Simon Pagenaud wins wild IndyCar Grand Prix at IMS

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Simon Pagenaud won Saturday’s running of the IndyCar Grand Prix after a wet and wild afternoon that saw top championship contenders Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi experience misfortune.

The Team Penske driver collected his first series win since Sonoma in 2017, passing race leader Scott Dixon with two laps to go. Pagenaud’s victory was his third on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, having previously won the inaugural event in 2014 for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, as well as the 2016 running for Penske.

Penske has now won five consecutive races on the 2.439-mile road course; with Pagenaud’s teammate Will Power winning in 2015, ’17 and ’18.

“It was amazing, the whole race,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports following his 12th career IndyCar victory. “Third time, so I’m equal with Will. That’s awesome! We kept it in the Penske family. I can’t believe it. It’s awesome. What a race.”

With his winless streak finally over at 21 races, Pagenaud has proven that he still has what it takes to win in the NTT IndyCar Series – something that some fans may have doubted, but Pagenaud himself never did.

“I know what I’m worth,” Pagenaud said. “I have to get everything right, and we did that this weekend. Slowly and surely, we got there. The stars just didn’t align before, but the performance has always been there this year. The team has been fantastic at giving me what I need, so here we are.”

Dixon held on to finish second for the third time this year, and for the third year in a row at the IndyCar GP. Despite another runner-up, the defending series champion tried to focus on the positives following the race.

“All in all, [it was] a solid effort,” Dixon said. “It sucks to obviously lead that many laps and then come up short but again, congrats to Simon. He drove a hell of a race, and it’s nice to see him back in Victory Lane.”

Jack Harvey, who qualified third and ran up front all day, finished where he started for his first career podium.

“I believed in this team since the Indy 500 in 2017, and I knew this weekend could happen eventually and everyone at Meyer Shank Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports just worked so hard to give us that,” Harvey said.

“It wasn’t an easy race being half dry, half wet, but we put on a great show for everybody. You can see how happy these guys were just getting a podium. Can you imagine how happy we’re going to be when we finally get a win?”

Both series points leader Josef Newgarden, who started 13th, and second-ranked Alexander Rossi, who started 17th, needed some good luck to get through the 85-lap event.

Neither driver’s wishes would be granted. Newgarden finished a disappointing 15th, and Rossi fared even worse, finishing four laps down in 22nd.

Rossi’s race effectively ended as soon as it began, when Patricio O’Ward ran into the back of Rossi’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda at the start of the race. Rossi then clipped the inside wall on the frontstretch, and was forced to pit before completing his first full lap.

O’Ward earned a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact, but Rossi had to soldier on well out of contention for the victory.

Newgarden, whose race looked promising after leading 20 laps via pit strategy, saw all of his luck quickly evaporate when a tire from his pit box rolled onto pit road during a disastrous stop under caution on Lap 60.

Race control assessed a penalty to Newgarden, and he had to restart the race from the tail end of the field.

Rossi and Newgarden weren’t the only drivers to experience misfortune during Saturday’s race. The wet conditions saw several drivers go off track, including veterans Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves, the latter bringing out the aforementioned caution for spinning in turn 1 after exiting the pits.

The first yellow flew on Lap 11 when Marcus Ericsson spun in Turn 14. Ericsson’s No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Honda slid across the grass separating the interior road course from the oval before making contact with the SAFER barrier. Ericsson walked away from the incident unscathed but out of the race.

Once the green flag came back out on Lap 16, Scott Dixon made a phenomenal move, passing Jack Harvey and Rosenqvist to take the lead in Turn 1 after Rosenqvist locked up entering the corner.

Moments later, the yellow flag came out again, as Harvey made contact with Colton Herta, causing the Harding Steinbrenner Racing driver to spin.

James Hinchcliffe then made contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay, who spun and hit Herta’s car as well.

Hinchcliffe was assessed a drive-through penalty, and Herta logged another disappointing DNF – continuing his streak of misfortune since winning the inaugural IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas earlier this season.

Josef Newgarden left the race still atop the series standings with 182 points. Scott Dixon moved up to second in the standings (-6) with his podium finish, pushing Alexander Rossi down to third (-36).

The NTT IndyCar Series now gears up for the biggest race of the year, the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500, which will air live on NBC, Sunday, May 26.

Click here for full race results

Click here for the points standings.

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Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”