The Move: Gateway Grand Prix
On a night dominated by boxing, Indycar delivered
Saturday was arguably the biggest sporting night of the year. Especially in the city of St. Louis. Mayweather v. McGregor was a global event that captured the attention of almost anyone with a pulse. Boxing fan or not, outside of my elderly boss and few buddies of mine that happen to work graveyard shift, no one I know missed that fight. But if we hone in on the great state of Missouri, there was roughly a combined 80,000 plus people attending the Cardinals v Rays (STL 6 — TB 4) and Indycar at Gateway Motorsports Park. It was Indycar’s first time at the venue in 13 years. Fortunately for the fans, the race did not disappoint.
Things got interesting before the race even started with Tony Kanaan spinning on the pace lap. While trying to get heat into the tires of his Honda, the new track surface proved to be too slick for cold Firestones. Even with the subtle throttle punch, TK found himself backing it into the wall causing some light damage. Lap one proved to be even more destructive as podium sitter Will Power lost it coming out of Turn 2, collecting Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato with him. From then on out things seemed to settle down, for the most part. Until points leader Josef Newgarden pulled “the move” on teammate Simon Pagenaud. After coming off a caution it was Newgarden and Pagenaud battling up front for the lead. Pagenaud held the lead going into turn one, but Newgarden got a good run in the draft. Pagenaud tried to squeeze Newgarden low but I’m sure, out of courtesy, didn’t push him too far. Teammates, right? Newgarden proceeded to dive inside of Pagenaud entering turn one, “hip checking” him out of the way, claiming the lead and going on to win the Bommarito 500.
This extends his points lead, solidifies his first oval victory of the year, and pisses off the reigning champ in the process. This has been a hotly debated topic the last few days. With some saying Newgarden was wrong and others claiming “you gotta do what you gotta do when championship is on the line”.
On a track that proved difficult to pass and at times was looking like a repeat of the Phoenix snooze-fest, Newgarden made a super ballsy move. A move that goes to show how racecar drivers are just a different breed than your average car enthusiast. Going into turn one at 180 mph, wheel to wheel with another car, let alone a teammate, and allowing the sidepods to kiss, all for the win is why we became racing fans isn’t it? It’s to watch human beings do things that defy most levels of normal thinking. Was it right? Maybe.
Pagenaud is forth in points, this is the third to last race of the season. Newgarden is hired to win races when possible, within reason and safety of course. Pagenaud was trying to impede the clearly faster car/driver with a defensive move. The offense, in this case, prevailed. JoNew was faster and made a moderately questionable move that could have just sealed him an Indycar championship, at just 27 years old. Outside of running someone off track or into harms way ( See Lewis Hamilton v. Vettel at Azerbaijan) i’m all for a driver making a statement and risking it all for glory. Think what would have happened if Newgarden had wrecked Pagenaud: he would have ruined his race, ruined Simon’s race, crashed into a teammate, and given Scott Dixon the win, who is second in points. In conclusion: chaos would have ensued.
Josef Newgarden made a statement Saturday night just like Floyd Mayweather did for the sport of boxing. He proved that despite his age, he will not be denied what he deems as his. He took a risk, laid it out there for the world to see, made it work, and reaped the glory. I can respect that. Only difference is, Mayweather did it in under 30 minutes and took home more money than Newgarden will probably make in his entire career. Needless to say, JoNew is on his way to possibly the next step in his career: an Indycar Champion. With balls like that, soon Josef will have just as many haters as Floyd. Hats off to JoNew and Team Penske. On a night where 40,000 people chose your product over others, Indycar delivered.
Thanks as always for reading. Catch more content like this here on the Daily Apex or over on my publication, Destination Driven.