Team Penske NTT INDYCAR Series Race Report

Track:                  Barber Motorsports Park

Race:                   INDYCAR Grand Prix of Alabama

Date:                   April 18, 2021

No. 2 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet – Josef Newgarden

Start: 8th

Finish: 23rd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 0/90

Laps Led:  0

Points Position:  23rd (-46 pts)

  • Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet team entered Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix of Alabama looking for their third NTT INDYCAR SERIES win – and Newgarden’s fourth career victory – at the Alabama circuit. However, an incident on the first lap of competition left them with a 23rd-place finish and early exit in the opening round of the 2021 season.
  • Newgarden narrowly missed out on the Firestone Fast Six during the Saturday qualifying session, as he started Sunday’s race from the eighth position. After a clean green flag start into the first corner, the No. 2 Chevrolet got loose and Newgarden’s lost the back end once the car went off track which caused a multi-car accident. The ensuing impact with the No. 28 car driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay left Newgarden’s Chevrolet with too much damage to continue. He was credited with a 23rd-place finish.

Quote: “I got loose coming over the hill. It was a good start. We were lining in pretty nicely, but I just got loose in the wake. I thought I had the car and then touched the grass and I think once I touched the grass it pitched me sideways. I feel really bad for anyone that got involved in that. Obviously, my mess created a bigger mess. Any of the cars that got involved, I’m real sorry because it was obviously us that tipped it off. It’s a shame. I feel like we had a really good car. We just needed to file-in there at the start. We partially did that but yeah. But we’ll come back. We’ve just got to bounce back at the next one.”

No. 3 PPG Dallara/Chevrolet – Scott McLaughlin

Start: 12th

Finish: 14th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 90/90

Laps Led:  0

Points Position:  14th (-37 pts)

  • Scott McLaughlin accomplished many of his goals to open the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, qualifying 12th and finishing 14th – but most importantly finishing all the laps – on Sunday afternoon at Barber Motorsport Park.
  • After the talented rookie earned a starting spot inside the top 12 during Saturday afternoon qualifying, McLaughlin looked to complete every single lap of the 2021 season opener.  On the opening lap of the race, McLaughlin skillfully avoided a multi-car accident and moved into the top 10, settling into ninth place when the race finally resumed under the green flag. The action on the track was short lived as a series of early-race cautions slowed the field. 
  • McLaughlin made his first stop of the day on lap 25, pitting from the seventh position, as the No. 3 PPG Chevy received four black Firestone tires and a slight wing adjustment.  McLaughlin continued to click off quick laps while learning the tricky road course.   He pitted once again on lap 45 for four fresh tires and fuel. 
  • The remaining portion of the race thankfully ran as planned as McLaughlin worked to get comfortable with the handling of his PPG Chevrolet over the long green-flag runs.  As a slight vibration hindered the handling of the No. 3 Chevy over the closing laps, McLaughlin had to surrender a position late to another competitor.
  • The rookie closed on reining Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato at the finish, but he ultimately wasn’t able to get by him.  The result was a 14th-place finish for McLaughlin in the opening race of the 2021 season as he and the No. 3 team look ahead to next week’s second race on the streets of St. Petersburg.

Quote:  “We got p14, which isn’t bad.  I got held up mid-race, which was disappointing, but I didn’t have the car and I didn’t want to push it either. We ended up getting to them, but it just took too long.  I wanted to get a whole race under my belt, which we did.  The PPG Chevrolet was great and the pit stops were fantastic.  I can’t wait for St. Pete.”

No. 12 Verizon 5G Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power

Start: 4th

Finish: 2nd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 90/90

Laps Led:  4

Points Position:  2nd (-12 pts)

  • Will Power got the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season off to a solid start by scoring a second-place finish in Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.
  • After rolling off the grid from the fourth qualifying position, Power and the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet team determined that a two-pit-stop strategy would be their best course of action in Sunday’s race. The 2014 INDYCAR champion made his stops on laps 33 and 62, respectively, while cutting into the lead of the eventual race winner, Alex Palou, over each stint.
  • The 90-lap event settled into a quick pace after early stoppages for caution periods and Power was able to reserve over 100 seconds of push-to-pass boost as he attempted to track down the race leader. Unfortunately, the No. 12 Verizon 5G machine was too close on fuel to fully use the remaining overtake, resulting in a runner-up finish for the Australian ace.
  • Power and the No. 12 team will look to continue their hot start next weekend at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a race that Power has won on two occasions.

Quote: “I had enough fuel left to use push to pass for the last two laps, but it just blew my mind how fast Alex (Palou) was in the first stint. We had absolutely nothing for him – he just pulled away, so I figured he was doing a three-stop race because I was doing the best lap time I could for the fuel number we needed. We’re super happy to get the Verizon 5G Chevy on the podium. We’ve had a pretty bad to the year the last four years so it’s awesome to get a really good start to the season. I said to the guys, if we do this week in and week out – just solid races with no mistakes – I promise you we will absolutely have a great chance at winning the championship this year.”

No. 22 Menards Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud

Start: 15th

Finish:  12th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 90/90

Laps Led: 0

Points Position:  12th (-35 pts)

  • Simon Pagenaud had an uneventful start to the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, grabbing a 12th-place finish at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday afternoon.
  • After qualifying 15th on Saturday, Pagenaud did a good job to avoid contact with several cars that went off track on the opening lap as he advanced to the 13th position.  From there, the Frenchman settled in following a couple of early-race caution periods.  The No. 22 Menards Chevrolet suffered slight nose damage in the opening lap melee, but it didn’t result in any handling issues. 
  • On lap 16, Pagenaud unfortunately had to make an unscheduled stop to check for damage on the nose of the Menards Chevrolet.  The team elected to not to replace the front wing and Pagenaud continued on. He pitted again on lap 38, continuing the team’s plan of a three-stop race. 
  • The off-stop strategy allowed Pagenaud to run quick lap times on an open track to make up ground on the race leaders.  While he never made it inside the top 10 due to all of the varying race strategies, Pagenaud ran laps as fast as the leaders for most of the race.
  • Following his final stop of the day, Pagenaud tried to make up ground on the cars in front of him and ran fifth among the cars that elected to run a three-stop strategy.  Unfortunately, several cars at the front of the field made it to the end on two-stops, which resulted in a 12th-place finish for the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet.

Quote: “We made a gamble on a three-stop strategy, which didn’t work for us and we wound us finishing 12th. We made big progress in the race.  The whole weekend, we improved the Menards Chevrolet.  We need to keep digging and keep finding some speed on the racecar to be up front, but we will get there.”