NEWTON, Iowa – Simon Pagenaud entered Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 with a 74-point lead over Helio Castroneves and he leaves it with a 73-point lead over Josef Newgarden, following a fourth-place finish.
The polesitter and driver of the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet led twice for 11 laps but was never on par with race winner Newgarden, who had the measure of the field in a crushingly dominant performance.
But all things considered, the fact Pagenaud can look at second and fourth as short oval results this year at Phoenix and Iowa and feel disappointed is a net positive.
Pagenaud hailed Chevrolet’s aero kit, in particular, for the upgrade and good feeling.
“I can’t thank Chevy enough. They’ve done a tremendous job with aero kits,” Pagenaud said post-race. “It’s the most comfortable I’ve ever been on a short oval with the aero behavior. They’re pushing the limits, and that’s the sport.”
Pagenaud only lost points to three drivers with the result. With 34 points scored – two additional bonus points (one for pole, one for leading a lap) – he lost only two points to Scott Dixon, who entered 90 back, and only six to Will Power, who started the day 81 back.
Race winner Newgarden has leapt up to second in points but faces the minimum points result at Texas, where he won’t be able to restart after his accident on June 12.
“We’d have a bunch of bad luck lately, so getting back on the horse is a really strong performance,” Pagenaud said. “Second and fourth, we can be proud of that. Now to run top four at every short oval, feels good.”
Here were other quick quotes from the three championship protagonists, who like Pagenaud finished in the top four spots.
Dixon and Power addressed points in response to a question in the press conference:
“I think Josef made a pretty good chunk up on that today. We always kind of see this, whether it’s going to play true to what we see every year, where it starts to flip here pretty quickly, make a real championship of it,” Dixon said.
“Don’t want to wish somebody bad luck, but he’s probably going to have to have some. He’s doing a great job. On days when they’re not at their best, they’re still getting good points. Huge achievement for their team. They’re going to have to work for it. That’s what it comes down to.
“A lot of championships, I find that towards the end it becomes a real race for the points.”
Power added, “Yeah, I agree. It’s funny, I don’t know why, if you get a big points lead in the middle of the year, somehow you know you aren’t going to have that coming down toward the end. Scott is right. You’re bound to have a bad day, you’re going to. It’s just what the other guys do on that day when you do have a bad day.
“Hopefully it’s a day we’re winning when he’s having a bad day, you knock off a lot of points. 70 points, the last race can swing 70 points. He has a bad race, a DNF, an engine problem or something. Got to keep chipping away, keep chipping away each week.”
And Newgarden: “I was curious how far we’d move up. If we want to challenge him, we have to continue to march forward. 72 points is a huge deficit. He has a very big lead over everybody.
“You can’t just finish well. I think for us we’ve been finishing well, we’ve been in the hunt. You want to beat him, actually have to beat him in the races I think. He’s going to be strong everywhere we go. He’ll show that.
“We’ll go to Toronto, try to do the same thing, try to have a good weekend, not have any crashes. We know Texas is coming. That’s going to push us down. That’s going to be tough to swallow when we get there. I think if we make enough hay, we’ll still have a shot at winning the thing when we go to Sonoma.”
Points are linked below: