Team Penske was the big winner in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway.
Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) drove away with the race victory – his second in as many NTT IndyCar Series races — while teammate Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet) extended his lead in the championship standings heading to the season finale Sunday, Sept. 22 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.
Newgarden could be on a Scott Dixon-like path to the title. Last year, Dixon avoided major contact in a first-corner incident here to finish fifth. Sunday, Newgarden did virtually the same thing, braking to avoid two cars tangling in front of him in an opening-lap melee before going on to finish fifth.
“Maybe we’ve got Scott’s mojo,” Newgarden said.
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Dixon’s current mojo isn’t good. A week after having his car’s radiator punctured in the race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Honda suffered a battery failure while leading this race on Lap 52. He had a three-second lead at the time; the pit stop dropped him three laps behind. He finished 16th.
“I just hate giving away an easy win like that,” Dixon said.
Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) and Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Chevrolet) finished third and seventh, respectively, and were unable to help their title chances much. Newgarden, the 2017 champion, holds a 41-point lead on Rossi, a 42-point lead on Pagenaud and pushed Dixon (minus-85) closer to championship elimination heading into the season-ending, double points race.
Newgarden can secure the Astor Cup and the $1 million bonus by finishing fourth or better in the Monterey, Calif., race.
“It would be nice if (the finale) wasn’t double points, but it is and we knew that from the start of the season,” he said. “We will have to make the most of it. I don’t think it will be easy.”
Newgarden and Pagenaud started deep in the 23-car field after qualifying 13th and 18th, respectively, which put them in peril if a first-turn accident occurred. And it did happen when Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal (No. 15 One Cure Honda) bounced into the side of Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda). Newgarden braked hard and kept his car unscathed, but a trailing Pagenaud spun from a hit from Carlin’s Max Chilton (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet). Fortunately for Pagenaud, his car sustained no significant damage and he was able to continue.
Power’s first victory at this 12-turn, 1.964-mile track was sweet for several reasons. In addition to being the 37th of his Indy car career – he tied Sebastien Bourdais for sixth place in the sport’s history – it was the first win at the track where he made his Indy car testing debut in 2005.
“I remember thinking I wish I could get paid to do this,” Power said.
Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda) matched his season best with a second-place finish. Rossi finished third with NTT P1 Award winner Colton Herta (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda), a series rookie driving for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, finishing fourth.
INDYCAR concludes its 17-race season with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday, Sept. 22. Television coverage will begin on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. PT local) with the green flag scheduled for 3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m. local). Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 205, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).