NEWTON, Iowa – Simon Pagenaud's worst-to-first run capped a wild opening night to IndyCar's doubleheader at Iowa Speedway.
The former series champion, who was unable to qualify because of a fuel pressure issue, managed to stretch his tires and take advantage of a unique pit strategy — and a little bit of luck — to get to the lead. Pagenaud then held off series leader Scott Dixon through the final laps Friday night to end Chip Ganassi Racing's four-race winning streak.
“I can't believe it. I have to rewatch the race. How did I get there?” asked Pagenaud, who also gave team owner Roger Penske his first IndyCar victory since purchasing the series late last year. “I don't know. The last 50 laps, a lot of tension. When Dixon is chasing you, you'd better hit your marks.”
Pagenaud went from 23rd to first, but Dixon was just as impressive. He started 17th before finishing second.
“That was an awesome race,” he said. “I'm sure Simon is happy after the mess-up they had in qualifying.”
Pagenaud won for the 15th time in the series, and first since Toronto last season. The 36-year-old Frenchman gave Team Penske its third Iowa win in four races.
Two mid-race wrecks set the stage for the conclusion — and drove home the value of IndyCar's new aeroscreen.
The first occurred when Will Power’s left front wheel came off his car, sending him into the wall and the tire bounding within feet of his head. The second occurred on the aborted restart, when Colton Herta’s car catapulted over Rinus VeeKay, missing the rookie’s head by inches but destroying the new safety device added by IndyCar this season.