IndyCar: Penske sees title hopes dwindle for Power, Newgarden

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Now tied for third at 87 points back of championship leader Scott Dixon, Team Penske’s Will Power and Josef Newgarden are still mathematically alive in the championship fight.

However, their realistic chances are now somewhere between slim and none after both endured troublesome days during the Portland Grand Prix.

The day started with lots of promise for them. They locked out the front row – Power was on the pole, with Newgarden right alongside – with Dixon starting 11th.

Things appeared to take another favorable turn for them when Dixon was collected in a Lap 1 crash involving Zach Veach, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais, and Ed Jones. Though Dixon continued on without damage, he was relegated to 20th in the running order at the time.

However, everything started falling apart immediately afterward. Power began suffering from a gearbox problem after a Lap 7 restart. He lost the lead to Alexander Rossi and plummeted to outside the top 10.

He briefly appeared to recover and regain pace, but his day essentially came to an end on Lap 43, when he nosed into the Turn 12 tire barrier and suffered a more serious gearbox issue that forced him into the pits for repairs.

He later rejoined the race, but several laps off the lead and languished in 21st at the checkered flag, seven laps down to race winner Takuma Sato.

Power explained afterward that he felt the gearbox act up on the warm-up laps, and knew it might not make it the whole way.

“I think on the warm-up lap before the green, something happened to the gearbox. It jumped to neutral, I went into emergency mode and made it go into gear and thought, ‘OK, that’s all right,'” Power detailed.

“Then, coming out of the hairpin on the first restart, it popped into neutral again and everyone behind me went past. Then, I realized I couldn’t use first gear. We were on a reasonable strategy and I made a mistake trying to keep (Matheus) Leist behind me. Then, the gearbox completely went. I’m not sure the gearbox would have made it the whole race, anyway. But man, it’s a tough sport.”

Newgarden, meanwhile, looked poised to battle for the win, and possibly give himself a chance at the championship in Sonoma.

Newgarden ran in the Top 3 in the first half of the race, and used an aggressive inside move on Alexander Rossi to take the lead on Lap 49. Given the aforementioned problems for Dixon, the door was open for Newgarden to put himself back in the title picture.

However, his day came unraveled when Zach Veach spun off in Turns 10 and 11 on Lap 56. Veach’s spin forced a full-course caution, which destroyed the strategy for Newgarden, and Rossi – they both were on similar strategies and forced to pit under yellow.

Newgarden dropped to 16th on the Lap 61 restart, and could only work his way back to 10th at the checkered flag.

Ultimately, what started out as a strong outing for last year’s Verizon IndyCar Series champion ended in frustration.

“It was a tough day. I don’t know what else to say,” Newgarden lamented.

“We led some laps and I think we had a Verizon Chevrolet that was good enough to win it. It just didn’t fall our way. You can’t predict these INDYCAR races. I wish we could get Lady Luck on our side one of these days. It just seems to walk away from us as of late.”

Depending on the number of entries at Sonoma, the maximum points swing could be above 90 points.

Therefore, theoretically, Power and Newgarden are still mathematically alive. However, for either to win the championship, Dixon would likely need a DNF, and probably fall out early on, while Rossi would need to finish ninth or worse. Meanwhile, Power and Newgarden would need race wins, along with the bonus points for pole and leading the most laps.

If any part of the above scenario does not come to fruition, then Team Penske is likely to miss out on the IndyCar championship.

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Dakar Stage 8 Highlights: Ricky Brabec blows engine, retires

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The motorcycle class of the Dakar Rally has been a seesaw affair through seven stages, but Ricky Brabec seemed poised to win the class for the USA. Until he blew an engine in Stage 8 that is – and gave up a more-than seven second lead. He was the second rider to retire after starting the stage as the leader. Joan Barreda retired in Stage 3.

Brabec was looking to become the first American rider to win in 27 years, but his fate was eerily similar to last year. Three days from the end of the stage, he retired about 50 kilometers into the stage, which is precisely when and where he retired in 2018.

With Brabec’s trouble, Toby Price leapfrogged from third to second in class despite riding with a metal pin in his wrist. In the world’s most grueling endurance event, it has never been more obvious that it isn’t over till it’s over.

Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to run a consistent rally. With a 46 minute advantage over Nani Roma and Sebastien Loeb, all he needs to do is stay error free for the final two stages to win his third Dakar.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb scored his fifth stage win of the Rally by seven minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah, but problems in Stage 3 have kept him from being competitive for the overall lead. … Jakub Przygonski earned his third podium of the Rally. All of these have been third-place finishes.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 46:29 over Roma and 46:45 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Ricky Brabec’s blown engine opened up the class once more. … Matthias Walkner narrowly edged Pablo Quintanilla by 45 seconds. … But it was Toby Price’s third-place finish that helped elevate him to the class lead. … Sam Sunderland was supposed to blaze the path for the riders, but a malfunctioning navigation system kept him from rolling off first. Blazing the trail is a disadvantage and officials adjudged him to have tampered with his system to avoid that fate. Sunderland was penalized an hour to finish 35th on the stage. He dropped to ninth in class.

Class Leaders: Price inherited the lead over Quintanilla by 1:03 and 6:35 over Walkner

In side by sides, Francisco Lopez Contardo scored the victory over Cristian Baumgart by 4:47. … Gerard Farres Guell rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Contardo holds an advantage 0f 54:10 over Rodrigo Piazolli and one hour, 08:09 over Guell

In quads, there was no surprise in Nicolas Cavigliasso winning his seventh stage of the season. … He padded his overall advantage over Gustavo Gallego by more than nine minutes. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli finished third.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 24:52 over Ferioli and one hour, 44:04 over Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov won the stage to take over the class lead. He beat Ton Van Genugten by 22:01. … Siarhei Viazovich rounded out the top three. … Eduard Nikolaev lost the class lead by finishing eighth – nearly one hour behind Sotnikov.

Class Leaders: Sotnikov holds an advantage of 26:49 over and one hour, 7:43 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [7] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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