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Pagenaud leads Power by 43 points headed to Sonoma

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – The stage is set for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ championship finale in two weeks at Sonoma Raceway, and it will be a battle between Team Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud and Will Power in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

In Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi, Pagenaud finished seventh, while Power crashed out. It means Pagenaud’s lead grew from 28 to 43 points in one race.

All others will be mathematically eliminated once the green flag flies at Sonoma on Sept. 18, and either Pagenaud will win his first series title or Power will win his second.

The last four races have provided four key plot twists as it’s shaped up as a two-way title fight. Here’s the quick synopsis:

  • Pagenaud beat Power to the win at Mid-Ohio with a dynamic pass. That move was a 20-point swing, and extended his title lead from a potential of 38 points to 58 leaving.
  • At Pocono, Power won his fourth race of the season – matching Pagenaud’s total – while Pagenaud made his only major mistake of the year with a crash. That knocked the lead down to 20.
  • In Texas, Pagenaud was in the midst of a four-wide battle but smartly backed out, and ended four spots clear of Power. Pagenaud was fourth, Power eighth, and the lead went to 28.

And then there was today. Pagenaud started and finished seventh, but in-between shot up to third on the first corner of the first lap. He then got caught out on a yellow, losing spots, but recovered as the race went on.

Power, by contrast, saw his title hopes take a hit when Charlie Kimball got a run on him coming up the Esses. Contact between the two – it did not appear as though Power saw him coming – occurred when Power clipped Kimball’s right front wing and then shot across into the outside retaining wall.

Power was checked and released from the infield care center, but per INDYCAR, has not been cleared to drive owing to concussion-like symptoms.

For Pagenaud, he acknowledged he had nothing for Scott Dixon, who dominated the weekend from start to finish.

“I had nothing for Scott this weekend,” he said post-race. “In my opinion, we were fighting for podium results. We ended up where we ended up. It was more strategy than skills.”

But Pagenaud also reflected on how he drove from a championship perspective, thinking bigger picture perhaps more than the outright huge result at play.

There will undoubtedly be more to follow from him, but he was in a good state of mind leaving the Glen.

Here’s the points following Watkins Glen.

WGIpoints

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”