Despite engine woes, Pagenaud hangs on for P13, points lead (VIDEO)

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Another race, another tough finish for Simon Pagenaud, and potentially, another bullet dodged in the Verizon IndyCar Series points chase.

Pagenaud looked on pace to finish second or certainly in the top five in the ninth completed race, but Round 10, of the IndyCar season, the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America.

But late race engine woes resigned the driver of the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet to 13th place for the second time in the last three races – Pagenaud also ended 13th at the first Detroit race after running out of fuel.

Yet even with those two 13th place results and a 19th place at the double points Indianapolis 500, Pagenaud only lost six points off his points lead.

He entered 80 points ahead of Scott Dixon, and actually gained 10 points on Dixon after Dixon’s early race engine issues.

He’ll leave 74 points clear of Helio Castroneves, who moved into second on the strength of another top-five finish in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. He ended fifth.

Pagenaud told NBCSN’s Marty Snider post-race that it was a major missed opportunity.

“It’s tough in these situations. You’re in the way! Even more frustrating when you have a car to win. The last restart, Menards car was awesome. Improving all weekend.

“We wasted a big opportunity for the championship. But Dixon didn’t get much either. Onto the next one.”

Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, told NBC Sports of the Dixon and Pagenaud issues, “We had an issue there (with Dixon) and a couple other issues. That’s racing. We have to dig in and fix it. We need to work to support our teams to win races the rest of the way.”

Still, Pagenaud has a decent enough gap to the rest of the field, who can’t seem to gain much in the way of momentum.

Arguably the hottest driver at the moment is race winner Will Power, who moved up to third – 81 points back of Pagenaud – with his second straight win. Power entered Road America seventh, 117 points back.

IndyCar’s unofficial top 10 in points is below:

1. Simon Pagenaud, 375
2. Helio Castroneves, 301
3. Will Power, 294
4. Scott Dixon, 285
5. Josef Newgarden, 283
6. Tony Kanaan, 280
7. Carlos Munoz, 262
8. Graham Rahal, 261
9. Juan Pablo Montoya, 259
10. Alexander Rossi, 257

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).