Newgarden powers past Pagenaud for decisive Gateway win (VIDEO)

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MADISON, Ill. – Josef Newgarden saw an opportunity when Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud left the door open in Turn 1 at the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline.

He seized it with both hands in a forceful, authoritative move for the lead, and ultimately the win in the third to last race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Newgarden took the lead after contact with Pagenaud into Turn 1 on Lap 218 of the 248-lap race, the move not being reviewed by INDYCAR Race Control, and then held on the remaining 30 laps to win his fourth race of the season.

Pagenaud fell to third behind Scott Dixon, who rallied all race despite an aero deficit for Honda, with Helio Castroneves fourth and Conor Daly posting by far his most impressive drive of the year in fifth.

The late pass for the lead spiced up an otherwise difficult to handle return to the series for Gateway. Despite a near capacity crowd in the front straight grandstands – it’d be fair to estimate a crowd north of 30,000 – the race was delayed after a fireworks display and a one-lap three-wide row salute, then saw two bizarre incidents out of the gate.

Tony Kanaan spun in Turn 2 and needed to pit before the green flag, although race laps started counting for a four-lap yellow period before a two-wide start.

Then shortly thereafter, polesitter Will Power spun in Turn 2 on the low line, and Takuma Sato and Ed Carpenter spun behind them. Carpenter careened back up the road over top of Power’s car in another scary looking incident. It wasn’t until Lap 18 that the race properly got going.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Newgarden’s fourth win of the year, with 170 laps led, helped increase his points lead to 31 over Dixon with two races to go. … In second, Dixon scored his first top-five finish since winning at Road America and did an excellent job of damage limitations. … Alexander Rossi’s strong run of late continued with sixth. … Daly’s run was a needed top-five, his first of the year and first for the A.J. Foyt Enterprises team all season, and teammate Carlos Munoz was ninth. … Charlie Kimball, Daly’s in-race sparring partner, finished seventh and James Hinchcliffe, his wedding minister, was eighth. It marked both drivers best oval results this season. … Sebastien Bourdais returned to action with a solid top-10 and Sebastian Saavedra rounded off the first and only two Sebastian/en race of the IndyCar season with a clean drive to 11th.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ed Carpenter Racing. Two wrecked cars for Carpenter and JR Hildebrand left the team likely in need of its primary sponsor, Fuzzy’s Vodka, after a disappointing and expensive evening. … A pit safety infraction cost Graham Rahal a potential top-five finish and fell to 12th. … Other than Rossi, Andretti Autosport had a tough day with Marco Andretti 14th, Ryan Hunter-Reay 15th after a spin, and Sato out after the early Turn 2 crash. … Kanaan was parked by the team after going several laps down. He told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis “talk to Chip” about the decision and Ganassi declined comment, also confirmed by a team spokesperson. It marks the second time a Ganassi IndyCar has been retired owing to a team decision in as many weeks, the same having occurred to Max Chilton last week in Pocono. … Speaking of Chilton, a spin off Turn 4 ended his race and created a rare second straight DNF for the likable Englishman who’s usually a regular finisher.

NOTABLE: Team Penske did in fact win its fifth straight race, extending its streak for its longest win streak since 1994 (seven straight wins). … Newgarden’s four wins this year exceed his career total prior, three wins between 2015 and 2016. … Pagenaud’s year of metronomic consistency that in any other year would win him a title continued, as he banked his 12th top-five finish in 15 races and remained the only driver to complete every lap of the year.

QUOTABLE: Pagenaud to NBCSN after the race, and “the move:” “The move, you know, I don’t know what to say. I don’t have anything nice to say, so I’m not going to say it.”


MADISON, Illinois – Results Saturday of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

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

Race Statistics:
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

Lap Leaders:
Power 1-5
Newgarden 6-60
Bourdais 61-65
Chilton 66
Newgarden 67-193
Pagenaud 104
Castroneves 105-156
Newgarden 157-158
Chilton 159-160
Newgarden 161-205
Pagenaud 206-217
Newgarden 218-248

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.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.