Simon Pagenaud mastered the game to advance 12 positions at Sonoma Raceway and earn a third place podium finish.
SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 24, 2014) - Fuel save was the name of the game Sunday at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, and along with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM), Simon Pagenaud mastered the game to advance 12 positions at Sonoma Raceway and earn a third place podium finish.
Rookie Mikhail Aleshin started 12th and finished seventh in Sonoma, scoring his seventh top-10 finish this season.
Pagenaud struggled to find speed in his No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda during qualifying on the 12-turn, 2.385-mile road course, but with the help of his teammate settled in on a more effective setup after the morning warm-up practice session Sunday.
This morning I never thought we would have finished third,
"We truly struggled this weekend, but Mikhail found something during our final practice that really worked," Pagenaud said. "We threw Mikhail's set-up on my car before the race, and I was able to be competitive."
Three clean pit stops throughout the 85-lap race helped Pagenaud move up through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, and the Frenchman turned into a fuel saving machine after his final stop on Lap 59.
"Sonoma is a hard track to pass on, so we really made the race in the pits," he said. "The pit stops were awesome, and that's what made us jump so many positions. Our fuel strategy was very frustrating though, very tough for me. I had to save so much fuel, but in the end we made it to third, which is fantastic."
Pagenaud is third in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, 81 points behind leader Will Power. Point values are doubled at the season finale next weekend at Auto Club Speedway for the MAVTV 500, which means Pagenaud is still within title contention.
"This morning I never thought we would have finished third," he said. "I'm delighted, and we're going into Fontana with a chance at the title, which is very important to me and the team."
The Russian rookie
Rookie Mikhail Aleshin started the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma 12th, and drove a clean race to finish seventh.
"The weekend started off very poorly for us, but we were making improvements to our car all the way up to our final warm-up session this morning," Aleshin said. "This team doesn't give up, and we showed that today getting good results with both of our cars. It always feels good when your hard work pays off."
The Russian is looking to end his rookie Verizon IndyCar Series season on a high note at Auto Club Speedway next Saturday in the MAVTV 500.
"We had a tough weekend here in Sonoma, but we came out with a good result," Aleshin said. "I am excited to get back on the oval at Fontana and close out my season in the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda with a good result."
The Verizon IndyCar Series resumes action Saturday, Aug. 30 in the MAVTV 500 for the 2014 season finale. SPM will participate in an open-test on Auto Club Speedway's 2-mile oval Wednesday, Aug. 27.