(NEWTON, IA) The NTT IndyCar Series continued their 2020 campaign with the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Doubleheader at Iowa Speedway this weekend and the back-to-back night results saw first-time “worst to first” and “pole to victory” scenarios at the 7/8-mile oval and an ensuing two-race sweep by Team Penske.
In Friday’s feature, 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud claimed the checkered flags after starting the evening in the back of the 23-car field. Then on Saturday, Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, the series’ defending champion, started from the pole and dominated the 250-lap nightcap for his first win of the season.
Pagenaud found himself solo in Row 12 Friday after his #22 Menards Chevrolet failed to make a qualifying attempt due to a fuel pressure problem earlier in the day. He charged hard on the opening rotations and reached the Top 15 in the first ten laps.
Pagenaud utilized pit strategy and claimed the lead on Lap 178 and finished the final 72 on top with series points leader Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) giving close chase. Pagenaud bested the Kiwi by .4954 seconds with an average speed of 132.220 MPH.
“What a night!” Pagenaud said afterwards. “What a day for us. Qualifying was disheartening, but these guys never give up. I have to re-watch the race. How did I get there? I don’t know, but the last 50 laps were certainly a lot of tension. When (Scott) Dixon is chasing you, you better hit your marks.”
Behind Dixon, rookie Oliver Askew (Arrow McLaren SP) notched his first-ever podium finish.
Meanwhile, Newgarden arguably showed that the Newton facility is his best track to race at. Claiming victory at last year’s solo event, Saturday’s pole sitter led 214 laps and the 2.786-second finish over Team Penske teammate Will Power gave him his 15th career win.
“Feels really good,” said Newgarden, who finished fifth in Friday’s race. “I don’t know what we’ve got to do to keep the bad luck off us, but hopefully this is a good start.”
Power’s runner-up finish on Saturday was quite the jump up after a crash the night prior resulted in a 21st place finish. Graham Rahal (Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing) claimed third on the night.
With his second place finish on Friday and his fifth place result the next night, Dixon maintained his points lead in the series standings. He sports a 49-point lead over Pagenaud (244-195) while Newgarden sits in third (191).
The NTT IndyCar Series continues their 14-race season at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Sunday, August 9.
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The NTT IndyCar Series competes in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Illinois on Sunday, August 30.