IndyCar: Simon Pagenaud goes last to first, wins at Iowa

Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, Iowa, IndyCar (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, Iowa, IndyCar (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

After being unable to qualify due to a fuel pressure issue, Simon Pagenaud went from last to first at Iowa Speedway to secure his first win of the 2020 IndyCar season.

For the first time since Sebastien Bourdais went from last to first on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida for a dominant win in the 2017 season opener, IndyCar saw a driver start in last place and come out on top at Iowa Speedway on Friday evening. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud joined his fellow Frenchman by pulling off this rare feat.

Pagenaud, who was unable to make a qualifying run in his #22 Chevrolet as a result of a fuel pressure issue, secured his first victory of the 2020 season after utilizing smart tire strategy in a race full of tire degradation to go from 23rd place all the way up to the lead.

Pagenaud held off Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who started in a disappointing 17th place, by just 0.4954 seconds to win the 250-lap race around the four-turn, 0.894-mile (1.439-kilometer) oval in Newton, Iowa. Dixon made a late pass attempt on Pagenaud that he appeared to have pulled off, but Pagenaud fought back and never looked back.

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This victory is the first victory of the season for a team other than Chip Ganassi Racing and the first victory for Chevrolet through five races.

Arrow McLaren SP notched their second consecutive race with a podium finish, this time with rookie Oliver Askew securing a career-high third place finish in his #7 Chevrolet after passing several cars in the closing laps on new tires. He finished ahead of teammate Patricio O’Ward in fourth in his #5 Chevrolet.

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden looked well positioned for his third overall and second consecutive win at Iowa Speedway, but an untimely caution flag period after he had just made a pit stop mired him a lap down and played a key role in Pagenaud, who was set to pit on the next lap, being able to stay in contention.

Newgarden managed to rally for a fifth place finish in his #1 Chevrolet.

The race featured one extended caution flag period split up into two parts. The first took place at just the right time to save Pagenaud’s strategy when teammate Will Power crashed after his left front tire dislodged from his #12 Chevrolet.

Then IndyCar waved off the ensuing restart, but Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport’s Colton Herta did not get the memo and drove his #88 Honda up over the top of the #21 Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Rinus VeeKey and onto the SAFER barrier. All drivers involved in these frightening incidents were cleared after the race.

VeeKay and Herta had been running directly behind Pagenaud and ahead of Dixon while on the same strategy as they were when this wreck occurred.

At the time of the ensuing restart, O’Ward led the race ahead of Askew. Both drivers came in for pit stops shortly thereafter, while Pagenaud and Dixon utilized the lengthy pause in action to save their fuel and tires. They finished the race without needing any additional pit stops, and their strategy paid off.

During this caution flag period, several drivers on the lead lap came into the pits to position themselves as the highest running drivers who likely wouldn’t need to pit again. But that strategy did not play out compared to the strategy of Pagenaud and Dixon nor to the strategy of Askew and O’Ward.

Those drivers were led by Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, who finished in sixth place in his #27 Honda. He finished ahead of Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey in a season-high seventh in his #60 Honda. Race polesitter Conor Daly finished in eighth in his #59 Chevrolet.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson recorded his fourth consecutive top 10 finish with a ninth place effort in his #8 Honda while Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato continued his perfect record of top 10 finishes with a 10th place result in his #30 Honda. Sato did not compete in the season opener at Texas Motor Speedway after wrecking in qualifying.

This race featured a total of seven lead changes among six drivers. Pagenaud won the race after leading the final 73 laps and 83 overall, the most among all drivers. The race’s other lap leaders were O’Ward, Newgarden, Daly, Sato and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist. Of the 23 drivers who competed in the race, 17 finished and nine finished on the lead lap.

Here are the full race results of the first race of the 2020 Iowa IndyCar 250s at Iowa Speedway.

Race Results
1st – Simon Pagenaud
2nd – Scott Dixon
3rd – Oliver Askew
4th – Pato O’Ward
5th – Josef Newgarden
6th – Alexander Rossi
7th – Jack Harvey
8th – Conor Daly
9th – Marcus Ericsson
10th – Takuma Sato
11th – Alex Palou
12th – Graham Rahal
13th – Santino Ferrucci
14th – Felix Rosenqvist
15th – Ed Carpenter
16th – Ryan Hunter-Reay
17th – Charlie Kimball
18th – Tony Kanaan
19th – Rinus VeeKay
20th – Colton Herta
21st – Will Power
22nd – Marco Andretti
23rd – Zach Veach

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The second race of the Iowa IndyCar 250s doubleheader is set to be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network from Iowa Speedway tomorrow evening beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.