Pagenaud leads Power by 43 points headed to Sonoma

Photo: IndyCar
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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

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)