Pagenaud goes from last to first in Iowa game opener

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Simon Pagenaud hadn’t led a lap all season, hadn’t won a race since last July in Toronto and was scheduled to start Friday night in the opener in doubles at Iowa Speedway. But the 2019 Indianapolis 500 champion made up for all those negative stats with one of the best records of his career.The 36-year-old Frenchman showed good pace, great fuel economy and a timely warning to mark the most improbable triumph of his 15 victory-streak journeys by pushing back Scott Dixon.

Pagenaud, who joined Mike Mosley, Tom Sneva, Sébastien Bourdais and Dixon to move from last to first, completed the final 103 laps with a tank of fuel in his Penske Chevrolet and broke Chip Ganassi’s unbeaten streak in 2020. He took the lead with 72 laps to go.

“I can not believe; how did i do it? Pagenaud then told NBCSN. “I mean, I have a great team and I never give up, but this place is tough and I had my hands full at the end.

“There’s a lot of tension in those last 50 laps with Dixon running, and you better hit your marks. It’s not Indy, but it’s a pretty cool win over this oval.

Second in score (51 behind Dixon) after five races, Pagenaud had to start 23rd because he had a fuel problem and could not qualify. Due to the new IndyCar rule for this weekend where each of the two qualifying rounds established starting grids for the respective races, the 2016 IndyCar King will have to line up 23rd again on Saturday night.

“If I have to start over, I will,” he said with a smile.

Pagenaud’s charge was not the only one in the 250-lap race, as Dixon had to come from 17th place in his Chip Ganassi Tacing Honda.

“The fuel consumption was excellent and the caution helped because this car was terrible in qualifying and it took a while to get it started,” said the championship leader, who had completed a lap on lap 66. this team. ”

Rookie Oliver Askew secured his first podium for Arrow McLaren SP and teammate Pato O’Ward finished fourth in a tame race early and wild late. Josef Newgarden passed polesitter Conor Daly on lap 14 and led comfortably for most of the first stint before scoring on lap 70. Takuma Sato took the point of laps 78-126 using a different strategy and then things changed dramatically.

Power was third when his left front tire came loose and sent him into the wall of the fourth turn on lap 144, which gave Pagenaud a very useful yellow flag stop that set the stage for his victory. And that was dramatically improved when Colton Herta crushed Rinus Veekay on the 157th lap restart.
Herta sailed through the air, bouncing both on the SAFER barrier and on the Veekay cockpit, before retreating to the runway, right side up. Both pilots were OK, but it was great publicity for the aeroscreen as it most likely saved the recruit from injury.

By the time all the debris had been cleared, there had been 26 laps of caution, and that turned out to be exactly what Pagenaud and Dixon needed to get fuel all the way through. Newgarden had been caught by this first yellow because he had just gone under the green, so he lost a lap and reloaded to fifth place with the checkered flag.

After scoring the first pole of his IndyCar career, Daly came home in eighth place for Carlin Racing.

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