As Takuma Sato said Saturday night after winning the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway, experience remains an important factor in INDYCAR racing.
To that end, the top three finishers in the season’s 15th race possessed as much experience as any series podium has seen in some time. Sato is 42 years old, Ed Carpenter 38 and Tony Kanaan 44 – an average of 41.3 years -- and their combined number of INDYCAR starts is 723.
“I think that’s the beauty of this sport, with motor racing,” said Sato, who drives for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “If you’re talking only in physical terms, (we) might not be able to do that. With the combination of experience, the team behind (us) and the race craft, all those things – I think age is sometimes something, but it is not everything.”
According to NBC research, this trio represents the sport’s 20th-oldest podium since 1956 and most of those occurred before today’s INDYCAR drivers were born. In 1979 at Pocono Raceway, the podium combination of A.J. Foyt (then 44), Jim McElreath (51) and Larry Dickson (40) were a combined 135 years old.
At the opposite end of the age scale was the 2007 podium at Road America. Graham Rahal (then 18), Sebastien Bourdais (28) and Dan Clarke (23) represented the youngest top-three finishers since 1956.
QUIETLY SNEAKING UP
Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud made a lot of noise in May by winning both races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: the INDYCAR Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. From a results standpoint, the Frenchman was quiet in June with an average finish of 9.5 and though he won in Toronto from the pole in July he has largely been overshadowed in recent weeks by other drivers.
But check out Pagenaud now: The man on the right is second in the standings, the highest he has been since June 1. His fifth-place finish Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway allowed him to overtake Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi and draw within 38 points of teammate Josef Newgarden, the series leader.
Over the past five races, Pagenaud’s average finish is 3.8, easily the best among the four top title contenders. Newgarden’s average finish in those races is 6.2, Rossi’s is 9.0, Scott Dixon’s is 5.4.
Heading to the penultimate race Sunday at Portland International Raceway, Pagenaud is squarely in the hunt for what could be his second NTT IndyCar Series championship. (He won his first in 2016.)
"This is the part of the season that I love the most," Pagenaud said. "It is down to the wire racing and competing at our highest level. It's time to shine."
NOW NINTH IN THE STANDINGS
With another strong finish, NTT IndyCar Series rookie Santino Ferrucci of Dale Coyne Racing moved into fourth place among all drivers for points scored on oval tracks this season.
Ferrucci’s 170 points in those five races put him within just 10 points of Alexander Rossi for third place. Simon Pagenaud led the way with 242 points. Josef Newgarden scored 230.
Ferrucci (driving the No. 19 car on the left) finished fourth at three of those tracks: Texas Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and World Wide Technology Raceway. In the latter, he led a race-high 97 of 248 laps and now leads the Rookie-of-the-Year standings by two points over Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist.
Overall, Ferrucci is ninth in the standings.
“I had so much fun leading this race,” he said Saturday night. Having open air like that and being able to run to a pace, run to your lines and not have to think about it and just enjoy it. Hats off to our crew. We had a race car, a winning race car.”
The Grand Prix of Portland will be held Sunday, Sept. 1, at Portland International Raceway. Live coverage on NBC begins at 3 p.m. ET (noon PT local) with the green flag at approximately 3:45 p.m. Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 209, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).