PENALTY DISCRETION BEHIND THE TOP TWO? – Unfortunately, three of the best “surprise” results this season have come with an asterisk, now that it was announced Tuesday that third-placed Mike Conway's car had an illegal fuel cell. Conway's A.J. Foyt Enterprises entry has been penalized 10 entrant points and fined $15,000 as the car did not comply with Rule 14.7.2 – a tank that exceeded the 18.5-gallon maximum capacity.
Pagenaud's Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports squad also committed a fuel cell size violation at Iowa, but was deemed by IndyCar officials that the discrepancy in the size had no impact on the race result of the No. 77 car. Conway's, by contrast, was deemed to have had an impact – although the points penalty did not mean his actual result of third was altered.
“We felt the discrepancy in the size of the fuel tank was enough that it potentially could have provided a track position advantage and the penalty is reflective of that,” said Will Phillips, vp of technology, IndyCar, in IndyCar's official release.
Unfortunately there's another penalty that's happened as well. At Texas, Justin Wilson's Dale Coyne Racing team utilized an illegal sidepod top deck, and the team was fined $7,500 and docked five entrant points for not complying with the sidepod top deck aerodynamic element of Rule 188.8.131.52.
While credit should be applied for the transparency of IndyCar announcing the violations for these penalties, it wouldn't be out of line to suggest the technical inspection process could afford to be examined in the off-season.
ON THE PAGENAUD, NEWGARDEN DUST-UP – By IndyCar's standards outlined at the start of the season, both Pagenaud and Newgarden were deemed “rookies.” In truth, only Newgarden really merits the title – he's the only genuine first-year driver in the series. Meanwhile, it was beyond frustrating to hear several broadcast TV and radio mentions of Pagenaud as “making his first Toronto start” when in fact he'd driven there in Atlantic and Champ Car in consecutive seasons, albeit if it was five and six years ago.
That said, their dust-up at Turn 3 were both rookie-esque mistakes, in this writer's opinion. The easy and so far more popular opinion witnessed on Twitter and forums was that the accident was Pagenaud's fault. And in a greater percentage than not, I'd have to agree.
The issue was twofold, though. Pagenaud had pitted six laps sooner than Newgarden, and therefore likely would have needed a splash of fuel to make the finish if the race stayed green. Knowing this, from a strategic standpoint, the SFHR team would need to relay that information to Newgarden and note that he could ride there and get on the podium by default.
As for the move itself, yes, it was a definitive reactionary move by Pagenaud on Newgarden once he worked him down the track going into Turn 3. But, cannily, Pagenaud left just enough room to where Newgarden could in fact complete the pass. The problem was, by the time he did, there was no chance of stopping in time to make the corner, and the only place he'd go was into the tire barrier.
I'd rate the contretemps as 90 percent Pagenaud's fault per the block, and 10 percent to Newgarden for trying an ambitious move, that, like at Long Beach, didn't work.
Regular readers of these post-race analysis pieces will recall I praised Newgarden's Long Beach passing attempt on Dario Franchitti, but in this instance, I think it was a move he probably could have avoided making given Pagenaud's uncertain fuel situation. At this stage in the season, the team is still without a top-10 finish, and a genuine result – not just potential – was needed.
Given how the order was so jumbled to begin with, and with no disrespect to the eventual top finishers, this was probably the best chance for a result for that team this season. It even made team co-owner Sarah Fisher curse, and justifiably so. But, I would love nothing more than to eat crow on that one.
To his and the team's credit, it was a genuinely impressive run by Newgarden after fuel pressure related issues cost the team the entirety of Friday, and Josef completed all of zero full laps.