Coming off a tough two days last weekend at Road America, Simon Pagenaud and the No. 22 Menards Dallara/Chevrolet overcame a problem in qualifying to go worst to first, winning the opener of a pair of night races at Iowa Speedway on Friday night.
Things started bad for Pagenaud on Friday afternoon, with a mechanical problem in the fuel cell kept the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet from taking a time in qualifying, resulting in a 23rd-place starting position. When the green flag flew, Pagenaud began making quick work of the field, rocketing from 23rd to 15th by lap 12.
Knowing they’d have to play pit strategy, team strategist Kyle Moyer called the Frenchman to the pits in a well-timed strategic stop that saw him receive fuel, tires and a front wing adjustment. When pit stops cycled out, Pagenaud found himself quickly in the top-five.
Things got even better for Pagenaud when a timely caution following his second stop of the day trapped several of the other lead cars a lap down. Shortly after the restart, Pagenaud took the lead away from Pato O’Ward on lap 178.
Pagenaud would hold the lead until the checkered flag, holding off Scott Dixon by a half a second. He led a race-high 83 laps on the night.The win was Pagenaud’s 15th-career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory and his first of the 2020 season.
"Wow. This place is tough. But what a night. What a day for us. First of all, amazing group effort from the whole Team Penske group to recover from Road America. We unloaded really well. This morning was really fun. Qualifying was disheartening, but these guys never give up. And that’s what this team is all about. It’s amazing to get the Menards car to be shining here in Iowa is awesome. I’m really proud for John [Menards] and everyone at Menards and Chevy. Obviously we had the horsepower and fuel consumption but most importantly I can’t believe it. I have to rewatch the race. How did I get there? I don’t know but the last 50 laps were certainly a lot of tension. When Dixon is chasing you, you gotta hit your marks. It certainly wasn’t easy with lapped traffic and I knew we had a really good car on long runs. That was really my chance. I was really keeping up with my tires and the behaved really well, the Firestone tires tonight. I was a little worried about the McLaren guys because they pitted for new tires and new tires had so much speed so I was a little worried. In the end, just thanks everyone at Team Penske. And thank everyone who supports us. That was an amazing team effort. Thank you. If I have to do it again, this was certainly a cool win on an oval. Indy will always be the top but this one was pretty cool too."