Amid the chaos of Saturday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES wet race were two happy veteran drivers known for their success at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, a pair of Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winners with a combined eight IMS road course victories, stood on the podium with smiles nearly as big as that of GMR Grand Prix winner Colton Herta.
Meyer Shank Racing’s Pagenaud drove the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda from the 20th starting position to finish second while Power, the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, used a third-place finish to vault to the series points lead after five races.
In pursuit of his second series championship, Power has finished third, fourth, fourth, fourth and third in races this season as he continues to exhibit consistency.
“If I had the car to win and chance to win without big risk, I would definitely have gone for it,” Power said of Saturday’s cautious performance. “If it had been a constant (weather) condition, it would have been a different story, but it was just too easy to get caught out by a patch of water.
“It was just a day to be smart and finish.”
Pagenaud led all drivers with 28 passes for position, with the competitive and unpredictable race featuring 362 overall. The Frenchman said he passed seven cars on the opening lap and continued to overhaul more as his team made good strategy calls with each turn of the weather.
“We had a good start, jumped all the way to 13th right away,” he said. “Then pit stop sequence (to) 11th. Then after that ninth. Then seventh. Then it started raining. Then fifth. Then (Scott) McLaughlin and (Alex) Palou had problems, so third. So on and so forth.
“We made a lot of passes on track, for sure, and had some very good exchange in the pit stops. That made a difference.”
Pagenaud called it “one of my most rewarding races” of his career.
“It’s funny, sometimes second feels like a win,” he said. “I would have loved to have won today, but I’m taking this (trophy) home. Everybody (on the team) was so excited. It’s nice to feel such support from your race team and feel like, yeah, tonight we’re probably going to celebrate like it was a win.”
Herta: Savvy Beyond His Years
Herta’s victory in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda gave the Andretti Autosport organization its first race victory on the IMS road course after five wins on the oval. How the 21-year-old held Pagenaud back in the closing laps illustrated his experience that belies his age.
As an example, Herta said he was watching the TV monitors on the inside of the track to decide where to put his car late in the rainy race. He said each time he saw Pagenaud adjust his line behind him he adjusted his to create more spray.
“I was giggling in my helmet,” he said.
Rosenqvist Recovers from Teammate Contact
Felix Rosenqvist (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) had one of the strangest days, starting with getting collected by teammate Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) on Lap 42.
Rosenqvist’s car stalled after the contact, shuffling him to the 21st position after starting sixth. But he kept battling and got back to his original position.
“Such an unfortunate situation,” Rosenqvist said of O’Ward’s miscue on attacking Herta in Turn 1. “He spun right in front of me … I had nowhere to go.”
O’Ward continued after the contact, getting back to the lead on Lap 65 of 75. But he was one of three drivers on slick tires when the heavier rain arrived late, and he spun coming to a restart. He kept sliding through the order, finishing 19th.
Newgarden Takes Too Much Contact
Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet) had a difficult day, and it started on the opening lap.
After starting third, the two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion got pushed to the grass by Power at Turn 9 and then on Lap 17 couldn’t escape contact in a battle with Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda of Andretti Autosport) and Jack Harvey (No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) after a bump from Takuma Sato (No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR).
Newgarden finished 25th. Fortunately for him, he dropped only to fourth in the standings and heads to the double-points “500” only 30 points out of the series lead.
Career-Best Best Finishes, Difficult Ending
Rookies Callum Ilott (No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet) and Christian Lundgaard (No. 30 Shield Cleansers Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) had career-best finishes in eighth and ninth, respectively. But they came together on the front straightaway after the checkered flag as Lundgaard ran into the back of the slowing Ilott.
Just prior to the incident, Lundgaard radioed to his crew that he couldn’t see anything. Several drivers echoed that comment as the rain was at its heaviest of the day, and spray filled the air.
Odds And Ends
- Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) had one of the quotes of the day about how he came back from starting 18th and suffering early-race contact which required rear wing replacement to finish fourth. How did he do it? “I don’t know,” he said.
- Six-time series champion Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) did what Scott Dixon often does. Despite a poor qualifying effort (21st) and running out of fuel mid-race, he finished 10th. Dixon is 37 points out of the lead in fifth place.
- Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) was poised for a top-six finish when he spun off Turn 11 in the wet and hit the oval’s wall. He finished 24th.
- Tatiana Calderon (No. 11 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) led the first lap of her NTT INDYCAR SERIES career when she got to the front amid pit stops on Lap 35. She finished a career-best 15th. She is the first female driver to lead an INDYCAR SERIES race since Simona De Silvestro in 2011 at Baltimore.
- Helio Castroneves (No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda) and his Meyer Shank Racing co-owners, Jim Meyer and Michael Shank, received their replica Borg-Warner Trophies, known as Baby Borgs, on Thursday night for last year’s victory in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Castroneves said he planned to sleep next to it in his motorhome.
- Race 2 of the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis had to be stopped mid-race due to lightning in the area. It was moved to after the GMR Grand Prix, with Linus Lundqvist of HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing leading at Lap 13. The 22-year-old Swede led the rest of the way to score his second win of the season -- fifth of his Indy Lights career – at 7:30 p.m. to take the series lead by 33 points over Friday’s race winner, teammate Danial Frost.
- Indy Pro 2000 staged its second and third races of the event, with Reece Gold of Juncos Hollinger Racing winning his third series race in Race 2. Louis Foster of Exclusive Autosport won his first series race in Race 3.
- In USF2000, Alex Quinn of Velocity Racing Development completed a three-race weekend sweep of his first series event. Billy Frazer of Exclusive Autosport finished second in the first race of the day, Michael d’Orlando of Cape Motorsports grabbed that position in the second.