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Pagenaud goes from worst to first to score Friday night Iowa victory

Simon Pagenaud won Friday night’s Iowa INDYCAR 250.

“How did I get there?” the Frenchman asked NBCSN in Victory Lane post-race.

The race was the first of two 250-lappers around the 7/8th-mile Newton, Iowa racetrack for the NTT IndyCar Series this weekend.

Pagenaud started last on the grid, 23rd position, after a fuel pressure issue sidelined him during the brief qualifying session Friday afternoon. Pagenaud moved up to 15th-place in the first 45 laps, but couldn’t get around Charlie Kimball for 14th.

With about 100 laps remaining, Colton Herta launched off of Rinus VeeKay’s Chevrolet into the air.

The crash happened after rookie Patricio O’Ward jumped a restart. That restart was waved off, but Herta was accelerating and didn’t get the message to hop on the brakes like rookie VeeKay did.

The crash was a great example of safety improvements that have been implemented into the IndyCar Series. Herta’s No. 88 Honda launched onto VeeKay’s No. 21 Chevrolet, but ramped off of the new “aeroscreen” shield, which was just installed to the cars for use this season.

Herta was also lucky to avoid hitting the catchfence, and damaged some of the SAFER barrier walls on the outside of the track. He and VeeKay were uninjured.

Colton Herta soars in the air following his collision with Rinus VeeKay.
(Credit Chris Jones/INDYCAR Media)

While on the bottom of the track avoiding the crash, Marcus Ericsson hit a winglet off of Herta’s car, and the debris flew directly up Ericsson’s Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

If not for the aeroscreen, Ericsson would have likely been hit in the head by the debris. James Hinchcliffe, who was in the NBCSN booth on Friday, experienced that himself in the 2014 Grand Prix of Indianapolis and was knocked out.

A similar crash occurred in the 2015 Pocono 500, which unfortunately severely injured Justin Wilson. He succumbed to his injuries the following day.

That proved to be the final caution of the night. Patricio O’Ward and Arrow McLaren SP teammate Oliver Askew duked between themselves for the lead late, until they both pitted. That handed the lead over to Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon, who has won three times this season.

Pagenaud led Dixon by only a second around the Iowa Speedway, but the number of the gap fluctuated as they both tried to save enough Speedway fuel to make it to the end.

Askew, on much fresher Firestone tires, was running down the two champions. With the laps rapidly decreasing, Jupiter, Florida’s Askew was unable to catch the Frenchman and Kiwi. Dixon, still hitting a fuel number, didn’t risk his PNC Bank Honda trying to get around Pagenaud, who coasted to his first win in nearly an entire year.

The win for Pagenaud is his first at Iowa and second straight for Penske.

Josef Newgarden seemed to have the most dominant car, but become hung out on strategy with the placement of the yellow flags.

Newgarden will start on pole position for Saturday’s race (Saturday July 18th at 8:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN), however, the pole winner at Iowa has never gone on to win.

Pagenaud (23rd) and Dixon (18th) will once again start in the back on Saturday. Their qualifying issues on Friday carried over to Saturday’s race, where the session on Friday determined both the starting grids.

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