INDIANAPOLIS — Team Penske was a near perfect 5-for-6 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course prior to this past July. Will Power won three times (2015, 2017, 2018) while Simon Pagenaud won twice for them (2016, 2019) and once for Schmidt (2014). While Power was their best chance at a win on July 4, a badly timed caution kept that from happening. The other two drivers in Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden didn’t have Power’s speed, but Pagenaud went from 20th to finish third as he was helped by that caution.
So, what did they learn from July to help for October? They would love to give the Captain his first win as a boss here. It didn’t happen in July and they weren’t really even that close in August either.
Power makes the most sense. He led 28 laps back in July and has led 56 or more laps in three of the five years prior.
“It’s a pretty straightforward track,” Power said. “But every corner sequence, it’s quite technical. There’s a lot of compromise in there. I kind of like that stuff.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s just another track that I enjoy. All pretty good for me. Yeah, I can’t put my finger on why I’ve won there three times. I think being fast is one of them.”
Plus, Power has always ended the season strong. Last year, Power had two wins and a runner up in the final four races. He won the penultimate race of the season too. The year prior, he won the third to last race of the season and had four podiums over the final five races. He’s won at least one race every year since 2007 now with his win in Mid-Ohio 1 and I expect another win this weekend in one of the two races. He’s propelled himself up to fifth and points as his eyes are for more.
But, Penske likely needs Newgarden to win instead. He trails Dixon by 72 points in the standings. He gained 29 points on Dixon at World Wide Technology Raceway, then 26 more at Mid Ohio. That’s 55 points gained over the last three races. There’s now three races left with two of them here.
With Power and Pagenaud winning all but one race on the road course, what can they do to help Newgarden’s case this weekend?
Newgarden, just isn’t strong here though. His seventh place run in July was his first top 10 in seven tries. With Dixon having won in July instead and scoring three runner up finishes prior, he can put a lot of heat on Newgarden who needs to outperform Dixon now.
The ideal gap between Dixon to Newgarden needs to be less than 50.
Newgarden says that it remains an open book as always with the team.
“Honestly, it doesn’t change,” said the Penske driver. “We lean on each other every weekend. This weekend will be no different. Whether we’re in the championship fight or we’re not, we lean on each other the exact same way. It would be the same if we were all in the championship fight here. If we’re all pretty close and fighting for it, we’d be leaning on each other just like all year.
“You kind of get into a rhythm with your team, sort of understand what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, specific likes and dislikes are. You kind of can build a notebook with everybody so we all understand, yeah, like Scott alluded to, one person does this, it kind of means this for the other person. We have a lot we can lean on. We’ll be doing that just like we’ve been doing all season.”
Power, agreed. He said he’s treating this weekend just how he would any other.
“I mean, I do the same thing every weekend, doesn’t matter the situation,” Power said. “Unless you’re truly points racing, all you have to do is cover the guy you’re racing the points with. You’re just trying to execute the perfect weekend. Everyone understands the goal. The whole field are going there with one goal in mind. They’re just focusing, trying to get the most out of it.
“There’s no real benefit for going for a big move or something that’s 50/50. It just never works out.”