Simon Pagenaud

Pagenaud leads Penske 1-2-3-4 in Practice 3 at Road America

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Team Penske continued its domination this weekend at Road America, with Simon Pagenaud leading third practice for the Kohler Grand Prix (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Pagenaud pipped teammate Will Power in the final seconds to take fast lap honors in third practice, with Pagenaud’s 1:42.0439 edging Power’s 1:42.0698.

Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden ended third and fourth, making it a Penske 1-2-3-4 for the second consecutive session this weekend (they did the same in second practice on Friday). Scott Dixon ended the session fifth, the best of the Honda runners.

Several drivers had off-course excursions during practice as they pushed the limits ahead of qualifying this afternoon. Most notably, Newgarden brought out a brief red flag when he spun into the gravel in Turn 14, the third spin in turn 14 this weekend. Newgarden did not have any contact with the tire barriers, but the No. 2 Devilbiss Chevrolet was beached in the gravel and needed a tow. He suffered no damage, however, and rejoined the session after it resumed.

Of note, Marco Andretti and Spencer Pigot enjoyed strong sessions to end up sixth and seventh, while Mikhail Aleshin was 20th after arriving at the track earlier in the morning, with immigration issues delaying his travel.

Times are below. Qualifying begins at 4:00 p.m. ET (3:00 p.m. local time), and airs on NBCSN at 5:00 p.m. ET.

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Castroneves is second in Indy 500, but jumps to No. 1 in IndyCar standings

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Second-place may be the first loser, but for Helio Castroneves, finishing second in Sunday’s 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 left him with a very nice consolation prize:

He’s now No. 1 in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.

Castroneves took over the top spot in the IndyCar rankings from Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud, who dropped to a three-way tie for second place with Sunday’s 500 race winner Takuma Sato and 500 pole-sitter Scott Dixon, who was involved in a terrible crash about one-fourth of the way through the race.

Castroneves has 249 points, while Pagenaud, Sato and Dixon are all 15 points back with 234 points each.

Last year’s Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi, is fifth in the standings with 190 points.

Tony Kanaan, who finished fifth in Sunday’s race, is sixth in the IndyCar standings with 188 points. Rounding out the top-10 are teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden, who are both tied with 186 points.

IndyCar rookie Ed Jones, who finished a very strong third in the 500, is ninth in the rankings with 185 points, and James Hinchcliffe is 10th with 170 points.

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Team Penske has bittersweet overall finish in Indianapolis 500

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Even though it had five drivers – just under one-seventh of the 33 cars in the field – Team Penske had a bittersweet overall showing in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

Celebrating its 51st season in motorsports, Team Penske was searching to extend its record 16 wins in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, but came up real short — as well as not so short.

The good aspect was Helio Castroneves finishing a close second to race winner Takuma Sato. Castroneves came so close to winning a fourth time at Indianapolis, which would have tied one of the most elite records in motorsports history shared by A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Instead, Castroneves finished second for the third time in his career at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It’s tough to accept,” Castroneves said. “I did my best. I really pushed it. The guys did a phenomenal job. We drove our heart, no question.

“The good news, sounds like we’re leading the points (he leads teammate Simon Pagenaud — who is also tied with 500 winner Takuma Sato and 500 polesitter Scott Dixon — by a 245 to 234 point margin. Hey, there is always a positive note. I think that it is very positive.

“Yes, finishing second again sucks. So close to get the fourth. I really am trying. I will not give up this dream. I know it’s going to happen.”

Castroneves almost ran head-on into disaster on Lap 53, when Jay Howard and Scott Dixon crashed. Somehow, Castroneves was able to sail under Dixon, whose car went airborne after contact with Howard’s car, and continued on.

“What can I say? My race was pretty adventurous,” Castroneves said with a smile. “We have a lot of things. We started from the back. I knew I had a good balance. Then we went to the front about lap 50, then were in the top 10.

“Unfortunately with the accident with Dixon and (Howard), we broke a winglet and broke the front wing because it went off the track. I don’t know how to be honest. It was a good save, I have to say that. This place brings the best out of me. It was pretty good.”

Sato passed Castroneves for the lead heading into Lap 196. Castroneves rallied to pull even with Sato with three laps to go, but couldn’t complete the pass.

“I tried everything I could with three laps to go, two laps to go,” Castroneves said. “I went outside. Unfortunately my tires were overshot a little bit. I would have ended up in the wall. I thought it was good timing because I would try to make a move again. Man, he just took off and that’s it. That was my last chance.

“Really disappointed for the fans, for obviously my team. They gave me a great car. I did everything I could, trust me, everything I could. Unfortunately, second place is the best for us today.”

Castroneves said he’ll once again go for No. 4 in 2018: “Sorry, next year, then.”

Also having a good day was former 500 champ Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished sixth in a one-off Verizon IndyCar Series start.

“Our Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevy was good,” Montoya said. “We had a problem there in the beginning when we ran out of gas in Turn 3. We should have had another half-gallon in the car. It put is in a tough position because we lost a lot of positions there. From there to come back to where we finished was great. We ran 12th or 13th most of the day and then the car was really good at the end of the race. The balance just wasn’t there. Then I told the guys on the last stop, let’s take swing and we did and the car came to life. I would have liked to have had some more laps at the end.”

Defending IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud finished 14th.

“It wasn’t the finish we wanted today for the Menards Chevrolet team,” Pageaud said. “But for the big picture it was a decent day. We’re still in that top group in points as we head to Detroit. That’s a place that suits us pretty well. The (Indianapolis) 500 remains a goal and we’ll take another shot at it next year.”

Then came the bittersweet aspect. Two drivers that many felt would win Sunday – Will Power and the latest addition to Team Penske, Josef Newgarden – were involved in the same wreck late in the race that ended their days.

Newgarden finished 20th, while Power finished 23rd, both collected in a late race wreck.

“It was an OK day,” Newgarden said. “We just got caught up in that wreck there at the end. That hurt us. When we were up front we were good. We seemed to keep racing ourselves toward the front of the field. Then we would just get dropped back by a couple of issues. If we would have been up front the whole time, I think we could have finished in the top five. We performed really well today, things just didn’t go out way.”

Added Power, “I’m not sure what happened out there. All I know that I was sliding backward. It was an up and down day for the Verizon Chevy. We were able to stick our nose in there a few times and we were stuck back in the back other times. Then, we got caught up in that deal at the end that ended our day. We’ll move on to Detroit. The thing about this race is that we get to turn the page pretty quickly.”

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Team Penske struggles in Indy 500 qualifying, but ready for race day

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Team Penske didn’t have the qualifying effort it had hoped for this weekend, but is still expected to have a strong five-driver effort in next Sunday’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Only one of Team Penske’s five drivers qualified in the fast nine on Saturday: Will Power in sixth place (with a four-lap average of 230.072 mph).

And then came Sunday’s Fast Nine shootout, the primary round of qualifying. Power struggled overall, with his first lap speed of 230.912 mph being his fastest, as he wound up with a four-lap average of 230.200 mph, leaving him to start the Indy 500 in ninth position and on the outside of Row 3.

“That was all we had,” Power told ABC. “Maybe I could have run a shorter gear, maybe I should have used fifth and not sixth. But we knew in order to use sixth, that’s the only way we were going to beat the Honda’s if we had the speed, but we didn’t. That’s as good as we got, but it’s a long race.”

Prior to his run Sunday, Power had this to say to ABC:

“(The track temperature coming up) definitely makes it harder. You can do a run and within minutes if the sun is gone and the clouds come out, you feel the difference. It’s suddenly much harder. It’s really picking the downforce to stay flat for four laps is what’s going to give you the most consistent run.”

As for the other four Team Penske drivers, they bunched up between 18th and 23rd:

* Two-time 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya will start on the outside of Row 6 in 18th position (229.565 mph).

“We’ve had good speed all week,” Montoya said. “We didn’t change anything from yesterday. It was good. You can win this race from all kinds of places. We’ll work on race trim tomorrow and Friday but I think we have a good race car.”

* Helio Castroneves will start from on the inside of Row 7 from the 19th position (229.515 mph).

“That was disappointing for sure,” Castroneves said. “We just didn’t have the speed that we would have liked and that we thought we would have had. But we knew it going into today that this would be an uphill battle for sure. Our car is really good in race trim however and 500 miles and 200 laps is a lot different from four laps. Of course you always want to start more near the front and you want to say you are on the pole or on the front row, but it means a lot more to say that you are an Indianapolis 500 winner. That is our focus and that is what all of Team Penske is here to do.”

* Josef Newgarden, the newest member of Team Penske, will start from the inside of Row 8, having qualified 22nd (226.474 mph).

“We had some adversity but have been able to overcome everything,” Newgarden said. “I really feel we’ll have a great car in the race. We’ll get everything dialed in during the couple of practices left and see what happens. Getting the car to drive in traffic is crucial here. I feel good about what we’ve done here and we’ll leave it all out there next week.”

* Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud will start alongside Newgarden, in the middle of Row 8 in 23rd position (228.093 mph).

“(The car has) great balance again but speed is still a little lacking,” Pagenaud said. “I’m not really sure what we are missing, if anything. It’s a mystery of Indianapolis, I guess. Not every day can be your day. We’ll keep our heads down and get it ready to go for the race. It’s a long race and if we get a couple of breaks, there’s no telling what can happen. This team always answers the bell when it needs to. Despite struggling a little this weekend, I have complete confidence in our ability next Sunday.”

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Pagenaud’s Porsche goes up for auction at Mecum (VIDEO)

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INDIANAPOLIS – Simon Pagenaud has had an interesting week. The defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion turned 33 years old on Thursday and celebrated by making an appearance at a local Menards store, for his primary sponsor of his No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

But on Friday, Pagenaud wasn’t getting a birthday present. Instead, he was reluctantly parting ways with a car of his to be a present for someone else.

At this week’s Mecum Auctions at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds, Pagenaud’s 2008 Porsche Cayman S, sold for $38,000. As a limited edition model, it was one of only 100 of 700 built that were shipped Stateside.

“A quick goodbye, huh? I’m a very sentimental guy when it comes to cars, so I’ve got to leave now,” Pagenaud said, via IndyCar.com. “I was obviously getting started in the U.S. She drove me around and never broke down. I only had one flat. She did good.”

You can see a video of Pagenaud’s car leaving his hands, above.

As for his day job, Pagenaud has a best speed of 229.973 mph yesterday in 222 laps completed, which ranks 23rd in the field of 33 cars.

Coverage of Mecum Auctions: Indianapolis runs from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN, later today.

Pagenaud on track. Photo: IndyCar