Is a potential first Pagenaud vs. Power at Penske battle on tap?

Pagenaud and Power. Photos: IndyCar

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Two years ago, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud had a notable dust-up in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach when driving for separate teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series. To follow it up, there was an encore at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans in June.

Since Pagenaud joined Power at Team Penske prior to 2015, however, there’s been no animosity since as the two join Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya in fully uniting under Roger Penske’s single, one-team focus mindset.

They laughed off the Long Beach contact in 2015.

Heck, they’ve all poked fun at each other over the last 16 months – Pagenaud even took the opportunity to imitate Montoya during an interview this weekend.

But will Sunday mark a renewal of the rivalry? A spark of sorts as Power starts second but has actually been beaten to a pole, on a road or street course, by Pagenaud for the first time since Pagenaud joined Team Penske?

It’s a potential turning point in the inner Team Penske ascendancy between the team’s two younger, if still experienced, drivers, and the stats bare it out.

Last year, Power scored five Verizon P1 Awards on road or street courses – and he out-qualified Pagenaud on all but one of the road or street qualifying sessions.

The only time Pagenaud beat him was when Power missed it during Q1 at Long Beach last year and started 18th; Pagenaud made it into the Firestone Fast 6 and started fifth.

This year? Different story. Pagenaud qualified third to Power’s sixth last week at Long Beach and took advantage of his opportunity to win his first race. Power had a nondescript run to seventh and missed his marks on a pit stop.

Now, Pagenaud has the pole for Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Diplomacy and cordiality ruled out between the two of them rather than any fighting words during the post-qualifying press conference.

“Simon did a mega lap there, an awesome lap. To do that on these reds is very good,” Power said of Pagenaud.

Of beating Power, Pagenaud replied, “It’s definitely a game that I enjoy. Qualifying is fun, and Will is definitely the best in the business, so when you can beat him, it feels nice for sure.”

Nice words, for sure, today.

But when the two of them launch from the front row tomorrow, it will be fascinating to see whether the nice words last when it comes down to getting the lead into Turn 1.

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change