Scott Dixon narrowly beats Takuma Sato in Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500, main takeaways

MADISON, Ill — Last Sunday, we had Takuma Sato vs. Scott Dixon battling in the end for the win in the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, before the good realy got going, a caution came out for a frightening crash by Spencer Pigot with six laps-to-go.

We never went to a red flag and Sato cruised to his second career Indy 500 triumph under caution. Dixon, had to settle for a disappointing second despite leading a race-high 111 of 200 laps.

Six days later, we got that battle that we wanted so badly to see in the closing stages of last Sunday’s race. This time, we got an intense fight between Dixon and Sato for the win in Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500.

Dixon, beat Pato O’Ward off pit lane on Lap 162. We thought then that was for the win. Little did we know, Sato was going to get superb fuel mileage and get a good final pit sequence and make his stake to claim a second straight win at the World Wide Technology Raceway.

Sato, pit on Lap 175 and we thought then that Dixon would easily take over the lead and duke it out with Pato O’Ward for the victory. Instead, Sato came out third after a slow stop. He lost several seconds due to a problem on his left rear.

Still, Sato made a ballsy move by O’Ward in Turn 1 on the outside for second and set his sights on closing down on Dixon and passing him for the win.

Sato, went from 2 seconds back on Lap 180 to catching Dixon in eight laps. He stalked every move Dixon made but came up just short. Dixon, beat Sato by just .140-seconds en route to his 50th career NTT IndyCar Series victory and fourth of the season.

Dixon, now only trails Mario Andretti by two victories for second most on the all-time Indy Car wins list. AJ Foyt is first with 67. It was also Dixon’s sixth top two finish on the season but 98th of his career, breaking a tie with Foyt for most top two finishes in series history. 48 of those 98 top two’s are runner-ups, as only Andretti’s 56 is more.

He now has 122 podiums, trailing only Mario (144) for most ever to go along with 172 top five finishes, also trailing Mario (194) on that list too.

He’s had three podiums in his last four Gateway starts.

Sato, finishes second for his second straight top two in his No. 30 Honda in Gateway. He’s now had six top 10 finishes in his last seven starts on the season and moved from 21st in points following the Indy GP to fourth now. He was actually 17th in the standings heading to Indy earlier this month and has gained 13 spots in two races.

Pato O’Ward led almost 100 laps on the race but finished third in his No. 5 Chevrolet. He took over the lead on Lap 69 and would lead every lap until he pit on Lap 162. He still has a top 10 finish in six of his last seven starts on the season and hasn’t finished worse than 12th all year.

Colton Herta and Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top five in the finishing order.

1st Lap Crash for Rossi Continues Bad Luck

Alexander Rossi’s no good, very bad 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season continues. It’s becoming laughable at this point just how much bad luck this talented American has had this year.

It all started in the season opener at Texas where his ECU failed him. By time he got going, despite qualifying eighth, he was penalized. He finished 15th as a result of not ever being able to make up lost ground.

For the Indy GP it was a mechanical failure just 41 laps into it. He finished 25th. For Road America 1, he had bad luck early and would finish 19th. He sat 22nd in the points standings then.

Things started to turn around via a third, sixth and eighth place finishes respectively after. Then, at Indy for last Sunday’s ‘500, he has a questionable pit penalty for unproper release. While trying to battle his way back up, he crashed and finished 27th.

On Saturday, he started ninth for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500. The field got going to quickly as Oliver Askew went low to get going too fast and got into the back of Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud then got into Rossi while Rossi was minding his own business.

Rossi, was credited with a 22nd place finish as a result. That was his third finish outside the top 20 in eight tries this year.

Not only was it bad luck for him, it was for Andretti Autosport as a whole. Zach Veach and Marco Andretti were also collected in that opening race incident as three of the five Andretti cars were out before they even took the green flag.

Graham Rahal Having Dismal Weekend

Graham Rahal couldn’t ever get his No. 15 Honda to his liking this weekend. He battled his car on Friday and was 22nd out of 23 cars on the practice speed chart. In qualifying, he was even worse. He qualified on the last row for both races this weekend. In today’s race, Rahal never was a factor and had to pit early for his car struggling to shift.

“I’m clearly disappointed with the end result,” Rahal said. “I thought that after the start, when a lot of our competitors were involved in that crash, I thought that maybe we would have a good day and be able to put our heads down and work through things, but, instead, on Lap 29 we had GCU problems. Somehow a napkin got in there and lodged itself in the GCU cooling tube and overheated one and then overheated another. Unfortunately, it was just one of those days that we struggled with the chassis handling but also just had poor luck with sucking up a napkin. It’s certainly frustrating and disappointing, but there is always tomorrow.”

Following two straight third place finishes and five top seven’s in his last seven starts, he is going to take a hit in the points.

He went from eighth after Road America 2, to seventh after Iowa 1, to sixth after Iowa 2 to fourth after last Sunday’s Indy 500. He’s now fifth, but dropped from 121 down to 160 out after Saturday’s race.

Pagenaud’s Running At The Finish Streak Ends, Championship Hopes Dashed Last Couple Of Races

Simon Pagenaud entered Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 with a series leading 38 straight NTT IndyCar Series starts with running at the finish. His last DNF came in the 2018 Long Beach Grand Prix.

Unfortunately for him, that streak comes to an end this weekend.

Pagenaud, was involved in the opening lap crash when the car in front of him, Alex Palou, went low to start going before the green flag dropped. Pagenaud, briefly went low to follow but quickly saw the green flag wasn’t out yet. Another rookie in Oliver Askew didn’t get the memo and careened into the back of Pagenaud at the start. That sent Pagenaud into Alexander Rossi and an early race caution.

Pagenaud, would continue but his No. 22 Chevrolet never was right. He was black flagged on his 66th lap because he couldn’t meet the minimum speed and was relegated to a 19th place finish.

He was 22nd last weekend at Indy following contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay on the Lap 131 restart. With 12th and 13th place finishes respectively at Road America, Pagenaud not has four finishes outside of the top 10 in his last six starts. This was also his first finish outside of the top five in four Gateway starts too.

He was the only one in the entire series to not have a DNF last year too, so this was surprising.

He’s gone from second in the standings (-54) heading into the Indy 500, to sixth, 163 points out. Losing over 100 points in two races isn’t good for his championship hopes.

Good Points Day For Dixon

Simon Pagenaud looked like Scott Dixon’s main challenger for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series championship. The 2016 series champion finished second in the season opening race at Texas and the fight was on. He was third in the next race on the Indy road course. While he had some bad luck in both Road America races, the battle was back on with a win in Iowa and fourth in the second Iowa race.

Heading into the Indy 500, Pagenaud trailed Dixon by 54 points. Now, he’s lost over 100 points. Pagenaud went from second to sixth in the standings in two races.

Graham Rahal forged a battle of his own but after a rough start to his weekend in Gateway, he over 30 points.

Josef Newgarden came into Gateway P2 in the standings, but was 84 points out. He finished behind Dixon on Saturday in 12th. He was running fifth at the halfway point and decided to pit in hopes to undercut Dixon on track. It didn’t work. A caution came out and Newgarden was pinned a lap down outside of the top 10.

So, not only did Dixon win, the guys he’s fighting for the championship all had rough days.

Dixon’s lead went from 54 heading to Indy to 117 six days later. Pato O’Ward is still in third in the standings, but he was 117 points out coming to Gateway. He’s now 130 markers behind.

With only six races left, 117 points is a lot to make up on a guy that has six top two finishes in eight tries this year.

More Bad Luck For Harvey

Jack Harvey has to wonder what he’s done wrong to deserve the bad luck that he’s had at times during the NTT IndyCar Series season. He qualified second for the second race of the year at Indy but Oliver Askew’s crash in the middle of the pit sequence hurt his chances at a second straight podium on the 2.439-mile road course.

He qualified second in the next race in Road America but went off course on Lap 37. He finally got some luck over the next couple of race weekends with dual seventh place finishes in the Iowa twinbill and a ninth place run in last Sunday’s Indy 500.

He then turned that into a seventh and fifth place starting spots for this weekend’s doubleheader at the World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis. Harvey, was running fourth at the time of the second pit sequence, but a fluke caution for moisture during the middle of the sequence cost him dearly. He went from fourth to 15th and with a track that wasn’t easy to pass on, he never made up ground. He comes home 11th.

“We were on track to have a really good day,” Harvey said. “We were running in either fourth or fifth for the first half of the race, and the car felt great; the guys had great stops. But when that yellow came out for rain, it really turned our race upside down. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why it was called since there wasn’t any rain that I saw on track. We’re doing everything we can to try and show up to races and be competitive. We know that we have a really good race car for tomorrow’s race, so we will focus on that and getting the result that we deserve.”

2nd Straight Year, Caution Alters Finishing Order

Last year, Josef Newgarden was well on his way to a potential win in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Then, a caution came out in the middle of the final pit sequence and hurt his track position.

On Saturday, it happened again. This time, Newgarden was in the hunt to win, but a top five finish was likely. Same for his teammate Will Power.

Power, led the first 62 laps of the race before pitting for the first time, but Pato O’Ward cycled to the lead after the first pit sequence. Power, fell to third. He’d remain there with Jack Harvey behind him in fourth and Newgarden behind Harvey in fifth.

The trio of Power, Harvey and Newgarden all pit at the halfway point hoping to undercut Pato O’Ward and Scott Dixon. Unfortunately for them, a caution came out for moisture in the middle of the sequence and cost them top fives again.

They were a lap down at the time of the caution and able to get their laps back when the leaders at the time pit. But, they had to pit under that caution too so they can top off which ruined any shot at a race win.

Newgarden was 12th, Power 17th.

Andretti-Penske Cars With Bad Luck Saturday, Herta leads the way with a top 5 for them

Andretti Autosport and Team Penske combined to have eight of the 23 cars in the field for Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Unfortunately, bad luck ensued for both organizations in the race.

Three of the five Andretti cars were taken out on the opening lap crash. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was collected too. His car was able to continue on but was never right and he was black flagged early.

Will Power and Josef Newgarden were running in the top five before the unlucky second caution. They’d finish outside of the top 10 too.

Ryan Hunter-Reay never really had a race contending car as only young Colton Herta was the only one able to get his car into the top five at the finish among the eight.

Herta, finished fourth. It wasn’t like it was a fluke for him either. He had a top 10 car all race and benefitted from not pitting before the second caution and stayed there. He capitalized and earned his fourth top five of the season. He had three all of last year. It was also his 14th career top 10 result as well.

Ferrucci Dazzles Again Before 2nd Straight Year Final Stop Costs Him

Santino Ferrucci came from 19th to finish fourth in last Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. It was at the time his best career finish, tying last year’s Gateway race as top results for him. That’s why he was so confident coming into this weekend’s twibill at the World Wide Technology Raceway.

Fourth last year here and fourth last Sunday. He even led 93 laps in last year’s race as well.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have a ton of pace in practice on Friday and only qualified 20th for Saturday’s race. Luckily for him, he ran the second stint long and got a lucky break via a caution for moisture in the middle of it.

Ferrucci, was one of 10 cars that had yet to pit and it benefitted him greatly. He was heading towards a top five finish as a result for what would have been his fifth top 10 finish in his last seven starts on the season.

But, the final stop last year cost him a chance at a win and a slow stop on his right front cost him a top five in the end. He finished a disappointing 16th.

“With limited practice yesterday, it took me the first stint to get used to the car,” Ferrucci said. “We went with a different fuel strategy, which with a late caution, played in our favor. It put us up to 10th. We had a killer restart and moved into fifth. We rode there and things were looking real  promising until the final pit stop. We had a major mistake during the stop and ended up in the back of the field.”

VeeKay Quietly Strong With 6th Place Finish

Rinus VeeKay had a relatively quiet rookie season heading into this month. He crashed early in practice at Texas in what was his first career NTT IndyCar Series start. 36 laps into the race, he crashed again.

That made team owner Ed Carpenter pretty upset with his young driver. He said he didn’t really follow his advice and was pushing too hard. With a month off to think about it, VeeKay showed his talents. He finished fifth in the Indy GP on July 4.

In Road America, he was 13th and 14th respectively. At Iowa, he had a top five car but had bad luck in getting run over on a restart by Colton Herta on Lap 156. So, with a rebuilt car overnight, he was conservative and came home 17th a night later.

Then came August.

VeeKay wowed us all with being quick all month long in Indianapolis. He became the fastest teenager ever on the famed speedway with qualifying fourth for last Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, a rookie mistake in the pits cost him a top 10. He’d hit a pit crew member and get penalized early as a result. He never rebounded and finished 20th.

In Gateway, he started 14th on Saturday. But, no one passed as many cars as VeeKay as the 19 year old passed a race high 13 cars. No one else passed more than nine.

On a day no one said you could pass, the Dutch rookie could. That’s why his sixth place result in his No. 21 Chevrolet was eye opening.

He was aggressive again and it paid off.

O’Ward On Hot Streak, Inexperience He Says Cost Him A Win

Pato O’Ward had a great first pit sequence. He went from second to the lead on Lap 69 when he undercut Will Power for the top spot. The Mexican driver would lead every lap until he pit for the final time on Lap 162. That’s when the experience rose to the top.

Combined around him was at the time, 55 Indy Car wins, three of which in the Indy 500, and five championships. This was O’Ward’s ninth career start.

O’Ward entered the pit sequence with the lead. He had a fast stop. It’s just that Scott Dixon’s was just that much better. Dixon, beat O’Ward out of the pits and never looked back en route to his 50th career NTT IndyCar Series victory.

Takuma Sato won last Sunday’s Indy 500 and made a daring move to pass O’Ward for second on the final stint on the outside in Turn 1. O’Ward was smart to bail out and just finish third.

But, that inexperience is to what he says cost him his first career win.

Still, he’s looking like that No. 5 Chevrolet is going to get into the victory circle soon. O’Ward has had a top 12 finish in all eight races this year including six top eight finishes in his last seven starts on the season. He’ll roll off fourth on Sunday now too.

Top Stat

Only the best win at Gateway. Names like Paul Tracy (1997), Alex Zanardi (1998), Michael Andretti (1999), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000), Al Unser Jr. (2001), Gil de Ferran (2002), Helio Castroneves (2003), Josef Newgarden (2017), Will Power (2018) and Takuma Sato (2019) all won on the 1.25-mile oval heading into this weekend. That’s why it’s not shocking that Dixon won on Saturday.

Results

 

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