Team Penske NTT INDYCAR SERIES Race Report
Track: Streets of St. Petersburg
Race: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete
Date: October 25, 2020
No. 1 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet – Josef Newgarden
Finish: 1st (18th-career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory)
Laps Completed: 100/100
Laps Led: 21
Final Points Position: 2nd (-16 pts)
- It was a bittersweet Sunday for Josef Newgarden and the No. 1 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet team as they won the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season finale at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg but fell short of winning their third championship as they finished second in the series point standings, 16 points behind series champ Scott Dixon.
- Starting the 100-lap event in the eighth position, the team knew it would be a battle to get to the front of the field, knowing it would take a win and championship rival Scott Dixon finishing 11th or worse for a chance to win their third series title.
- Newgarden visited pit lane for the first time on lap 29, as he traded his Firestone primary compound tires for alternate compound tires, fuel and a front wing adjustment while running in seventh place.
- After teammate Scott McLaughlin was involved in an on-track incident with Rinus Veekay to bring out the caution flag, Newgarden restarted in the fourth position on lap 54. After a series of caution flags for consecutive on-track incidents, Newgarden took the green flag race restart in the third position on lap 78 and seized the race lead with a nice outside move around the two cars ahead of him.
- Newgarden led the field at the final restart of the race with just 16 laps remaining in the Firestone Grand Prix. Pato O’Ward battled closely with Newgarden over the closing stage of the race as Dixon maintained the lead in the series championship standings by running third while the final laps of the season wound down.
- The native of Nashville, Tennessee scored his fourth win for the 2020 INDYCAR season and his 18th career victory as he held off O’Ward at the finish line. With the win, Newgarden also became the third consecutive repeat winner at St. Petersburg. This victory marked the 219th Indy car win for Team Penske.
Quote: “Congrats to Scott (Dixon) and his guys on his crew. It’s big time to win six championship so I’m sure they’re thrilled. They were great competitors. It’s bittersweet. On one hand, I really don’t know what I’d do different this year and I don’t know what I’d ask my guys to do different. They were flawless – fastest in the pits all year long and they were rewarded for it earlier this weekend by Firestone. I’m extremely proud to drive for my team – not just my car but all the Team Penske cars combined, all the engineers, all the mechanics. They’re an incredible crew that puts in a lot of work. We just came up short and that’s all it is. We just weren’t able to get it done but we’ll reset and we’ll hit ‘em harder next year and I promise you we’ll be in the fight. Thank you to Hitachi and Team Chevy. You know Team Chevy was the engine to beat today and I think all year long so big credit to them. We were just a little short on points but we’ll come back harder next year.”
No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Dallara/Chevrolet – Scott McLaughlin
Laps Completed: 46/100
Laps Led: 0
- Three-time Australian Supercars Champion Scott McLaughlin turned some heads as he made his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut on Sunday afternoon on the Streets of St. Petersburg. McLaughlin ran laps times as fast as the race leaders and moved his way up the running order, before contact ended his race just before the halfway point on Sunday. The 27-year-old native of New Zealand finished the race in 22nd place.
- As the green flag flew to begin the race, McLaughlin took it easy heading into the first turn to get through his first INDYCAR start cleanly. With the goal of finishing every lap and taking the checkered flag, McLaughlin used the early stages of the race to get the feel of his No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Chevrolet INDYCAR.
- Utilizing an alternate pit strategy to gain track position, McLaughlin and the Shell V-Power Nitro+ team came to pit lane for the first time at lap nine. The move allowed McLaughlin to run laps with a clean track ahead of him. While getting comfortable with the car, McLaughlin made up a few spots on the track. After the first round of green flag pit stops, McLaughlin advanced from 22nd to 18th place in the running order.
- Following a caution period, McLaughlin tried to advance further on the race restart. Unfortunately, the rear tires locked up and the No. 3 car spun, making contact with another car. The damage was too extensive to continue the race and McLaughlin was forced to retire. After it was announced Friday that McLaughlin will compete with a full-season entry next season, he will return to St. Pete in March to begin what he hopes will be a dynamic rookie INDYCAR season in 2021.
Quote: “What a day. The best day of my life, except for my wedding. The Shell V-Power Nitro+ INDYCAR was going really well then I just made a move trying to block Marco (Andretti). Then I felt like I made a half of a rear lock, but I’m not exactly sure. Cold tires caught me out a little bit. But I had a lot of fun today. I just can’t thank my guys, Roger (Penske), Tim (Cindric), Shell V-Power and the entire organization for the weekend. It was so much fun. I wish the 2021 season was starting tomorrow. I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of this car.”
No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power
Start: 1st (62nd NTT INDYCAR SERIES career pole)
Laps Completed: 35/100
Laps Led: 4
Final Points Position: 5th (-141 pts)
- Will Power started Sunday’s race from the pole position after he earned his 62nd career INDYCAR SERIES pole position on Saturday.
- Unfortunately, Power made an uncharacteristic mistake in the first half of the Firestone Grand Prix and the resulting contact forced him out of the season finale and he was scored in 24th place in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet.
- Power held of the competition and maintained an early lead for the opening first four laps on Sunday. However, a gearbox issue when he was downshifting saw Power drop to third place just five laps into the race.
- On lap 32, Power visited pit lane and returned the track right in front of teammate and championship contender Josef Newgarden. The two avoided contact as Newgarden continued his march forward and Power got up to speed.
- Just three laps later, the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet made contact with the wall after exiting turn 4 and Power came to a halt in the runoff area. The damage was too extensive to continue and he retired from the event in the 24th position.
Quote: “I just lost it. The rear bottomed and I just had a moment. Earlier in the race, the Verizon Chevrolet didn’t downshift for some reason. It did it a couple of times. Then I started downshifting really early. I don’t know what happened or if that caused any of our issues. It just didn’t go down gears and that is how (Alexander) Rossi got me, and then (Colton) Herta attacked for position. But I’m just frustrated with me making a mistake and hitting the wall. The car got loose and it’s just so very, very frustrating. I shouldn’t be the one crashing. My bad for putting us out of the race.”
No. 22 Menards Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud
Laps Completed: 100/100
Laps Led: 0
Points Position: 8th (-198 pts)
- Simon Pagenaud and the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet brought home a solid finish on Sunday to conclude a challenging 2020 INDYCAR SERIES season.
- The Menards Chevrolet started Sunday’s race in 12th place, but Pagenaud slipped back to 16th at the end on lap one. The hot and humid day caused a lack of grip on the track and it affected the handling of the No. 22 Chevy. Despite the hot conditions, Pagenaud radioed to the team early on that he was happy with the performance of the car.
- While several teams opted for a three-stop strategy on Sunday, Pagenaud and the Menards team were able to make up ground by executive a two-stop strategy.
- Race strategist Kyle Moyer called Pagenaud to pit lane for his final stop of the race on lap 66. Fortunately, the caution flag flew just a couple of laps later which allowed Pagenaud to gain track position while also benefitting from running on new Firestone alternate tires.
- A number of caution flags, and attrition from several other competitors exiting the race, shuffled the field and positions multiple times in the second half of the Firestone Grand Prix. Running consistent laps, Pagenaud advanced to eighth place with less than 20 laps to go. The Frenchman ran hard to the finish and he gained two more positions to finish his 2020 season in the sixth position.
Quote: “That was a good finish for the Menards Chevrolet. It was survival of the fittest out there today. At one point, I said on the radio that there could be many, many more cautions and there was. We just couldn’t get in a race rhythm. But we were able take advantage of all those other people’s mistakes and put ourselves in position to have a good finish. All weekend, the car was really good – I think it was better than even sixth where we finished. But I’m pretty excited to build upon this for next year. All-in-all, good weekend. It was also good to see the fans back at the track. We finished St. Pete, just a few months after the fact.”