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Pagenaud happy to finish P2, but Penske team struggles in Texas

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As hard as it is to believe, Simon Pagenaud entered Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 without a podium finish to his name in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

The year has actually been very problematic for Pagenaud, with three finishes of 13th or worse – the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was the low-point of the year, as he finished 24th following a Lap 1 crash after contact with Graham Rahal.

Yet, finishes of ninth (the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama), eighth (the INDYCAR Grand Prix), and sixth (the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500), along with a 10th in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit gave Pagenaud a little bit of momentum entering Texas on Saturday night, and he leaves Texas with a lot more momentum on his side.

Pagenaud managed to outduel the hard-charging Alexander Rossi in the final laps to finish second, his best result of 2018.

FORT WORTH, TX – JUNE 09: Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, and Alexander Rossi, driver of the #27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda, race during the Verizon IndyCar Series DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

For Pagenaud, the result is a much-needed shot in the arm as he hopes to jumpstart his 2018 season.

“Just to get a good result like this for us, I think the 22 team needed a break. I think we got one tonight. For DXC, it’s pretty awesome. We had about three thousand employees from DXC tonight, so it was good to have a good showing.”

Pagenaud added, “This year’s been a tough start. There were a lot of unknowns. Got taken out a few times, which hasn’t happened in the past. It’s not all unknown, not easy to understand. From then on, luck always turns around. It goes by cycle. Now it’s about executing. Myself, everybody on the team, really executed well today. It’s a good example of what we need to do every weekend.”

Pagenaud’s result serves as the highlight of an otherwise tough night for Team Penske. All three drivers battled tire blistering, with pole sitter Josef Newgarden making an unscheduled pit stop on lap 97, which dropped him from contention – he eventually finished 13th after getting a penalty for jumping a restart with 34 laps to go.

FORT WORTH, TX – JUNE 09: Josef Newgarden, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, pits during the Verizon IndyCar Series DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“You know, pretty much anything bad that could have happen happened tonight for the No. 1 Verizon team,” Newgarden lamented. “Everyone worked real hard and the guys gave me a great car. Everyone did everything they could tonight. It was a great effort from my team. Pretty much, anything that could have went wrong went wrong tonight. That is all there is to it. We will move on to Road America.”

Teammate Will Power suffered even more misfortune, crashing out on Lap 205 with Dale Coyne Racing’s Zachary Claman De Melo – Claman De Melo had a run on the outside of Power exiting Turn 4, but he washed up into the rookie driver, causing both to hit the wall.

Blame was ultimately assigned to Power, who will be assessed a post-race penalty for avoidable contact.

“The guys in front of me were saving a lot of fuel and completely lifting to try and make it and (Claman De Melo) went around on the outside. Unfortunately, the timing stand was talking to me at that exact moment and I couldn’t hear my spotter call, “Outside,” and there was someone outside at that point. It’s just a bad situation, but something that happens at a track like this. It was not (Claman De Melo’s) fault,” Power said of the incident.

Power’s crash dropped him to third in the championship, 36 points behind new points leader Scott Dixon, while Newgarden remains in fifth, 68 points out of the lead. Pagenaud, meanwhile, moved up to eighth, and is 60 points behind Newgarden for fifth in the standings.

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Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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