Simon Pagenaud won the first Verizon IndyCar Series race on the IMS Grand Prix road course by .8906 of a second over Ryan Hunter-Reay.
NDIANAPOLIS (May 10, 2014) - Simon Pagenaud wrote his page in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway history books along with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) when he won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday, May 10 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Pagenaud won the first Verizon IndyCar Series race on the IMS Grand Prix road course by .8906 of a second over Ryan Hunter-Reay. It was the third career Verizon IndyCar Series victory for Pagenaud and SPM.
"I have to thank the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team," Pagenaud said. "There's no way I could have done that alone today. They gave me a really, really good package this weekend. We were fast in every session. I knew going into the race that we really had a shot at a win, starting fourth."
Pagenaud and SPM found the perfect balance between speed and fuel conservation in the No. 77 Honda-powered car to find victory lane. He took the lead for good on Lap 78 when Oriol Servia dove into the pits for fuel. Pagenaud then stayed out front over the last five laps on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile circuit, holding off Hunter-Reay and hard-charging three-time Indianapolis 500 Helio Castroneves, who had plenty of fuel.
"I didn't know exactly what the other strategies were, so I didn't know who was going to be my competition. I knew Hunter-Reay was on the same fuel-saving mode. But I was very worried about Helio (Castroneves)."
Pagenaud has finished in the top five in all four Verizon IndyCar Series races this season. That consistency has placed him third in the championship standings, just six points behind leader Will Power.
"We've truly proven that this team is a championship contender," Pagenaud said. "It's fair to say that we are where we want to be, fighting for wins every race weekend. This team excels because the people working on it are very dedicated and very smart. The group on the No. 77 car is very strong, and we're extracting 100 percent of what we have to give right now."
The novelty of winning an inaugural race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was not lost on Pagenaud.
"Two really special things happened today," Pagenaud said. "The first was that Mario Andretti gave me the Grand Prix trophy this afternoon in Victory Circle. I obviously look up to Mario, and this is definitely the biggest trophy in my collection now. It's also a huge honor to be the first to win the Grand Prix of Indianapolis."
Rookie Mikhail Aleshin was eliminated from the Grand Prix of Indianapolis before making it to the Turn 1 on Lap 1. Pole sitter Sebastian Saavedra stalled during the standing start, and rookie Carlos Munoz ran into the back of his car, pushing him directly into Aleshin's path.
"I had a good start, but when I saw the cars coming together in front of me, I couldn't do anything," Aleshin said. "It was just too late. I was in the start of fifth gear going 70 mph. At that speed, when you don't see the car until it's 10 feet in front of you, there's not much you can do. I was just preparing myself for the impact at that point."
Aleshin was not injured in the incident, but damage sustained to the No. 7 SMP Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone prohibited him from returning to the track. He was credited with 25th place.
"We had bad luck yesterday with a penalty and then even worse luck today with that incident," Aleshin said. "That's racing, though - this sport is about ups and downs. We had a low moment today, but we'll be back here tomorrow practicing for the Indianapolis 500. We're not staying down long."
Pagenaud's Grand Prix of Indianapolis victory celebration will be short but sweet as practice for the 98th Indianapolis 500 begins at noon (ET) Sunday, May 11. "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" is scheduled for Sunday, May 25.
"Winning today gives me a lot of confidence," Pagenaud said. "That's very important before going to the Indy 500. It's a good dynamic for the team, for myself and for my confidence level. God knows how confident you have to be around here on the oval."
1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve will join Pagenaud and Aleshin on the historic, 2.5-mile oval for SPM starting Sunday.