Pagenaud livid after Newgarden’s pass for Gateway win (VIDEO)

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MADISON, Ill. – It takes a lot to make the usually congenial Simon Pagenaud definitively angry, but the driver of the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet was that after losing out on the win in Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline.

The defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion lost not just the win but a great chance to defend his title after teammate Josef Newgarden’s ambitious, but determined pass for the lead on Lap 218 of the 248-lap race in his No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet.

Pagenaud had moved into the lead following a pit stop sequence, where his crew got his No. 1 car ahead of Newgarden’s No. 2 car.

Alas, Pagenaud left a lane open to the inside, which was tempting enough for Newgarden to see the gap and go for it. The two made slight contact and Newgarden made it past into Turn 1, and as Pagenaud slid up the road, he lost enough momentum to where Scott Dixon came through for second place.

Provided the order would have stayed Pagenaud first and Newgarden second, Newgarden’s lead over Pagenaud would have been 18 points – 537 to 519 – if Pagenaud had held onto his would-have-been second win of the year.

Instead, the pass for the lead and Dixon’s pass for second swung Newgarden’s total to 547 and dropped Pagenaud to 504. Newgarden had 26 points advantage on Pagenaud coming into this race and coming out of it, he has 43 with just two races to go.

Pagenaud expanded on his TV comments to NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis – “I don’t have anything nice to say, so I’m not going to say it” – in the post-race press conference.

“I think if it wasn’t me, he would be in the fence with somebody else. That’s what I’ve got to say,” Pagenaud said.

Pagenaud said he lost respect and trust for Newgarden in the aftermath of the pass.

“Absolutely. And respect, too. He doesn’t have respect for me,” Pagenaud said. “I’ve never seen Scott do that to his teammates in his career, whole career. I respect the hell out of this guy here.”

He did say he wasn’t surprised the move wasn’t reviewed by INDYCAR Race Control because it wasn’t an outright incident, although there was minor contact.

“No, because there’s no crash. It’s more, how do you call it, a driver rule. It’s how much you respect each other,” he explained.

“When you think the gap is open enough to risk it on an oval. I’m not talking road course. I think on a road course, that was a beautiful pass. But we’re not on a road course. There we are going 40, 50 miles an hour. Here we’re doing 190 there. It’s completely different story.”

Newgarden, who’s now delivered two statement passes of his teammates for the lead in his last two wins at Mid-Ohio (Will Power) and Gateway (Pagenaud), seemed if not oblivious to the controversy, content in that it was the natural racing move to go for a gap – even if force down the inside was required.

“I mean, Simon gave me a lane to work with,” Newgarden said. “I had a good tow on him, put my car inside in the opening, got about halfway alongside of him. One thing I didn’t want to do was touch him too hard. I think if I would have stayed too far left, I would have jumped the curb and that would have taken both of us out.

“I tried to get Simon to move over a little when we were coming to the opening of the corner. We both had to slow up. Fortunately worked out well for us on the 2 car side. Pagenaud, didn’t get up into the wall or anything like that, so I would say it worked out okay for him, too.”

Asked if the respect for Pagenaud was there, Newgarden said it was in spades, and that he is thankful to his new boss Roger Penske for letting them race as fiercely as they have.

“I’ll approach him the same. He knows we’re racing. He knows we’re going to race in the future,” he said. “We’re going to race for many years. This isn’t the first time we’ll battle, I’m sure. Hopefully he knows next time it’s getting a little tight in the corner, give me a little more room.

“But I think he’s one of the world class drivers that you race against. That’s what made that work. I can trust him to not lose the racecar and hold his own into the corner. That’s really what made the move work. Any other guy, he might not have had the ability to make it work. Simon has that and even more. So he’s one of the best drivers in the world to go head-to-head with.”

And Newgarden also said the way Pagenaud drove into Turn 1 indicated he thought he knew he was there.

“If anything, I was surprised he left me a lane. If you leave me a lane, I’m going to take it,” Newgarden said.

“Especially in the situation where we were leading most of the laps, we were in position to win the race, we lose out on a pit stop exchange. He’s got to know I’m going to try to get back by him. That’s not the way we want to lose the race.

“Yes, for sure. I’m sure he knew I was coming.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”