Team Penske NTT INDYCAR SERIES Race Report - Thermal $1 Million Challenge

March 24, 2024

Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge (Non-Points)
Thermal, California - March 24, 2024



RACE RUNDOWN: Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet team were able to advance to Sunday's main event of the Thermal $1 Million Challenge weekend where hard racing resulted in contact with the No. 7 Chevrolet of Alexander Rossi that relegated him to an eighth-place finish. Along with his two Team Penske teammates, Newgarden was placed in the first heat race in which he qualified sixth in Saturday's time trials. A third-place finish in the heat put the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion sixth on the grid for the finale. A conversative approach to tire wear over the first 10 laps of the 20-lap feature placed Newgarden solidly in the fifth position at the halfway break before the second 10 laps. Unfortunately, he and Rossi made benign contact on Lap 11 the resulted on lost track position that Newgarden could not make up before the checkered flag. 

NEWGARDEN'S THOUGHTS: "Just really hard racing there with me and Alex (Rossi) and kind of a microcosm of the two strategies you saw today. We didn't quite go into the heavy tire conservation mode that he and others did over the first 10 laps before the break. You could tell it benefited him greatly and while the Hitachi Chevy was good today, I was just trying to hold him off. It was a great weekend here at Thermal. They rolled out the red carpet once again, and I think you saw today that this track could put on an entertaining show with more laps, tire degradation and pit strategies."



RACE RUNDOWN: Scott McLaughlin and the No. 3 XPEL Chevrolet team had their eyes on the $500,000 first-place check in Sunday's $1 Million Challenge at the Thermal Club before finishing in the second position. A fixture at the top of the charts all weekend, McLaughlin finished second in the first heat race to line up fourth for the 20-lap main event. He quickly moved into the second position behind Alex Palou when the finale began and finished the first half of the race in the same position. After saving some of his Firestone tires for the last 10 laps, McLaughlin tried to quickly get around Palou when racing resumed but was unable to make any maneuver work. From there he was able to easily hold onto the second position to grab the $350,000 check for the runner-up. 

MCLAUGHLIN'S THOUGHTS: "It all started I think with my heat race. I think I had a really good start. I was lucky not to get caught up with the kerfuffle with Grosjean and settled into a rhythm. Felt like we had a good speed in the heat race. In the final race, we were pretty conservative, looking after our tires at the start, being smart, knowing there's guys that were going crazily slow, almost too slow I feel like, from a racing perspective. At the start of race two, I tried to have a go at Alex, but ultimately he was just a little bit faster with that clean air. It was always going to be clean air was going to be king this weekend. I settled in, tried to maximize what we had today with the XPEL Chevy. That was second today."



RACE RUNDOWN: Will Power and the No. 12 Verizon Business Chevrolet team showed plenty of speed throughout the Thermal $1 Million Challenge weekend, but an incident in his heat race left him out of Sunday's finale. After qualifying sixth for the first of two heat races that set the field for the 20-lap feature, Power was forced wide on the opening lap of the heat while fortunately missing out on the carnage that collected several cars in the incident. After restarting from the 11th position, Power made up considerable ground over the remaining laps but finished two spots behind the transfer position in eighth. 

POWER'S THOUGHTS: "Just a bit unfortunate on the first lap to get pushed wide. Didn't want to get too aggressive there and lost a bunch of spots there. Almost made it back to the transfer spot but just needed a few more laps. The Verizon Business Chevy was really good and the track proved to be very racy."

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will head next to the historic Grand Prix of Long Beach for the second points-paying event of the season on April 21st.