IndyCar Iowa: Pagenaud goes from last to first, wins Race 1

Simon Pagenaud drove his Team Penske-Chevrolet from the back of the grid to the front to claim his, the team’s and the engine manufacturer’s first IndyCar win of the year and defeating points leader Scott Dixon, in the first of two rounds at Iowa Speedway this weekend.

In the Carlin-Chevrolet, Daly led away from his and the team’s first pole position without issue, but had Newgarden all over him at first. Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport’s Colton Herta initially got the jump on Will Power, but the Penske driver took him down the back straight to reclaim third.

Behind Herta, teammate Alexander Rossi held off Takuma Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda, Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti), Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing and Santino Ferrucci’s Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan entry.

Sadly, Tony Kanaan, who had qualified eighth and gave the command to start engines from the cockpit of the #14 AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet for his final start here, tumbled to near the back of the field on the opening lap, while back-row starter Pagenaud started heading in the opposite direction, up to 15th by Lap 14. Dixon at this stage was only 17th.

Also occurring on Lap 14 was Newgarden wresting the lead from Daly, who then came under pressure from Power who in turn was having to stave off Herta. Power was running high, either to protect his tires or because his car’s handling had gone away. He was still well within a second of Daly, but Newgarden had checked out, building a three-second lead by Lap 35, despite having to carve through traffic and apparently able to (intentionally) run anywhere on the track.

Sato ducked out of sixth and down down onto pit road on Lap 46, and Zach Veach followed him in next time by.

Four laps later, on Lap 50, Power passed Daly around the outside for second place but by now was 5.7sec down on teammate Newgarden. That deficit fell rapidly, only partly due to Newgarden hitting traffic.

On Lap 56, O’Ward replicated that move to grab fifth from Rossi, while Pagenaud pitted from what had temporarily become 13th after a fine drive in the first stint. He emerged from the pits at a completely different rate on fresh tires and immediately unlapped himself from Newgarden and Power.

Power pitted on Lap 70, and took an extra turn of front wing to combat understeer, while Newgarden stopped a lap later, had a slightly slower pit stop, and emerged two seconds behind his teammate. Power also passed Pagenaud who was nonetheless up to an impressive sixth as a result of stopping early and using his fresh tires well.

Sato, having made the earliest stop, now led, 6sec ahead of Power and Newgarden, while Arrow McLaren SP’s O’Ward and Oliver Askew were up to fourth and fifth ahead of Pagenaud, Ferrucci, Daly, Marcus Ericsson (Ganassi) and Rossi. Herta, like Daly and Rossi, had missed out through the pit sequence, and had fallen to 12th.

Power and Newgarden kept cutting into Sato’s lead until they were within 1.2sec and then the RLL car held the gap steady and indeed the Japanese driver pulled away a little, getting his advantage back out to two seconds. By Lap 110, in fact, the change most likely to occur among the front runners was between second and third as defending Iowa race winner Newgarden was impatient to get past Power. Finally he made it happen on Lap 125.

The McLaren SPs pitted just before that change, while Sato ducked out of the lead on Lap 127, leaving a Penske 1-2-3, as Pagenaud had been flying forward and passed Power for second on Lap 132. Another long-stint run by Rinus VeeKay allowed the Ed Carpenter Racing rookie to take advantage of the slowing Power and grab third. The #12 Penske ducked into the pits on Lap 139, while Newgarden again came in just a lap later and again emerged behind his teammate.

Not for long though. Power’s left-front tire changer appeared not to have gotten the wheelnut all the way home as he was adjusting the front wing at the same time. The wheel came loose, then off and spat Power up into the wall on the exit of Turn 4.

Out came the caution flag, and those who had not yet stopped – led by Pagenaud, VeeKay, Herta, Dixon and Ericsson – were able to stop as the field cruised at low speed, and emerged in positions sixth through tenth. Up front, O’Ward and Askew were 1-2 for Arrow McLaren ahead of Sato, the recovering Rossi and Daly. Newgarden was now down in 12th and lapped.

The restart on Lap 156 got waved off, but Herta said he wasn’t warned and ran into the back of VeeKay as the Dutchman backed off. Herta flew high and along the wall, but both Andretti Autosport in particular and Ed Carpenter Racing are going to have plenty of repair work to do tonight before Saturday’s second race. As the AMR Safety Team cleared the front straight, the cars got sent down pit road.

Several drivers took the opportunity to change tires and get a full fuel load before the Lap 171 restart. That gave Newgarden the opportunity to move forward in the pack and he passed leader O’Ward to unlap himself and pull away, and a lap later Hunter-Reay did the same. O’Ward lost momentum and came under pressure from teammate Askew but instead Pagenaud sliced past the pair of them within two laps to hit the front, having gone from last to first.

Rossi – the last of the frontrunners to take on fuel and tires and theoretically able to make it to the end – ran fourth ahead of Dixon and Sato with Jack Harvey, Daly, Ericsson and Ferrucci completing the top 10. Eleventh-placed Newgarden, meanwhile, had disappeared to try and gain back a whole lap on the leader.

Askew passed O’Ward on Lap 192, just before the Mexican pitted, but it was a slow stop because the car was lowered before one of the wheels was attached. Askew stopped two laps later. That left Pagenaud leading Rossi and Dixon, the trio covered by 1.2sec some four seconds ahead of Harvey, with Daly and Ericsson in the fifth and sixth a further 2sec back.

On Lap 219, Rossi had an alarming moment down at the apex of Turn 3 and that allowed Dixon past to close within 1sec of Pagenaud. That gap shrunk considerably when the pair came to lap Newgarden who was trying to get home without a splash-n-dash. Indeed, Dixon ran side by side with Pagenaud 18 laps before the end but the Frenchman held him off, even when fourth placed Askew – on fresh tires – unlapped himself from the pair of them and kept going to pass Rossi for third.

Dixon closed up on Pagenaud again in traffic, but didn’t truly look faster, and the #22 Penske won by half a second – Penske and Chevrolet’s first win of the season.

The pair of them were around seven seconds clear of Askew who ensured that for the second straight race, Arrow McLaren SP-Chevy had a representative on the podium. O’Ward made a late charge to depose Harvey, Rossi and even Newgarden in the closing stages and claim fourth.

Newgarden did everything right and nothing wrong so could at least be content with salvaging fifth from the hand that Fate had dealt him, while Rossi’s oversteering car came home sixth. Completing the top 10 were Harvey, poleman Daly, Ericsson and Sato.

Race results:

122 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske250 
29 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing250 0.495
37 Oliver AskewArrow McLaren SP250 7.212
45 Patricio O’WardArrow McLaren SP250 13.989
51 Josef Newgarden Team Penske250 16.735
627 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport250 19.600
760 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing250 20.048
859 Conor Daly Carlin250 20.534
98 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing250 20.738
1030 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing249 1 Lap
1155 Alex PalouDale Coyne Racing with Team Goh249 1 Lap
1215 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing248 2 Laps
1318 Santino FerrucciDale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan247 3 Laps
1410 Felix Rosenqvist Chip Ganassi Racing247 3 Laps
1520 Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing247 3 Laps
1628 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport247 3 Laps
174 Charlie Kimball A.J. Foyt Enterprises245 5 Laps
1814 Tony Kanaan A.J. Foyt Enterprises213 37 Laps
1988 Colton HertaAndretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport156 94 Laps
2021 Rinus van Kalmthout Ed Carpenter Racing156 94 Laps
2112 Will Power Team Penske142 108 Laps
2298 Marco AndrettiAndretti Herta Autosport with Marco & Curb-Agajani128 122 Laps
2326 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport95 155 Laps

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