Using strategy, Simon Pagenaud ended a year-long drought Friday night at Iowa Speedway to earn his first-ever track win at Iowa Speedway.
“Wow, this place is tough!,” Pagenaud said after coming from 23rd to first. “What a night! What a day for us. First of all, it was an amazing group effort from the whole Team Penske to recover from Road America. I made a mistake. We unloaded really well. This morning was a lot of fun. Qualifying was disheartening, but these guys never give up and that’s what this team is all about. It’s amazing to get the Menards car to be shining here in Iowa is awesome. So, I’m really proud for John and everybody at Menards and Chevy. Obviously, we had the horsepower and the fuel conception, but most importantly, I can’t believe it. I have to re-watch the race. How did I get there? I don’t know. The last 50 laps were certainly a lot of tension, a lot of tension. When (Scott) Dixon is chasing you, you’d better hit your marks.”
The Frenchman started dead last in 23rd position, as Pagenaud was unable to post a qualifying lap earlier Friday afternoon due to not getting the car off the pit lane, as the team reported it was a fuel pressure issue.
When the green flag flew, Conor Daly led the first 14 laps of the event from the pole, but Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden took the lead and checked out by four seconds over Daly. Green flag pit stops were already underway at Lap 45 when Takuma Sato and Zach Veach became the first drivers on pit road.
About 10 laps later, Newgarden remained the leader, but Pagenaud ended up on pit road on Lap 58 for four tires and fuel. Meanwhile, Newgarden stretched his strategy and didn’t pit until Lap 70. With pit stops cycling out, Sato grabbed the lead at Lap 77. When green flag pit stops were complete, Sato had the lead over Will Power by two seconds.
After being out front for several laps, Sato had to give up the lead on Lap 127 for a pit stop, which allowed Newgarden to get the lead and his teammate, Pagenaud, followed in second, 1.7 seconds back. Though Newgarden pitted again a few moments later and Pagenaud saw his first lead of the night on Lap 140.
However, the first caution of the night flew when Power had a scary moment on the frontstretch as he slightly brushed the wall but his left front tire was not safely secured and fell off the car. Unfortunately, the incident would end Power’s night early and he would be credited with a 21st place finish.
During the caution, race leaders made their pit stops, which included eventual race winner, Simon Pagenaud.
Another wild moment came prior to the restart with 94 to go. IndyCar officials waved off the restart, which did cause some confusion. Two drivers, Colton Herta and rookie Rinus VeeKay had a major accident on the frontstretch again. Herta was unaware of the restart being waved off and went right over the top of VeeKay’s car, crashing into the SAFER barrier. Thankfully, both drivers would end up being okay.
After a couple of yellows, rookie Pato O’ Ward held the lead over Pagenaud. Pagenaud was a man on a mission. Eventually, the Team Penske driver made his move with 72 to go to take the top spot.
The rest of the Iowa 250 would go caution-free, but as the case was throughout the first half of the race, pit strategy would play a factor in determining the victor. As many others made their final stop of the night, Pagenaud tried to stretch his lead and save gas at the same time. With laps winding down, Pagenaud had to fend off an already three-time IndyCar winner this year, Scott Dixon.
Dixon looked on the inside of Pagenaud’s No. 22 Menards Chevrolet with around 18 to go. He got side-by-side with him, but could never make the pass and slid up the track. By making the move a little too early, this ultimately hurt Dixon’s chances as he fell back and had to regroup again. Pagenaud did end up running into lap traffic, which allowed Dixon to close in. However, it was too little, too late for the New Zealander as Pagenaud scored his first victory of the 2020 IndyCar season and his first at Iowa Speedway.
When asked if he could have a repeat performance on Saturday night, Pagenaud says he thinks there’s a chance.
“I do, I do. I never give up,” the Team Penske driver said. “If I’ve got to do it again, I’ll do it again. This was certainly a pretty cool win on an oval. Indy will always be the top, but this one was pretty cool, too.”
In addition to Pagenaud’s victory, he became the seventh driver to accomplish the feat after starting 23rd or worse. The last to do so was Helio Castroneves in 2008 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Friday night’s victory was Pagenaud’s 15th of his NTT IndyCar Series career.
With the victory, Pagenaud moves into second in the championship points standings, 50 points behind leader Scott Dixon.
There were seven cautions for 26 laps and six leaders among eight lead changes.
Two penalties were seen. One was for the No. 15 of Graham Rahal, who received a pit safety infraction, and the other was for Conor Daly who also received a pit safety infraction. The consequence of those will be a post-race fine.
Official Results following the IndyCar Iowa 250 at Iowa Speedway
- Simon Pagenaud, led 83 laps
- Scott Dixon
- Oliver Askew
- Pato O’ Ward, led 30 laps
- Josef Newagarden, led 68 laps
- Alexander Rossi
- Jack Harvey
- Conor Daly, led 13 laps
- Marcus Ericsson
- Takuma Sato, led 49 laps, 1 lap down
- Alex Palou, 1 lap down
- Graham Rahal, 2 laps down
- Santino Ferrucci, 3 laps down
- Felix Rosenqvist, led seven laps, 3 laps down
- Ed Carpenter, 3 laps down
- Ryan Hunter-Reay, 3 laps down
- Charlie Kimball, 5 laps down
- Tony Kanaan, OUT, In Pits
- Colton Herta, OUT, Contact
- Rinus VeeKay, OUT, Contact
- Will Power, OUT, Contact
- Marco Andretti, OUT, Mechanical
- Zach Veach, OUT, Mechanical
Up Next: The NTT IndyCar Series will remain at Iowa Speedway for race No. 2 Saturday night July 18 live on NBCSN. Telecast begins at 8:30 p.m./ET.