Pagenaud trying to hold on as remaining 177 Texas laps are completed

Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud (Mark Blinch/CP)

Eleven weeks ago IndyCar began their scheduled race at Texas Speedway. Heavy rains and a water-logged track forced the event to be rescheduled for Saturday night. This weekend, if the weather cooperates, the series hopes to complete the remaining 177 laps and declare a winner but the complexion of the season championship chase has changed substantially since June.

When the Texas race began Penske’s Simon Pagenaud had a giant 80-point lead ahead of Scott Dixon, who was second in the overall championship standings. Pagenaud’s Penske teammate Will Power was trying to end a run of bad luck and climb back into the title fight. Power was forced to miss the season opener due to illness and was sitting seventh overall, 117 points back of Pagenaud.

As teams are set to reconvene in Texas, Power has won three of the five races and was runner-up in the other two since the June race suspension and climbed to within 20 points of Pagenaud – clearly his luck has changed. Dixon, meanwhile, has struggled and slipped to fourth overall, more than 100 points back of the lead.

Interestingly, we’ve seen this movie before with Team Penske. Nne of their drivers gets out front in the championship and seems to go into safe mode in hopes of securing the title. It’s happened with Helio Castroneves and the same could be said of Juan Pablo Montoya. Both have lost out on titles that seemed within their grasp.

Pagenaud is saying all the right things to suggest the “be safe” strategy isn’t his approach, but Power is the one who seems to be taking the fight to Pagenaud. The going-for-it approach worked for him in 2014 when he captured his first title. If he continues his charge and takes the championship it will be one of the greatest comeback stories in IndyCar racing.

When the green flag waves to resume action Pagenaud will be running 15th, Power in fourth.

Two drivers that will not be part of the event in Texas are Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden, who were involved in a huge crash that destroyed both cars and left Newgarden with a broke clavicle and bone in his hand. By the rule the cars are not allowed to be repaired and return to action, which is too bad for Newgarden who sits third in the overall standings.

Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe will lead the field to the restart on Saturday night. Hinchcliffe and other Honda powered entries have shown to be very competitive on high-speed ovals.

At the most recent race in Pocono, which ironically was also delayed by rain, it was Ryan Hunter-Reay who had the best car during the race but misfortune prevented him from capturing victory. An electrical glitch shut the car down and dropped him back in the field preventing him from finishing on the top step of the podium. RHR was still able to charge back and claim a third-place result and will restart in second at Texas. We saw a lot of aggressive driving in June at Texas Speedway; expect the same determined approach when action resumes Saturday night.

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