By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
My post-race feature for The Open Wheel continues with a collection of random thoughts following the INDYCAR weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
- Newgarden Delivers Another Iconic Moment In Championship Fight – Josef Newgarden has taken control of this championship race with two unbelievably skillful passes on his Team Penske teammates at Mid-Ohio and Gateway. If he goes on to win the title, those two moments will live on as part of his legacy forever. He’s showing a ruthless streak not many expected in his first year at Team Penske and it’s taken him to the cusp of his first championship. However…
- Pagenaud/Newgarden Teammate Dynamic Has Changed – Newgarden’s move at Gateway may come at a price as his teammate Simon Pagenaud was livid with Newgarden after the race. Here’s what Pagenaud said to the media after the race: “I think if it wasn’t me, he would be in the fence with somebody else. That’s what I’ve got to say.” Shortly after that, Simon was asked do you lose a little bit of the trust factor racing with Josef? “Absolutely,” said Pagenaud. “And respect, too. He doesn’t have respect for me.” There are two races left and the Team Penske cars are very even. Pagenaud is a fair driver and I don’t think he’d intentionally take out any driver, especially a teammate. However, I expect him to make life as difficult as possible for Newgarden over the remainder of the season and I doubt he’ll give him an inch if they end up near each other on track. With all of their drivers alive and desperate for a championship, the final two weekends will be interesting as the gloves come off at Team Penske.
- Nice To See Daly Earn A Great Result – Conor Daly’s P5 finish at Gateway was his best result of the season and just his third Top 10 of the year. He tested well at Gateway twice this year and was really looking forward to his event so it was great to see him pull through with a legitimate Top 5 run. He was fast all weekend and did well to work his way through the field on multiple occasions. The Foyt team has struggled with new drivers and a switch to Chevrolet this year and there are plenty of rumors that they might replace their driver lineup next year. It was definitely good for Conor to show what he can do when he has a fast car.
- What’s Going On At Ganassi? – One week after Max Chilton was forced to retire his car against his will mid-race at Pocono, Tony Kanaan was seemingly forced into the same situation while a couple laps down at Gateway. While neither is expected back with the team next year, you’d think the team would still have plenty to learn and it’s absolutely not in the Ganassi nature to give up the fight. Something strange is happening with that happening in back-to-back weeks. Chip Ganassi tweeted earlier today “Spoke to @maxchilton and @TonyKanaan. The only time we pull cars off the track is when we have no chance at a better finishing position.” But that’s not entirely true as each could have moved up a few spots in the event of a late caution and/or retirement. It’s not all bad at Ganassi, Scott Dixon’s P2 result was an absolute steal considering how strong the Team Penske cars were, but this team is going to look a lot different next year and it’s hard to tell where they’re heading at the moment.
- Kaiser Does What’s Needed To Effectively Seal Title – Santi Urrutia overcoming Juan Piedrahita for the win was the highlight of a wild Indy Lights race at Gateway but the biggest news of the weekend was Kyle Kaiser’s P4 finish meaning he only needs to start the race at Watkins Glen to win the championship. Kaiser has earned this championship with ruthless consistency I think he has punching above its weight. Three wins and eight podiums is an impressive year and it will be interesting to see how he fares in the Verizon IndyCar Series next year. Who he drives for will be an even bigger story. He hasn’t been mentioned in many rumors as a full-time option for current teams but Juncos Racing may take him up to the big show themselves. They have the equipment to do so after a two-car effort at Indianapolis this year. That storyline will make an already wild silly-season even more exciting to follow.