Brain Dump: Gateway 2017

Last week someone published a statistic that there were 800 overtakes in this year’s Indycar series event at Pocono. It would be surprising if there were more than 80 legitimate overtakes at Gateway, which is just nuts when you think that short(er) tracks like Gateway and Phoenix are supposed to have more passing. The world is upside down, my friends.

And yet the irony is that for a pass free event this race will be remembered for one specific pass by Josef Newgarden, wherein he squeezed ten pounds of car into a five pound opening, banging wheels a la Ben Hur with teammate Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud is the only driver to finish every lap of every race this year, although that streak definitely appeared in jeopardy at that moment.

Afterwards Newgarden was obviously excited, not only for winning his third race in the last four events, but his post-race comments indicated he seemed either oblivious or ambivalent to Pagenaud’s peril. With respect to the late pass Newgarden said “Pagenaud didn’t get get up into the wall or anything like that, so I would say it worked out for him, too.”

Pagenaud clearly had to lift out of the throttle to avoid “getting up into the wall or anything like that” which meant he was subsequently passed by Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves, and it’s safe to say he didn’t feel like going from leading to 4th exactly “worked out”. “He doesn’t have respect for me,” Pagenaud fumed. “It’s how much respect you respect each other. When you think the gap is open enough to risk it on an oval. I’m not talking a road course. I think on a road course that was a beautiful pass. But we’re not on a road course. There we are going 40 to 50 miles per hour (slower). Here we’re doing 190 there. It’s a completely different story.”

Pagenaud’s discontent is likely related not just to the pass but who made the pass, as Newgarden is not just his teammate but also the guy everyone is chasing for the championship. Yet another win has only widened the distance between Josef and everyone else with only two races remaining. A similar gaze of disappointment could also be seen on the faces of Helio Castroneves, who finished third after stalling his car on a pit stop, and Will Power, who spun on the first green flag lap for an early end to his day.

Those three drivers all have great cars, and great teams, and are capable of winning nearly every weekend. But they aren’t – that Joey New Guy is. It’s gonna be awkward at the rest of the Team Penske team meetings this season.

And speaking of awkward team meetings – are they even going to have them at Chip Ganassi Racing? After parking Max Chilton early last week it appears they did the same with Tony Kanaan at Gateway. Made me recall a quote attributed to Jimmy Vassar that “there’s no ‘I’ in team, but there is in Chip”. Businessmen have to look out for there business, and it’s looking more like Scott Dixon will have several new teammates in 2018.

Honorable Mentions include:

Dixon, who with a bit of luck and a lot of skill worked his way into a 2nd place finish. Newgarden keeps winning but Dixon isn’t dead yet. Anyone remember what happened in 2015?

Conor Daly, who took an AJ Foyt Racing car to 5th place. After the race he looked like he’d won the thing, and truth be told with the Foyt team maybe this is as close as he’ll get this season.

Sebastien Bourdais, who in his first race back after his hip-shattering impact at Indy managed to sneak his way into the Top 10. Based on how he looked in the first three races of the 2017 season, Bourdais could very well finish on another podium this year.

The Indycar fans in the greater St Louis Area, for turning out an estimated attendance of 40,000 for this high speed parade. Please come back next year when the racing promises to be much better, and hopefully the start won’t be such a clusterfark spin show.

Final Lap: What does The Captain say? From Autoweek:

“That was either Brad Keselowski or Dale Earnhardt or something, but that was some real racing,” Penske told Autoweek. “These guys are racing hard and at the end of the day you have to get through. It was a good pass. They touched a little bit but hey, we’ll work it out, I’m sure.

“I told the guys when there are 30 or 40 laps to go it’s up to each other to take care of themselves.

“I think this shows just how good Josef is but Simon was driving a great race, too. It was a little bit of everything. It was terrific. It sounds like the fans really liked it.”

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