Indy cars light up Fort Worth with pit stop challenge

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Drivers and crews from two of the top NTT IndyCar Series teams got competition for the DXC Technology 600 underway early with a pit stop competition Thursday afternoon in nearby downtown Fort Worth.

Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud squared off against Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden in the Cowtown Pit Stop Challenge presented by Speedy Cash. Enjoyed by hundreds of fans during the lunch hour, the event took place on Second Street adjacent to the Fort Worth Central Library – some 20 miles south of Texas Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night’s race on the 1.5-mile oval.

Before Thursday’s competition, Pagenaud told the fans they would be in for the ultimate sensory experience, with the sights and sounds of engines roaring, ethanol fumes and tire burnouts.

Simon Pagenaud with pit stop challenge trophy“It’s fast, it’s loud and it smells great!” the recent Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner exclaimed to the crowd. “It awakens your senses.”

Similar to other pit stop competitions, the Fort Worth event had drivers competing side-by-side to see who could speed into the pit area, have a four-tire change performed and speed across the finish line the quickest. After ousting their respective teammates in the first round, Pagenaud’s No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet crew defeated Rosenqvist’s No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda crew in the championship round.

“Did you guys see these amazing pit stops?” Pagenaud asked the crowd. “Whether it’s the (No.) 10 car or the 22, it was phenomenal. These guys, they’re the best in the business. I want to thank them very much because I wouldn’t have won the Indy 500 without them.”

While the payout for winning the pit stop challenge paled to the $2.6 million the Frenchman earned for winning the Indianapolis 500 on May 26, Pagenaud was proud to lay claim to the trophy presented by Speedy Cash.

“Any trophy is the most important trophy for a race car driver,” he said, adding that the synchronized effort of his crew is akin to watching a fine symphony perform. “Each one of the mechanics work really hard at making the best pit stop possible. It’s quite an orchestra, it’s quite impressive.”

Pagenaud received a reprieve in the first round against teammate Newgarden, when he failed to recognize the command to go given by three-time Indy 500 winner and Fort Worth resident Johnny Rutherford. Newgarden won that heat uncontested but agreed to make a second run, which Pagenaud won to force a tiebreaking third run that Pagenaud won to advance.

Rosenqvist edged Dixon by an eyelash in the first-round matchup of Ganassi drivers, a finish so close that it had to be reviewed by videotape replay. Even though there was no monetary prize on the line, Rosenqvist knew the competitive juices would flow.

“It’s not really serious, there’s no points, but it almost becomes even more serious because it’s a little championship once you get at it,” the NTT IndyCar Series rookie from Sweden said. “I think maybe for the (crew) guys as well, the mechanics who work so hard, it’s kind of their time to shine a little bit more.”

Dixon is the defending champion of the DXC Technology 600 champion. Practice for the weekend begins at 8 p.m. ET Thursday and streams live on NBC Sports Gold. A second practice is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday (also on NBC Sports Gold), ahead of NTT P1 Award qualifying at 6:30 p.m. (NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

Saturday’s race will be the 31st for Indy cars at TMS since the track opened in 1997, Race coverage begins at 8 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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