pagenaud will be trying to complete a sweep of the year’s five oval race wins for Penske. “I would have been so mad at us as a unit if we did that again.”

No worries this time — his two-lap average of 186.508 mph was more than half an mph clear of the next-fastest qualifier, and his second pole of the season extended Newgarden’s championship lead to 36 points over Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.

The final oval qualifying session of the year got underway in sunny weather but less than ideal track conditions after some parading vintage Indy cars dropped oil on the racing line into Turns 1 and 2 before qualifying. This required a heavy application of quick-dry that made things extra difficult for the early runners on the shallow-banked, 1.25-mile oval.

“It’s just sad ’cause you can’t go anywhere else here, and it’s literally like an ice-skating rink,” fumed first qualifier Conor Daly, who wound up 18th.

Power, though, insisted that Gateway’s oval doesn’t have to be a one-lane track, if the drivers would just make it so.

“I really wish guys would start using that second lane. It’s there, it’s fine; it’s just that people don’t use it,” said Power, who will start third in tomorrow night’s race. “So if everyone just started using it at the beginning of the race, there’d be a second lane and there’d be passing. I just wish people would know that — that you can pass people on the outside in (Turn) 1 early in the race. And if you kept doing it, you’d have passing.”

Power’s championship-leading teammate indicated that he, too, intends to get after it rather than play it cool, even though his nearest championship rival, Rossi, qualified a disappointing 11th.

“You’ve gotta be smart… but you can’t just race for points,” said Newgarden.

Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci, who set the pace in the opening practice session, admitted he’d been a bit cautious on his first qualifying lap due to the tricky-looking surface conditions and felt there was a lot more speed in the car…which teammate Bourdais was able to demonstrate on his subsequent run.

“I guess I took his word for it and gave it a big leap of faith, and the guys gave me a great car,” said Bourdais, whose impressive two-lap average of 185.927 mph on the 12th run of the day held up for pole until the last of the 22 qualifiers. “It was a lot of sliding around but Santino’s word was definitely reassuring.

“The qualifying on superspeedways and qualifying on short ovals is just completely different,” added the Frenchman. “It’s full commitment. You’ve got to trust, but you’ve really gotta send it — and consequences are pretty high, too. It’s not like you’re going around at 120 (mph); averaging 185, 186, we’re going down into Turn 1 at 200-something. So it’s substantial, but I really enjoyed Phoenix last year and I had a really good time this time around.”

The third Penske of Pagenaud joins Power on Row 2 ahead of Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Takuma Sato and Ferrucci, while the fourth title contender, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, flanks Arrow SPM’s James Hinchcliffe on Row 4.

RESULTS

UP NEXT: Practice 2 under the lights at 9:15 p.m. ET.

Power storms to IndyCar pole at Mid-Ohio

Will Power dominated NTT IndyCar Series qualifying at Mid-Ohio to claim pole position for Sunday’s race.

The Australian reeled off a 1m05.1569s lap late in the session to secure what had previously looked like being a far more closely-contested top spot by more than 0.3s.

“It’s been such a bad year,” said a jubilant Power. “So disappointing, but I have such a fire in me when I do something like that so everyone whose had such a great year; just sticking it to them. It just beats you down when you have a year like this. It’s great for confidence. Feel so bad for my guys this year; I’ve made a few mistakes, so this was great.”

While Penske had looked strong throughout qualifying, it was Alexander Rossi – newly recommitted to Andretti Autosport – who emerged as his biggest threat for P1. Rossi ditched his first flying lap and pitted after running wide, but was immediately quick upon returning to the track. Ironically though, that instant speed might have worked against him.

“Will did a really slow first lap on his two-lap run, and I did two push laps in a row and I ultimately ran out of tire,” he said. “So a bit of a strategy call where they did better than us. But the guys did a great job, and the front row is a good place to start.”

Josef Newgarden, who came into the weekend with a narrow championship lead over Rossi, qualified third, but admitted to some concerns about being able to preserve his points advantage in the race.

“I think we still need to find something for the race,” he said. “We need to be better on black tires, so we’re going to look tonight to see if we can find some magic.”

Simon Pagenaud will line up alongside teammate Newgarden on the second row, leaving Sebastien Bourdais and Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist to round out the top six.

The qualifying rounds leading up to the Fast 6 were uniformly manic, with positions shuffling reshuffling right up until the final car broke the timing beam. Scott Dixon and practice pace-setter Colton Herta were among the late casualties of the second round.

“That’s the bad part about IndyCar, because you lose by so little,” said Herta. “But that makes the winning better, because you win by so little, too. kind missed it a little bit. Happy to start seventh; always interesting with whether it’s two stops or three stops. The race car will be good, we were just missing that last tiny little bit on the reds.”

There were similar tales of heartbreak during the opening rounds, where several drivers in both groups missed the cut by hundredths of a second. Among them was Spencer Pigot, who’d starred in the ECR car on black tires during practice but had admitted to what proved to be some well-founded concerns about how he’d fare on the reds.

“It wasn’t an issue getting a clean lap,” said Pigot. “Just struggled on the reds. Didn’t get a run on them yesterday, so maybe we missed something. The car was good up until qualifying, so we’ll go back and take a look at it, and hopefully get it back up to where it should be.”

There were also disappointed faces around Rahal Letterman Lanigan, which had both of its cars eliminated in the opening round. In Graham Rahal’s case, the culprit was a gearing error.

“As a team we’re pretty disappointed,” said Rahal, who will start from 15th. “We expect better. Looks like gearing, even compared to Takuma , gearing cost us 0.2s down the straightaway in that session. So we just got it wrong.”

RESULTS (Unofficial)

UP NEXT: Warm Up, Sunday, 12:00 p.m. ET.

INSIGHT: Newgarden, 2 crew in perfect sync

On the days where Josef Newgarden has lacked front-running pace, his Team Penske pit crew, engineers, and strategists have lifted the NTT IndyCar Series points leader to impressive heights.

A three-time race winner from nine rounds in 2019, Newgarden’s five podium visits have, at times, had more to do with the No. 2 Chevy’s supporting cast than the young star working the steering wheel and pedals.

Motivated by a team-first approach, the 2017 IndyCar Series champion hails his race strategist, Penske president Tim Cindric; his race engineer Gavin Ward; crew chief Travis Law; and everyone attached to the effort that has the Tennessee native positioned to vie for his second IndyCar title.

“These guys are incredible. They really are,” he said. “Tim is the man. In my opinion, he’s one of the best, if not the best, strategists on pit lane; and we have the entire crew to support that, whether it’s the engineers that are pitching in and helping create those decisions or the team executing on pit lane — everything that we’re doing, we’re really in lockstep.”

Newgarden’s win Saturday night’s DXC 600 at Texas Motor Speedway was another strategy-fueled effort where the No. 2 Chevy employed an alternate approach to pit stop timing that allowed the 28-year-old to pounce late in the 248-lap event.

“Honestly, we game-out everything before the race, as much as we can,” he explained. “You have to adjust. There’s always changes. You can’t be locked into one thing or another. But we try and look at everything that could possibly happen, and then we have some scenarios put in place. The really cool thing is, when we have all our strategy meetings, for the most part, what we talk about generally comes to fruition. It’s crazy.

“I don’t know how this always happens, but we will talk through some different scenarios and most of the time one of the scenarios we talk about ends up happening. So we end up following the procedure that we laid out beforehand and it just ends up working out.

“The preparation is incredible and the guys executing and their ability to adjust on the fly when they need to and they see something happen such as a caution or whatever it is — they’re just so good at adjusting and making the right call. This year they’ve just nailed it.

“I hope that we don’t change,” Newgarden continued. “I hope they continue to have their mojo because they have been on it and I’ve just been trying to do my part as well to support that. So far it has been clicking fantastically this year.”

Creeping into the conversation after Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Scott Dixon led the majority of the Texas race, Newgarden takes much delight in playing the role of spoiler.

“Well, first off, what I love is, I think we continue to surprise people in races, which is great,” he admitted. “That actually puts a smile on my face because we go about our work very well, but we’re a little bit stealthy by doing it. I can tell you this, though: If you want to know how, it’s all out there in detail. If you go look at the analytics, it is there to be seen and you will understand easily why we were able to do what we did.

“It starts with having a fast car — you’ve got to be quick at the right points in that race. What we did strategy-wise, and where we positioned ourselves from a fuel standpoint on our second-to-last pit stop, enabled us to be in a position when everyone pitted to run quick laps; to have the best in-lap; to have the best pit stop; and then to leapfrog to the front and just capitalize on that attack mode.

“We were willing to attack when everyone was on defense, trying to make enough fuel.”

Once the No. 2 Chevy was out front, Newgarden wasn’t entirely sure he’d be able to stay there. The misfortune of another contender and a lack of grip in the second lane would eventually tip the win in his favor.

“With Rossi on the restart, it really started with Scott Dixon,” he said. “And I was very nervous about that. Normally, when the weather cools off and the cars become draggier, that’s when it’s very difficult to hold people back — especially on a restart — and I was really nervous with both Dixon and Rossi, once we got going, if I was going to be able to hold them going into Turn 1. Fortunately, we held just enough to where it didn’t become a problem.

“But, Alex was so good that night and so was Dixon,” Newgarden reflected. “If Dixon hadn’t got caught up in the incident with Colton , then I think it would have been a battle with him. And Colton and Rossi — I mean, it just would have been hard to hold anybody off. But our car out front was where it needed to be. In traffic, we suffered a little bit more than others, but out front, our car was very good. And as long as no one cleared me then I thought we were going to be just fine.”

 

Strategic win for Newgarden in Texas

Josef Newgarden won the latest Texas shootout for the NTT IndyCar Series, holding off Alexander Rossi for the win Saturday night in the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Newgarden, in the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Team Penske Chevrolet, led the final 47 laps on the 1.5-mile superspeedway. He and Rossi went wheel to wheel numerous times in the closing 10 laps as the Andretti Autosport driver tried overtaking maneuvers on the outside heading into Turn 1. Newgarden thwarted each attempt and held on by 0.8164 of a second to collect his 13th career win, third this season and first on a superspeedway.

Graham Rahal finished third, rookie Santino Ferrucci fourth and Ryan Hunter-Reay fifth.

The 248-lap race ran caution-free for more than the first half, until Zach Veach brushed the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 2 on Lap 135. The No. 26 Gainbridge Honda did a 360-degree spin but Veach kept it off the wall and came to a stop in Turn 3 with only a flat tire.

The race’s second caution came when James Hinchcliffe slid wide into the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier on Lap 219. The final yellow waved when the cars of Scott Dixon and rookie Colton Herta touched while battling for third place in Turn 3 on Lap 229, sending both into the SAFER Barrier. All the drivers were unhurt from the incidents.

The caution for the Dixon-Herta incident set up the shootout to the finish between Newgarden and Rossi.

Pole sitter Takuma Sato led the first 60 laps of the race until making his first pit stop, but his No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda slid into the pit stall and made contact with crewman Chris Welch. Sato was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for hitting crewman. Welch was evaluated and released from the track’s infield care center.

Ferrucci collected a career-best fourth-place finish in the No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. Hunter-Reay led a race-high 90 laps in the No. 28 DHL Honda but was forced to make an extra stop for fuel and wound up fifth.

Tony Kanaan finished 16th in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet but tied team owner A.J. Foyt for second place on the Indy car career starts list with 369. It also extended Kanaan’s record streak of consecutive race starts to 309.

The win allowed Newgarden to extend his championship lead to unofficially 25 points over Rossi after nine of 17 races.

An encore telecast of the DXC Technology 600 airs at 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN.

The next NTT IndyCar Series race is the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday, June 23. Live race coverage starts at noon ET on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS