There was a time in the Verizon IndyCar Series that Will Power struggled on the ovals. Today, the Team Penske driver has established himself as one of the best. The reigning Indianapolis 500 champion captured his third win of the season Saturday night at Gateway Motorsports Park. Looking at his last seven wins, five of them have come on ovals. No active driver in the series has more 500-mile race wins (four) and he has led laps in 14 consecutive 500-mile races.
As for the championship, the battle between Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi continues. The two drivers can’t seem to separate themselves, as Dixon’s lead of 29 points shrunk to just 26 after Rossi finished 2nd and Dixon in 3rd Saturday night. The two Honda drivers recorded their 8th podium finishes of the season, and neither has had a DNF this year.
Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Box Score
Simon Pagenaud and Zach Veach rounded out the top five on Saturday. It was a much needed result for Pagenaud, who is having somewhat of a down year. Veach continues to have a marvelous Rookie campaign, recording his fourth consecutive top-ten finish of the season, and is one of only five drivers without a DNF this year.
Spencer Pigot may have had the quietest 6th place finish in IndyCar history. It was a great result for he and the team, especially after being taken out before the green flag waved last weekend at Pocono. Josef Newgarden had a roller coaster night, and ended up with a 7th place finish, which dropped him one spot in the championship standings. Ed Jones had one of his best runs of the season, and was battling inside the top three late in the race. He ended up in 8th place while the RLL Racing duo of Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal rounded out the top ten.
Pietro Fittipaldi earned his best career finish, coming home in 11th place. Just behind him was Ed Carpenter, who ended his season with a decent run as Jordan King will take over the No. 20 car for the final two races. Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, and James Hinchcliffe completed the top 15 on Saturday night, struggling throughout most of the race.
It was not a great night for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais. The Andretti Autosport driver once again had car gremlins end his race as he was battling inside the top three. Bourdais never really even got going, as his Dale Coyne Racing machine got loose in Turn 2 on the opening lap and found the outside wall.
Good fortune accompanied Rossi, as he managed to trim points off Dixon’s lead for the third straight race. Dixon started from pole position and led 145 laps and finished on the podium. The American did a fantastic job saving fuel in the final stint, and even held off a hard charging Kiwi for the runner-up position. Topping all of those things was Rossi’s incredible save when he nearly found the wall. If he is able to capture the title this year, this will be a moment to remember.
With 15 races now completed, there are four drivers (Dixon, Rossi, Newgarden, Power) that have three race wins this season. The only other drivers to win a race this year are Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, and Hinchcliffe. This is the 35th career victory for Power, which ties him with Bobby Unser for seventh most in IndyCar history.
There are still five drivers mathematically eligible to win the championship, but the real battle seems to be a two-man race between Dixon and Rossi. The next race on the schedule is the Grand Prix of Portland on September 2. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 2:30 PM ET on Sunday.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Josef Newgarden: “Tough night. We kept in it, we tried to make the most of it. We just lost too many positions there at the end. The whole race long, we just didn’t get the timing right. We got caught out in a couple of different times. Will (Power) got stuck up in the gray and we lost some speed when we caught him and lost a couple of spots there. We tried to make a fuel number there at the end and it ended up biting us. We worked hard. We had great pit stops; the guys did a great job. We just couldn’t get the timing right tonight and had to settle for the Verizon Chevy finishing seventh. But we have a car in one piece, so we go on to Portland and try and redeem ourselves.”
Matheus Leist: “Very difficult race, very tough to run in traffic. Most of the race we were trying to figure out what to do to run faster. I was playing with my tools inside the car, bars and weight jacker. At the end of day, I think it was a good race. We made some improvements throughout the weekend, which is good, so we’re getting there. The pit stops were good, so good job to all my team – the guys have been working hard since Day 1. The ABC car was good. Thanks to all the fans that came here tonight. Now onto Portland.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Pretty disappointing day, obviously. We just didn’t have the pace in the fuel save mode and had to have been in a fuel-save strategy twice, which kind of puts in you the worst of both worlds. It was a tough day for us and not the result we were hoping for. We have had a good short oval package so far this year. I think if the race played out differently with the cautions, we could have still had a good finish in the Arrow Electronics car, but ultimately it wasn’t in the cards today. Now we regroup and move onto Portland and the last two races.”
Scott Dixon: “I think it was a good race for us and the PNC Bank team. It was great to lead a bunch of laps and have a good car, especially after not testing here. There were two different strategies that played out and I’m a bit mad at myself tonight for not making a decision quicker on which one to take. I’m not sure if it would have made a huge difference in the end, but it’s a solid result and we lost just a small bit to (Alexander) Rossi.”
Ed Jones: “Obviously, we had a decent pace, and if we had run qualifying, we would have been in the top five all race. It’s tricky to pass cars at this track, but we made the most of what we had and I even raced up to third at one point. When we caught the backmarkers, I got pushed up a bit high and lost a lot of grip when I got up into the marbles. It was not a bad result for the NTT DATA car considering we started 12th, but for sure, I think there was more in there.”
Will Power: The car was not that good last night. We had to work, have a really good think about it and spend a little time speaking with my engineer. We came up with a really good setup, or what we thought would be a good setup, and it ended up being one. It was just a lot of fun out there. I was so happy to win my first race with Roger (Penske, as my race strategist). I was just wondering when that was going to come because I didn’t get to work with him in Indy and obviously won two races there. That was my first win with Roger (as my race strategist) and when he told me I could go wide open and not save fuel, that was a great call and a lot of fun to chop through the field. I’ve never passed so many cars in a shorter period of time. I have to thank INDYCAR for a great package, as well. As you could see, last year it was very difficult to pass and they came up with a package this year where you could definitely pass and run close.”
Tony Kanaan: “We gambled with the strategy and it didn’t work out. I’m disappointed because the No. 14 ABC Supply was fast all night and we were running in the top 10 when we got caught out by that yellow.”
Graham Rahal: “If the yellow hadn’t come out, we were sitting beautifully. I think there was only a few of us that were going to be able to actually make it in three stops. We were average, but better than those we were around, but we couldn’t get track position. We couldn’t get track position through strategy and we couldn’t get track position on track by passing, so we were kind of stuck behind Takuma (Sato) and Spencer (Pigot), who we were definitely better than, but there was nothing we could do. Then the yellow came out and really hurt us. We just tried to salvage our strategy and to do that last run that long. The fuel number we had to get was so extreme that I couldn’t keep up with the pack. It’s frustrating.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “I have no idea what happened. I think Graham (Rahal) was getting a little loose inside, so I moved into the second grove. Then in the middle of Turn 2, the car got loose as (Ed) Jones made it three wide and I lost it. It’s frustrating and a shame. The SealMaster Honda No. 18 guys worked really hard and we had a good car. We will just have to regroup, and hopefully, have a better weekend at Portland.”
Pietro Fittipaldi: “I’m really happy with how our race went tonight. The whole No. 19 Paysafe Dale Coyne Racing crew did an amazing job on the pit stops. We knew our pace was good going into the race, but since we were starting last, we thought that if we finished 15th or 16th that it would be a good race for us because it’s so difficult to pass here. But we got some good runs and passed a couple of cars and we did a fuel-saving strategy that worked in our favor and we finished 11th. I’m really happy with that, especially after coming back from my injury and now finally getting my first solid finish. I’m excited for the next two races.”
Ed Carpenter: “I was hoping for a little better night. I just didn’t have a very good balance on cold tires and I lost too many positions at the start of the race. After the first stop, we went long with everyone else. We didn’t really feel like we were going to get it done doing that, so we started short pitting and trying to get track position with quick lap times. I feel like we would have been inside the top 10 if A, I could have stayed in front of Will (Power) on the lead lap, or B, that yellow didn’t come out. That’s just the way it goes when you go with that strategy when you pit early; that’s what you put yourself at risk for. I’d hoped to put the Fuzzy’s Vodka car on the podium again for my last race of the season, but it didn’t work out that way. On the other hand, Spencer (Pigot) had a really good drive and continues to show well in the second half of the season. Hopefully, my ‘children’ can do well at Portland and Sonoma and give ECR a good finish to the season.”
Spencer Pigot: “We definitely got stronger throughout the race. The guys made some good changes for me during the stops and they were good pit stops, as well. We were able to jump some people on the pit cycles, which was great. The last 80 laps were a lot of fun. There were people on different strategies and we were just going flat out, going as quickly as possible and passing as many people as we could. It was a lot of fun with so many close battles and a lot of dicing. I am happy to have finished sixth from where we started. It’s a shame we didn’t get to qualify. It would have been nice to try and start a little higher up. Overall, I’m really happy with the result and for my Fuzzy’s Vodka guys.”
Simon Pagenaud: “I think we had a winning car. When Will (Power) passed me, I was saving fuel and I tried to hold the high lane. It didn’t work. So, we lost about, I don’t know, six or seven positions. But we came back because the car was so good. What a shame. But, in the meantime, I had a blast. There was some awesome racing out there, especially at the end. With the strategies, I think it just threw a curve for everybody and made the racing really good at the end. So, I think we had a winning car. But, that’s good. That’s really good. My guys did a phenomenal job in pit lane.”
Charlie Kimball: “I’ve said it all year and I’ll continue to say it, I’m really proud of these Carlin guys. We fought the balance, and when I was pushing on an out lap, I tagged the wall and bent a toe link. The guys had never done a hot change like that in a race in the pits, but they made the repair and sent me back out with a car that was still just as rock solid as it’d been before. We’ve got a lot to learn not just with pace, but also with what we can do in traffic and how to be a little bit more competitive. I think the highlight for the night for us as a team is how the guys did in the pits. We’ll learn from tonight, like we always do, and be better next time.”
Zach Veach: “I really wish we could go back to St. Petersburg right now and start this season over. I’ve got to give credit to my Group 1001 guys and, of course, my Andretti Autosport teammates. Those guys have helped me so much this year, just teaching me little by little. It’s finally starting to come together and I’m just so thankful for that.”
Alexander Rossi: “Every weekend we just have to try and beat Scott (Dixon). Will (Power) was amazing today, so congrats to him. I’m a little lost for words. I’m not sure how we made that happen today, that’s unbelievable. I wasn’t full throttle at all for the last 70 laps. It was a huge ask when Rob (Edwards, race strategist) came over the radio and told me the fuel number. I was like, ‘Here we go again.’ I couldn’t have done it without a great NAPA Andretti Honda. I don’t know that we had enough for Will, even if it was a flat-out race to the finish. But the important thing is we beat Scott and closed the (points) gap a little bit.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Really bummed to end the race from the garages. We had a problem with fuel pressure – the car just shut off on the front straight and we weren’t able to recover. It’s a shame because we were really making the No. 28 DHL Honda fly. The track just kept getting more and more grip and we were able to get more aggressive. We were just getting into the mix, the car was coming to us. We were going to fight Will (Power) for the win at the end.”
Takuma Sato: “It was a frustrating night, to be honest. Yesterday, we almost lost the first session due to a mechanical problem and virtually only got one practice session which put us behind. There was no qualifying, no data and you have to guess the setup. Coming into today, we had an opportunity with a three-stop strategy and we were looking good. We were one of the latest to pit and it was looking good, but the last yellow, the only yellow, basically, blew our strategy. We had an option to go for it like everyone else or try to save fuel and stretch the stint. We tried to stretch the stint, but the car didn’t have enough pace for the fuel and that’s why we lost a position after the restart. We tried and the guys did a good job. Clearly, we need to find speed, but it was a solid night.”
Max Chilton: “That was another long, hard-fought race for the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet and the whole Carlin team. It was going to be challenging for us to improve too much, no matter how the race played out, just with it being so difficult to pass and us starting so far back on entrant points. I’d say we’re still not where we want to be as far as results, but on a positive note, we have another oval race worth of experience that we can build on for next year.”
Gabby Chaves: “I’m really gutted tonight because we had a really fantastic and competitive race car. We worked our way on track and we easily should have been a top-10 finish car. I’m not sure what happened, I think it was into our third or fourth stint. Everything was fine, I went into Turn 1 and felt the car bottom out a little bit and just went completely straight off the track, came off the corner and had a lot of slack on the wheel. I thought that something was for sure damaged. Unfortunately, I came into the pits and we looked at it and didn’t find anything, so I went back out to finish the race. We had such a good car, I’m really gutted how it ended because it could have been so much better.”