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Team Penske NTT INDYCAR SERIES Race Report

Track:                  Streets of St. Petersburg

Race:                   Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Date:                   April 25, 2021

No. 2 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet – Josef Newgarden

Start: 3rd

Finish: 2nd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 100/100

Laps Led: 0

Points Position: 10th (-20 pts)

  • Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet team entered Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg looking to bounce back from an opening-lap accident and a tough finish last weekend in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener at Barber Motorsports Park. Mission accomplished as Newgarden nearly captured his third-consecutive win at St. Petersburg before coming home in second place for his first podium result of the season.
  • After qualifying third in the Hitachi Chevrolet on Saturday, Newgarden’s race got off to a rocky start when the No. 14 car of Sebastien Bourdais made contact with the rear of the No. 2 Chevy entering the first corner. Fortunately, there was no damage done and Newgarden was able to eventually make his way around Jack Harvey and the No.60 car for second place.
  • Sticking to the team’s two pit stop strategy, Newgarden made his final visit to pit lane on Lap 69. From that point on he applied intense pressure to eventual race winner, Colton Herta, but could not get close enough to make a pass for the lead as he crossed the finish line in second place.

Quote: “Well, we lost a little too much ground in that second stint, really; to capitalize with the reds (tires). And then we had the caution, which almost gifted us another chance. And I just didn’t want to over extend myself today. I felt like I was close to an opportunity, but (race winner) Colton was really good. He was doing a great job on the restarts. It was tough to get tire temps. So, I pushed really hard right there in those two initial restarts. I didn’t have quite the runs I needed, so I didn’t want to risk anything. But a good day. I’m really happy with Chevy’s performance and thankful for all their work. And to have Hitachi on the car and get a podium is really nice here to start our year off.”

No. 3 DEX Imaging Dallara/Chevrolet – Scott McLaughlin

Start: 14th

Finish: 11th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 100/100

Laps Led:  0

Points Position:  15th (-32 pts)

  • Scott McLaughlin started 14th and finished 11th Sunday afternoon on the streets of St. Petersburg, just missing his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES top-10 finish.
  • The Rookie of the Year candidate qualified just outside of the top 12 on Saturday as he lined up in the 14th starting spot Sunday. After the green flag flew, McLaughlin lost a couple of positions when he got shuffled back on a wild opening lap. Despite the first-lap challenges, McLaughlin reported that the DEX Imaging Chevrolet was running well.
  • McLaughlin dropped to 17th but rallied quickly and was running in 10th place by lap 40.  As pit stops cycled through and pit strategies evened out, the DEX Imaging Chevy ran solidly inside the top 10.  With 25 laps to go, McLaughlin moved up to ninth in the running order.
  • Two late-race caution flags provided the opportunity for McLaughlin to make some moves on the wide front stretch during the ensuing race restarts. Team Penske teammate and veteran Will Power was able to get by McLaughlin, however, as the rookie was positioned in 11th place with less than 20 laps to go.
  • The New Zealand native maintained his position for the remainder of the event as he took the checkered flag just outside of the top 20.  The finish moved McLaughlin to 15th in the point standings, now just 12 points outside of the top 10 entering next weekend’s first oval races of the season at Texas Motor Speedway.

Quote: “Yeah, overall a good day for us in the DEX Imaging Chevy. It was a full-on race, very hot, very humid and one of the most physical races I have ever done. Solid race from our end and I was probably a little bit too safe at the start. I was just trying to keep my front wing on. It was pretty forceful out there and a lot of the veterans around me were just using a bit more of their experience on colder tires. We got around in the first stint and we pitted at the right time and we were actually on a very alternative strategy there, that could have almost put us in the lead. Unfortunately, there was a couple of spinners towards the middle of that race. Our team reacted and we pitted and we did the right thing on that strategy, just unfortunately there were no yellow flags. We didn’t use the speed we had in the clear air to really get going, but for me right now its continuously finishing races.  Finishing P11 is a great run for us and we will continue to build on that and hopefully come the end of the year we will be bigger, better and stronger.  Just want to thank DEX Imaging for their support and am excited for the next few races.”

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

Start: 20th

Finish: 8th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 100/100

Laps Led: 0

Points Position:  2nd (-2 pts)

  • Will Power continued his solid start to the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season with an eighth-place finish in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
  • One of the best qualifiers in series history, Power uncharacteristically started from the 20th position on Sunday afternoon after a tough qualifying result on Saturday. Power moved up quickly, however, using an aggressive driving style early on to make up positions.
  • A switch to red Firestone alternate tires on the first pit stop of the day helped Power produce lap times that brought the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevy just outside top 10 as the race moved past the halfway point.
  • Solid pit work by the No. 12 Verizon 5G pit crew, coupled with Power’s quick time on the red tires, pushed the 2014 series champion into the top 10 late in the race and he closed strong with an eighth-place finish.
  • Power will look to score his first victory next weekend on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval during a doubleheader race weekend. Power owns two wins at the Fort Worth circuit and he hopes to build on his momentum there and continue his impressive start to the 2021 season.

Quote: “Yeah, really solid day for us to get up there to P8. It was inside the top 10 and that was our goal in starting the race. Obviously qualifying was pretty disappointing, but yeah, solid pit stops today.  We tried to catch a few yellows and finish in the top five but it just didn’t work out. We passed a lot of cars on track and the car did really well, so we were very happy to get the Verizon 5G Chevy in the top 10. Really good day.”

No. 22 Australian Gold Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud

Start: 4th

Finish: 3rd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 100/100

Laps Led:  0

Points Position:  5th (-13 pts)

  • Simon Pagenaud and the No. 22 Australian Gold Dallara/Chevrolet made the most of a strong qualifying effort and solid speed all afternoon long to earn a third-place finish on Sunday afternoon in St. Petersburg for first podium finish of the season.
  • Pagenaud made the Firestone Fast Six on Saturday afternoon in qualifying and started the 100-lap race in the fourth position. Early in Sunday’s race, the shiny gold Australian Gold Chevrolet held steady in the fourth position. 
  • Following the first round of pit stops, Pagenaud and the No. 22 team executed a flawless stop, which allowed him to gain a position and seize third place.
  • Ove the balance of Sunday’s race, Pagenaud ran strong in the third position through the final rounds of pit stops. Two late-race caution periods brought the field together, but the No. 22 Australian Gold Chevy wasn’t in the position to move past the top two cars, driven by winner Colton Herta and Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden. Pagenaud came home in third place for his first podium result of 2021.
  • The finish allowed Pagenaud to jump from 11th to fifth in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings, now just 13 points behind first place.

Quote: “I’m glad we had some sunglasses and sunscreen this weekend. It was a hot race. But we’re very happy with the end. Yeah, it was great strategy. We really had a shot on restarts, but it was too slippery on the inside to go for it. I noticed it when I tried to pass Jack (Harvey). But really when I lost the race was at the beginning of the first stint but overall, I think it was a great performance by the No. 22 Chevy Australian Gold team. That was a great performance. I think on street courses we could be very strong. I can’t wait for the ovals, especially Indy and Texas.”