Josef Newgarden Wins at Gateway

Josef Newgarden was 12 years old the last time IndyCar raced at Gateway Motorsports Park. Tonight, he put on another clinic on his march toward the 2017 championship. Newgarden led 170 of the 248 laps on Saturday night, earning his fourth victory of the season. He has won three of the last four races, and the one he didn’t win, he finished in 2nd place. Josef takes a 31 point lead over Scott Dixon into the final two races at Watkins Glen and Sonoma.

Dixon finished behind Newgarden tonight, which was actually better than what he ran for the majority of the race. Simon Pagenaud joined them on the podium, but felt as though he should have been on the top step. Simon felt that Newgarden’s move to take the lead in Turn 1 with 31 laps to go crossed the line. The two Penske cars made contact, but were somehow able to avoid crashing. The Frenchman was very frustrated after the race.

Rounding out the top five on Saturday were Helio Castroneves and Conor Daly. Castroneves had a hiccup in the pits, where his car stalled, which cost him the lead. Daly’s performance was impressive, considering his issues on pit road, and being chopped on multiple occasions during the race. With teammate Carlos Munoz finishing 9th, it is the first time both AJ Foyt Racing cars have finished in the top ten since Detroit in 2015.

Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Box Score

Alexander Rossi continued his impressive run, finishing in 6th position tonight. His last four finishes this season are 2nd, 6th, 3rd, and 6th. Charlie Kimball finished in 7th place, SPM driver James Hinchcliffe quietly came home 8th, and Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top ten, in his first race back since his devastating crash at Indianapolis in May.

Several drivers had disappointing outings, starting with the pole sitter, Will Power. On the first green flag lap of the race, Power lost control of his car, and backed hard into the wall. Amid the chaos, Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato were collected, as Carpenter’s car went up in the air and landed on the front of Power’s car. Fortunately all of the drivers were okay. The result essentially ended the title hopes for the 2014 series champion.

Tony Kanaan’s night was doomed before the green flag even came out. Trying to warm up his tires during the parade lap, Kanaan lost control of his car, backing it into the wall. He started the race three laps down, and after teammate Max Chilton crashed later in the race, Kanaan was told to pit and get out of the car. The veteran driver was obviously very displeased. The same thing happened last weekend at Pocono with Chilton. It is an odd situation going on at Ganassi.

Sato didn’t get have a chance to make any moves in the race, but he is apparently already making a move for next year. According to a report from RACER, the Japanese driver will be heading back to RLL Racing next season, in a second full-time entry alongside Graham Rahal. The defending Indianapolis 500 winner raced for the RLL team in 2012.

Ryan Hunter-Reay’s dreadful season continued, although he was running inside the top eight before he brushed the wall. Still sore from his frightening crash at Pocono last weekend, he gingerly exited his Andretti Autosport machine, finishing 15th. Rahal had a very quiet night, and came home in 12th spot. JR Hildebrand was running in 10th position when something appeared to break on his ECR machine, sending him hard into the outside wall.

Two races remain on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. The next event is Watkins Glen, which takes place next weekend. The IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen is a three-day event, with practice scheduled for Friday, September 1. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 1 PM ET on Sunday.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “We had a great race with the Menards Chevrolet. All of the adjustments left us with a great car at the end. When we needed to come up with a great pit stop, we did. Those guys really are the best. They always come through when they have to. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out there at the end. I can’t say that I’m overly pleased, but that’s racing. We still have the championship out there, so we’ll get ready for Watkins Glen.”

Josef Newgarden: 
“It was a great night. First off, we had an awesome crowd. It was amazing actually what was out here tonight. I felt like the energy for this event, it really spurred everyone on. You should have seen all the drivers. I felt like everyone was a little extra nervous tonight because of the energy in this place. I remember watching this race when I was younger. They stopped coming here, I think 2003 was the last race. It’s fun to have it back in 2017 and see it so well supported for the first year. It was a great night to go racing. I felt like the PPG Chevrolet was going to be good tonight. We had four good cars at Team Penske. Happy to get the win on the No. 2 car side because I felt like we had the car to beat. I didn’t want us to be denied tonight for sure. Simon (Pagenaud) gave me a lane to work with. 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. 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 worked out well for us. Pagenaud, didn’t get up into the wall or anything like that, so I would say it worked out okay for him, too.”

Helio Castroneves: “The Shell Fuel Rewards Chevy was awesome tonight. 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: “We had a good car all weekend. 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.”

James Hinchcliffe: “Solid day despite starting 10th and finishing eighth; for only a two-position swing, it was a lot more dramatic day than that. I think we made some good changes to the car throughout the night, and we were a lot racier than we were in second practice yesterday, so big credit to the engineers. The Arrow guys were awesome in the pit stops today, so we made up some spots there. We just ultimately got caught out on the last yellow. It was a wrong place, wrong time, and Conor (Daly) came around the outside of us there and took all of the air off us. I had to slide up the racetrack, and I think we maybe damaged a tire when we did that because after that we had a pretty big vibration and we couldn’t really attack Charlie (Kimball) there at the end. Probably should have finished sixth, but we’ll take a solid top 10 and hopefully build on that for Watkins Glen.”

Sebastian Saavedra: “We had a very interesting race altogether… a bit crazy. The cold (weather) and night definitely made the car quite slick, which took a couple people out of balance really. On my side, I was still in a learning process. Once I felt comfortable, I knew my cues and I managed to start committing. The whole Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew did an amazing job overnight to put an amazing race car together and that gave me the confidence to really start moving forward from the back. We took advantage of some yellows, which really put us in a good sequence to battle with the top 10. We really struggled on restarts, getting into a couple situations which almost took us out, but thankfully we managed to survive those and continue moving our way to the front. It’s been three races with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and it has been so fun. I have to thank everyone at the organization – mechanics, engineering staff, commercial staff, everyone. They really welcomed me like one of them. I didn’t expect the click to be so quick and so seamless; I think that has really shown in the three races we’ve done together. To be honest, it felt like home. I really wish everyone the best, no matter what happens next. I’m very happy to be able to have had these opportunities.”

Max Chilton: “It just all happened very quickly. I was just stuck behind (Carlos) Munoz prior to that last stop for probably 40 or so laps. We came out just behind him on the exchange and were desperate to get around him. I had a really good run in Turn 3, but the car just turned around on me. We added a turn of front wing on that last stop and it just caught me out. We were struggling with straight line speed, so you had to stay as close as you could to the guy in front of you. That was it and it was game over pretty quickly for the Gallagher car.”

Scott Dixon: “I guess that’s the best we could have hoped for. It was definitely going to be a tough race for us, but the car was actually very good. I think we had a better mechanical grip than the group we were racing with, with the Penskes, and especially toward the end of the run. We could sort of come back towards them. We had so much drag. We could get to them, but we couldn’t pull out and pass them. Definitely pretty hard to defend right there at the end with Simon (Pagenaud). It was pretty exciting to watch Josef (Newgarden) and Simon with that pass into Turn 1, which was pretty interesting, pretty tight. I was hoping it went a little bit different than what it actually did and could have picked up two spots, but huge credit to everybody on the NTT Data No. 9 car. Strong tonight. Strong pit stops. And how about the fans, man? This was awesome to come back to St. Louis and see the fans and how excited they were for this race.”

Will Power:  “It wasn’t a fun ride. Josef (Newgarden) went around the outside and got some of his dirty air and just lost it. Unfortunate. Very frustrating. Unbelievably frustrating for the whole Verizon Chevrolet team. It was just slippery. Super slippery. I wish I had done a few more burnouts to get more heat in the rear tires. The fronts were very slippery too. He just took my air going around on the outside. I tried to get back to power and got some dirty air. It just went. Unfortunate.”

Carlos Munoz: 
“It was a race with ups and downs. The whole team did a great job the whole weekend. Happy for Conor, he did a really good job finishing fifth. And with me ninth we had two cars in the top 10. I just needed a little more speed in Turns 1 and 2 especially compared to my teammate. Finishing like that in the last stint, I had a really bad vibration that cost me a little bit but I’m really happy for the team overall.”

Graham Rahal: “It was a close race and the Fifth Third Bank car was pretty good. The Penskes didn’t take off like we expected. Most of all, I’m disappointed and sad about the last stop. I hope Brad (Ward), our fueler, is OK. He’s a key part of our team and you never want to see that happen. I thought I saw Donny (Stewart, chief mechanic) waving me to go, so I went and obviously it wasn’t time to go. We had a (fuel) probe failure early in the race that didn’t prevent that sort of thing, so it was my fault. I just went, simple as that.”

Sebastien Bourdais:
 “It wasn’t an easy race. We knew the car wasn’t perfect and I had some really complicated restarts. I don’t know what was going on, but I got loose three times and I almost stuffed it, and so I went to the back of the pack. The guys did a really good job in the pits and got us back in contention there at the end. I finally had a good restart and a couple of wobbles in front of me and I benefitted from it. I’m just really happy with my top 10. It’s a good way to salvage something this weekend.”

Ed Jones: “It was a tough race. 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.”

Ed Carpenter: “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.”

JR Hildebrand: 
“All of a sudden, we had no steering and were going straight. I feel like something must have broke or we had some sort of an issue. Hopefully, for the sake of everyone else, we can isolate it on our side just for the certainty of the race. That’s about all I have to say. We were having a pretty good run. It is just a bummer to have both of the Fuzzy’s Vodka cars out of the race so early.”

Takuma Sato: “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.”

Marco Andretti: “It was definitely a frustrating day. We spent most of the race just trying to hang on and unfortunately couldn’t really attack. All we could do is make sure we brought the car home, which is disappointing. The Oberto Circle K team did a heck of a job trying to keep the car in the race and getting us back on the lead lap. We kept the guys in the pits busy all night making adjustments on nearly every stop and they still got me out of the pits quick.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We were really working to get around Alexander (Rossi). We had the speed to get by him, but I just pushed it too hard into (Turn) 1. If you’re two inches high in Turn 1 or 2 – I got up there earlier and got away with it, but not this time. I just lost the front and smacked the rear. It was completely my fault; I was just pushing really hard. Sorry to the No. 28 DHL guys. We deserved to be somewhere in the top 10, and certainly not going home early.”

Charlie Kimball: “I’m just really proud of the guys. We didn’t get the chance to test here, but we learned from the No. 9 car’s test. We made the car better and better from first thing yesterday afternoon, through qualifying, even though we didn’t get the qualifying result we wanted. Through the race tonight, the car was actually pretty good. We just kept making it better. It was just tough racing. With the package like it was, it was really hard to close up and pass anyone, especially into the first turn. We took advantage of some momentum shifts, like when guys didn’t get great restarts. I’m really happy to come away with a seventh tonight, especially here when we knew it might be a little bit compromised.”

Alexander Rossi: “It was a pretty hard night, but I think the whole NAPA Auto Parts team really capitalized on the opportunities that were given to us. To come home sixth on a track that’s dominant for the other manufacturer, I think is a solid result and that’s what we were looking for all weekend. Maybe we could have been a couple spots higher, but at the end of the night, we brought the car home and that was a solid race. The pace was good and there was really nothing to complain about on a track where we knew we were going to be at a deficit. It’s nice to come away with a top six (finish).”

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