Josef Newgarden's late race move led the Team Penske driver to win in the Verizon IndyCar Series' return to Gateway Motorsports Park and extend his championship lead. Newgarden completed a pass of Penske Rscing teammate Simon Pagenaud on the 218th of 248 laps on the 1.25-mile oval and he went on to win the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline by 0.6850 of a second over Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon. The victory was Newgarden's third win in the past four races and his fourth victory this season allowing him to push his points lead to 31 over Dixon with two races remaining.
The race marked the Verizon IndyCar Series' return to the St. Louis region for the first time in 14 years. A packed main grandstand roared when Newgarden, in the No.2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, slipped inside of Pagenaud, driving the No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, heading into Turn 1. The cars touched mid-corner, forcing Pagenaud to slow as he moved up the track.
"Simon gave me a lane to work with," said Newgarden, who used an impressive crossover move to pass teammate Will Power and win the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 30. "I had a good tow on him, put my car inside in the opening, got about halfway alongside of him.
"One thing I didn't want to do was touch him too hard. I think if I would have stayed too far left, I would have jumped the curb and that would have taken both of us out," added Newgarden, chasing his first series championship in his sixth season and first with Team Penske. "I tried to get Simon to move over a little when we were coming to the opening of the corner. We both had to slow up. Fortunately, (it) worked out well for us on the (No.) 2 car side."
Pagenaud's loss of momentum on the decisive pass opened the door for Dixon, in the No.9 NTT Data Honda, to get past for second place. Pagenaud, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, was understandably upset after finishing in third place.
"I think on a road course, that was a beautiful pass," Pagenaud said. "But we're not on a road course. There, we are going 40-50 mph (slower). Here, we're doing 190 (mph). It's completely different story.
"Obviously, I wanted to win. We all want to win. Sometimes, you know, it is what it is."
Newgarden led 170 laps in collecting his seventh career win, delivering Team Penske its fifth straight victory and 10th this season. It was also the 196th Indy car win for the renowned team.
Dixon felt fortunate to finish second, considering he started seventh and Team Penske had secured the first four spots in qualifying.
"I'll be honest, we didn't expect to finish on the podium," said Dixon, the four-time series champion. "But I think we saw in the warmup (Friday night practice) that the gap had closed significantly with the trim level that we were able to achieve. I think mechanically our car was very good.
"Then also we had some misfortunes (for other drivers) that played in to help us out, especially with Simon and Josef in Turn 1."
Helio Castroneves gave Team Penske three of the top four finishers when he placed fourth in the No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet. Castroneves led 52 laps to become the fourth driver in Indy car history to surpass 6,000 laps led in a career.
"The Shell Fuel Rewards Chevy was awesome tonight." said Castroneves "We had a little mistake on pit road that cost us and that was unfortunate. The car was definitely good enough to win. It was fantastic to be back at Gateway. The crowd was amazing. It looks like the whole community has embraced this event."
Conor Daly finished fifth in the No.4 ABC Supply Chevrolet, the AJ Foyt Racing driver's best finish in his first season with the team and his best showing since placing fourth last year at Watkins Glen.
"We had a good car all weekend." said Daly "I was really upset with myself after qualifying, just had a big moment at the exit of (Turn) 1, but we redeemed ourselves. Then I tried to screw it up for myself again in the pits, but we were able to drive back. The car was just fantastic. I have to thank the team, I have to thank ABC Supply for sticking with us. I know it's been a tough year, but I know we can do it. I know this team can do it. We're just improving and it takes time. This is a hard sport." (About close call with Charlie Kimball): "I won't say anything bad about (Kimball), but it was just one of those really late moves that, being on an oval it's not great to do. I mean everyone's racing hard, it's obviously tough on a short oval to make ground, but I mean that could have ruined my race right there. I thought the wing was gone going into the next corner, but it was still there. So thank you Chevy, for making strong pieces. But, yeah, I'm just happy to be here, and just hope I can be here for many more races."
The start of the race was slowed by a pair of incidents. Tony Kanaan of Chip Ganassi Racing spun in Turn 2 on the pace lap and backed his No.10 NTT Data Honda into the SAFER Barrier. Kanaan went three laps down while the car was repaired and eventually finished 16th.
When the green flag did wave, pole sitter Will Power spun in nearly the same place as Kanaan and hit the wall in the No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on Lap 6. The cars of Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato touched as they slowed to avoid Power, sending both into the wall as well. None of the drivers was injured but their races were over before the night had barely begun.
"It wasn't a fun ride," Power said. "Josef went around the outside (to pass for the lead) and (I) got some of his dirty air and just lost it. Unfortunate. Very frustrating, unbelievably frustrating. ... It was just slippery, super slippery."
Sato's view, "Will (Power) started struggling and spun, I had to lift to avoid it. At the moment, I could go through it, but then others checked up and I think Ed (Carpenter) had a problem. I had nowhere to go. We took the car to the garages to see how much damage there was and if we could fix it, but it was too much. We were hoping to collect some points, but our day ended early."
Carpenter added, "It was slick, even warming up the tires. It may have been the combination of tires that had run before us. We ran a little bit after Indy Lights, but just for the pit stop practice, so it wasn't a lot. Even with the tires warmed up, it was hard, but that's no excuse. I saw Will (Power) get loose in front of (Takuma) Sato. I was under Sato, he was sliding around. I finally got loose like those guys were. I corrected and went under Sato, but once we made contact, it sent me around. I'm just super disappointed. I had such a chance to get a good result tonight in front of tons of family and friends from Indianapolis. 2018 can't come fast enough. I'm thankful that Fuzzy's Vodka is behind us so much to give us an opportunity to come back and be even better next year. But man, it is disheartening right now. It's going to be a long offseason to get this taste out of my mouth."
The Verizon IndyCar Series standings show Newgarden in the lead with 547 points, Dixon second with 516, Castroneves third at 505, Pagenaud fourth at 504 and Power fifth with 464. Graham Rahal (436 points), Alexander Rossi (422) and Sato (410) remain mathematically alive for the championship as well.
By finishing 13th tonight, Dale Coyne Racing's Ed Jones clinched Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for the season.
"It was a tough race." said Jones "We had a lot of downforce on the car. Earlier on in the race we were all right, but as the race went on the pace of the car wasn't quick enough to move forward, so it was a bit frustrating. I did have some good battles early on. It's just a shame that I didn't have the speed at the end. It's a great event. Everything, the way that the organization has done it, is right. It was great to see all these fans come out and support us."
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to action with the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen, from the road course at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. The race airs live at 1 p.m. ET Sept. 3 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
The season finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 17 at Sonoma Raceway in California, is worth double the normal race points.
1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 248, Running
2. (7) Scott Dixon, Honda, 248, Running
3. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 248, Running
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 248, Running
5. (11) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 248, Running
6. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 248, Running
7. (18) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 248, Running
8. (10) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 248, Running
9. (8) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 248, Running
10. (19) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 248, Running
11. (21) Sebastian Saavedra, Honda, 248, Running
12. (13) Graham Rahal, Honda, 248, Running
13. (12) Ed Jones, Honda, 248, Running
14. (20) Marco Andretti, Honda, 248, Running
15. (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 205, Contact
16. (17) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 168, Mechanical
17. (16) Max Chilton, Honda, 164, Contact
18. (15) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 100, Contact
19. (6) Takuma Sato, Honda, 6, Contact
20. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 5, Contact
21. (5) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 5, Contact
Winner's average speed: 139.465 mph
Time of Race: 2:13:22.0358
Margin of victory: 0.6850 of a second
Cautions: 5 for 43 laps
Lead changes: 11 among 6 drivers
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Newgarden 547, Dixon 516, Castroneves 505, Pagenaud 504, Power 464, Rahal 436, Rossi 422, Sato 410, Kanaan 365, Hinchcliffe 351.
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