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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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James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.