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Josef Newgarden concedes victory to Simon Pagenaud in ‘autograph battle’

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Simon Pagenaud may have won the battle but Josef Newgarden would rather win another kind of war in Sunday’s Indy 500, of which both drivers are going for their first win in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

The two Team Penske teammates have ended their two-month “autograph battle,” where each tried to out-do the other when it came to putting their John Hancock essentially in the other guy’s face or on his property – and live to brag about it.

Newgarden surrendered this week after Pagenaud pulled off one of the most classic stunts ever seen in IndyCar annals and had been a big hit on social media.

Late last week, Pagenaud gave Newgarden the ultimate example of his penmanship.

This was no quick hit autograph from Pagenaud. Ohhhhh, no. Pagenaud had spent a considerable time in setting things up with the cooperation of the Speedway (Indiana) Police Department.

“I’ve got contacts,” Pagenaud quipped.

Newgarden made an illegal U-turn leaving Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and before he knew it, he was being “pulled over” by the po-po.

While the police officer let Newgarden slide on the U-turn violation, he still issued the defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion “a citation” for a supposed expired registration on his rental car.

But it wasn’t just any citation: it was signed, or shall we say “autographed,” by Pagenaud, prompting a dumbfounded Newgarden (check the video below to see his facial reaction) to reply, “That was impressive. That’s super impressive.”

During a lunch earlier this week, Newgarden admitted he has conceded the battle.

“Honestly, I don’t know how you top what he did,” Newgarden said of Pagenaud. “Simon has put in effort like nobody’s business.

“He recruited people and talent and teams. I don’t have the time or the energy to top what he’s done. There’s no way it’s getting done. We’ve reached the end.”

That’s okay with the victorious Pagenaud, who is keeping at least one “souvenir” from their battle: he still has Newgarden’s autograph on what had been his freshly painted house in late March.

“It’s going to rise in value, especially if he wins Indy,” Pagenaud said.

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Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

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One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

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