Team Penske scored its 500th win as an organization.
They placed five of six IndyCar and Cup drivers in inside the top five – with one other narrowly missing in eighth.
Penske finished the IndyCar season with three drivers in the top six in points. In the Cup series, Brad Keselowski became the first driver to lock into Round 2 of the playoffs.
Yeah, “the Captain” had a command performance.
A little after the start of the Grand Prix of Sonoma, Keselowski won the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to give Penske his 500th organizational win – one week after he won the first ever Brickyard 400 for Penske.
Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney finished fourth and fifth at Las Vegas respectively.
One state over in California, Will Power led the IndyCar contingent by finishing third in the Grand Prix of Sonoma.
“I think if we would have started farther up front, we would have had a chance to win,” Power said after the race. “It was a good year though. Roger got his 500th win today. We won the Indy 500. We won the 200th IndyCar race for Team Penske. We won the Brickyard 400. Just couldn’t get the championship here. But overall, it was a good year for Team Penske.”
Winning the 500 is not only enough to make a season successful, it can make a career for both drivers and owners. Power’s 2018 victory marked the 17th time that Penske won that race.
It didn’t end there, however. Power’s Indy 500 win was part of a sweep Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. He also won the Grand Prix of Indianapolis two weeks early. Power added a third win for Penske in 2018 at Gateway.
Power entered Sonoma with a mathematical opportunity to win the championship, but that faded midway through the race and he finished third in the points behind Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.
Right behind Power, Simon Pagenaud finished fourth in the race and sixth in the standings.
“It was a good day: definitely competitive, we definitely unlocked a lot of secrets,” Pagenaud said. “I think we cracked the code this weekend on the car and what I needed so we were much more competitive that we’ve been on the road course and it felt good. It felt fun.”
And while Pagenaud did not add to Penske’s win total in 2018, he came close with runner-up finishes on the oval of Texas in June and the street course in Toronto in July.
“I found my smile back, so that is a good thing,” Pagenaud told NBCSN after the race. “I’m really excited for next year; I’m already thinking for next year. … I think it’s in these kind of situations you learn the most and you come back stronger.”
Josef Newgarden was the only Penske driver who failed to finish in the top five Sunday. He crossed under the checkers eighth and finished fifth in the standings.
If not for one bobble in the pits, Newgarden might have given Penske a perfect sweep of the top five.
“It really all started with the first pit stop,” Newgarden said. “We just had a mistake in trying to get out and I stalled it. It kind of ruined the whole day from that point there on. It was tough to recover after that. I think we had a lot of potential today and we could have contended for the win, but it was too hard to come back.
“It was a great season and a lot of great moments for the whole team and myself.”
In his quest for 500 wins this year, Newgarden gave Penske three. These came at Phoenix and Barber Motorsports Park early in the season and at Elkhart Lake just past the midpoint.
“We’ll double down for next year,” the 2017 champion Newgarden said after the race. “We’ll try to take that number one plate back.”
After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.
Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.
Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.
Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.
Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.
After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.
The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.
Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.
It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.
Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.
Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.
Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.
Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.
Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
Max Anstie – E
Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
Haiden Deegan – E
Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
Mitchell Oldenburg – W
Michael Mosiman – E
Jeremy Martin – E
Tom Vialle – E
Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
Chance Hymas – E
Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
Max Vohland – W
Cullin Park – E
Chris Blose – E
Derek Kelley – W
Enzo Lopes – W
Pierce Brown – W
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.