Race: INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen
Date: Sept. 3, 2017
No. 1 Menards Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud
Laps Completed: 60/60
Laps Led: 0
Points Position (deficit): 4th (-34 pts.)
Recap: Simon Pagenaud and the No. 1 Menards Chevrolet team was prepared to run Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen in the rain after threatening skies and a wet weather forecast. But Mother Nature had something else in mind as the conditions stayed mostly dry during the race at Watkins Glen International and Pagenaud’s car setup wasn’t ideal but the defending series champion still produced a top-10 result and remained in contention to defend his crown. After starting from the 12th position Sunday in what was declared a “wet start” by INDYCAR with all competitors on rain tires, Pagenaud passed several cars early and then came to the pits on Lap 1, like virtually all the other competitors, to change to slick tires. He immediately moved up to sixth place by Lap 2 and he remained there for the early portion of the race. With track conditions staying dry, Pagenaud struggled to find much straightaway speed with a Menards Chevy that was set up with added downforce for expected running in the rain. As different pit strategies played out, Pagenaud fell back to the 12th or 13th position in the middle of the race but after the No. 1 team’s final stop on Lap 44, he charged forward over the final 15 laps to claim ninth place. Sunday’s result marked Pagenaud’s 14th top-10 finish in 16 starts this season and he will enter the season finale at Sonoma in two weeks with a legitimate opportunity to win his second straight series title. He is now just 34 points behind series leader and teammate Josef Newgarden in the standings with double championship points available at Sonoma, a track where Pagenaud won in convincing fashion last season.
Quote: “We fought for the best finish we could today in the Menards Chevrolet. We were really prepared for a wet race and if it would have been run in the rain I think we would have been tough to beat. But we just had too much downforce to run in the dry and make up the ground we needed to. Still, everyone on the team did a good job to finish ninth and we come out of Watkins Glen still in the hunt for the championship. We know what it takes to win at Sonoma and that’s what we’ll be fighting for next week.”
No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Josef Newgarden
Laps Completed: 58/60
Laps Led: 1
Points Position (lead): 1st (+3 pts.)
Recap: Josef Newgarden had a hard luck weekend at Watkins Glen International. He narrowly missed his second career Verizon IndyCar Series pole award in Saturday’s qualifying session for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen. A slight bobble in Turn 9 proved to be costly enough to relegate the 26-year-old to a start from the third position in Sunday’s 60-lap race around the 3.37-mile iconic road course. INDYCAR officials declared a “wet” start for the event due to intermittent showers throughout the morning. However, by the time the green flag waved most of the track was dry which sent most of the field, including Newgarden, down pit road on Lap 1 to replace the treaded rain tires with conventional slicks. From that point on, the rain held off, which forced teams to deal with setups engineered for wet conditions. The Tennessee native spent the lion’s share of the race in the top 10 working toward being in a position to make a dash for the win following the final pit stop of the day. That stop came on Lap 45, just after Newgarden had taken the lead of the race as others made their final stops. The DeVilbiss Chevrolet didn’t stop exactly right in the pit stall, which disrupted the remainder of the stop. Newgarden’s teammate Will Power stopped on the same lap and was just in front of Newgarden on pit road. The two cars left at the same time, which caused Newgarden to miscalculate the distance between the two and he locked up the tires on the No. 2 car before sliding into the guardrail. To compound the situation, the car of Sebastien Bourdais made contact with the DeVilbiss Chevrolet which resulted in substantial damage. It took multiple stops to get the car track worthy, which ended Newgarden’s quest for a fifth victory this season. With his 18th-place finish, Newgarden remains at the top of the championship standings, but Scott Dixon is now just three points behind heading into the final race of the season in two weeks.
Quote: “It was kind of an eventful day for the DeVilbiss Chevrolet team. I felt like we were in a good position until that final pit stop. No excuse for it. It was my fault. I saw Will (Power) leave right in front of us and I just locked it up and slid over into the wall. Then (Bourdais) got into the back of me. It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. We’ll go to Sonoma in a couple of weeks and race for it.”
No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Helio Castroneves
Laps Completed: 90/90
Laps Led: 13
Points Position (deficit): 3rd (-22)
Recap: With an impressive start and some serious speed throughout Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen, it looked for a while that Helio Castroneves was going to produce his second win of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Ultimately, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner finished just off the podium, in fourth place, but he is well positioned to now battle for the championship in two weeks at Sonoma Raceway. On Saturday, Castroneves earned a sixth-place starting spot for Sunday’s race on the classic New York road course. From the wave of the green flag Castroneves improved to fourth place and then he made a quick pit stop on the opening lap to switch from rain tires to the faster slick rubber on the drying track surface. Following a strong stop by the Hitachi crew, Castroneves emerged from pit lane trailing only pole sitter and eventual race winner Alexander Rossi. Castroneves got up to speed quickly and passed Rossi for the lead on Lap 2 and he continued to pace the field through the next caution flag on Lap 14. With several cars on a different pit strategy ahead of the No. 3 Hitachi Chevy in the running order, Castroneves ran in sixth place until the race restart on Lap 18. As he did throughout the weekend, Castroneves struggled on the Firestone primary black tires installed during his stop and he fell back a few places on the leaderboard. The popular Brazilian driver continued to work his way back, however, and he re-entered the top five for good on Lap 38. Over the final 16 laps, Castroneves battled hard as he tried to chase down Ryan Hunter-Reay for third place while also looking to hold off hard charger Graham Rahal. Pushing to the checkered flag, Castroneves was able to secure a fourth-place finish for his eighth top five of the season. Heading into the series finale at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on September 17, Castroneves remains third in the series standings, now just 22 points behind Newgarden and just 19 points off of second-place driver Scott Dixon.
Quote: “The Hitachi Chevy was so awesome today and it was a great job by the No. 3 car guys. We were really fast out there – it’s been a long time since I was able to go flat out through the carousel in the race but we were doing that today. We had some issues on the black Firestone tires but we were able to recover and really pushed hard there to finish fourth. I feel really bad for Josef with his incident – it’s unfortunate for the team but it’s mixed feelings for me because it tightens up the championship. We definitely have a good chance heading into Sonoma and I feel really good about our setup there. We’ll be ready to go for it and finish strong.”
No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power
Laps Completed: 60/60
Laps Led: 0
Points Position (deficit): 5th (-68 pts.)
Recap: The INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen weekend proved to be a bit of a roller coaster ride for Will Power at Watkins Glen International. The No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet showed good pace in Friday’s practice sessions, but was a little off in Saturday’s qualifying session. The storyline continued in Sunday’s race. All competitors started on rain tires as mandated by INDYCAR officials following rains throughout the morning at Watkins Glen. By the time the race started, though, much of the 3.37-mile road course was dry which sent Power, who lined up eighth, down pit road for a set of Firestone alternate tires. The new rubber upset the car to the point to where Power thought that something mechanical was wrong on the car. Power fell to 16th before his second pit stop. Things started to improve from there for the 2014 series champion. He moved back into the top 10 just past the halfway mark of the race. Power remained in the front half of the field for the balance of the race and he closed strong for a sixth-place effort. A week ago at Gateway Motorsports Park, Power had an early incident end his day and put a kink his championship plans. He was able to bounce back this week, however, and close a sizeable portion of his deficit in the standings. Heading into the 2017 season finale in two weeks at Sonoma Raceway, Power trails Newgarden by 68 points, which is still ground that the Verizon Chevy driver can make up considering the double points that will be awarded in Sonoma.
Quote: “It was just an up and down day for the Verizon Chevrolet group. There were times the car was really fast, but that first set of tires didn’t agree with the car at all. I thought the car was broken. It wouldn’t do anything I wanted it to. After that, it was good. I can’t be unhappy about sixth. I don’t know what kind of legitimate chance at the championship I have, but stranger things have happened, I guess. We’ll go to Sonoma and give it everything we have.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!