Pagenaud perfect again, scores third straight victory

Pagenaud perfect again, scores third straight victory
May 14, 2016, 10:57 PM

Simon Pagenaud drove a masterful race to conquer the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and take a 76-point lead in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Conor Daly, Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Charlie Kimball, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Charlie Kimball, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Conor Daly, Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Conor Daly, Dale Coyne Racing Honda

The Frenchman’s Team Penske-Chevrolet won by 4.478sec over teammate Helio Castroneves who held off James Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsport-Honda to cross the line just 0.6sec ahead.

The star of the race was Graham Rahal who charged from 24th on the grid to finish fourth in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda while smart strategy and unnecessary full-course yellow allowed Conor Daly’s Dale Coyne Racing-Honda a spell at the front. He would ultimately finish sixth, less than five seconds behind the highest-placed Chip Ganassi Racing-Chevy, that of front-row starter Charlie Kimball.

As in qualifying, some of Pagenaud’s strongest rivals – two of his teammates, Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya – shot themselves in the foot. Power’s error was a Lap 6 spin while trying to fend off Alexander Rossi’s Andretti Autosport-Honda; Montoya, was one of several drivers penalized for a pit-exit blend-line violation, although he climbed from 15th to finish eighth.

Story of the race

At the start, Pagenaud held onto the lead while Hinchcliffe jumped Kimball to snatch second, with Jack Hawksworth (AJ Foyt Racing-Honda) fourth and Montoya fifth. But behind them there was a coming together, as reigning champion Scott Dixon swung left to avoid skating into the back of Montoya under braking. Ganassi teammate Tony Kanaan did the same to avoid clipping the reigning champ, and there was Bourdais. The KVSH Racing car was pushed into the wall, and the Ganassi #10 pivoted around it, also striking the wall.

The big winner in that little slice of mayhem was Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay who from 15th on the grid, picked his way through to take seventh, a position he maintained when the green flew after four laps of full-course caution.

This time everyone behaved, as Montoya muscled past Hawksworth into Turn 1, but on lap 6, Power – running the harder primary tires – ran wide and spun on the wet grass, after trying too hard to keep red-tired Rossi behind him. The 2014 champ’s day would never recover, whereas Rossi passed Max Chilton’s Ganassi car for ninth just three laps later.

Up front, Pagenaud only gently stroked away pursued by Hinchcliffe, Kimball, and Montoya, as Hawksworth dramatically faded and was clearly holding up Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Mikhail Aleshin (Schmidt Peterson) and Rossi. Finally on lap 14, Dixon got through but was seven seconds down on Montoya, a gap he reduced to 2sec by the time most of the leaders pitted around the lap 20 mark.

By the time he pitted on lap 22, Pagenaud had a 4.5sec lead, but an extra fast stop by Kimball’s crew a lap later saw him emerge not only ahead of Hinchcliffe, but also Pagenaud.

However, on tires that were now getting up to temperature, the Penske driver had no problem passing his Ganassi rival into Turn 7.

That wasn’t a pass for the lead, however, as Graham Rahal who had started from the back of the field had taken on extra fuel under yellow, and was taking advantage of his light fuel load by cutting some fast laps up front. It meant that when he emerged from his lap 25 pitstop, the American was legitimately into eighth place and still charging. Ahead of him lay Pagenaud, Kimball, Hinchcliffe, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves (who had gone off-sequence by stopping on lap 13), and Rossi. Montoya was now out of the picture following his drive-through penalty.

Pagenaud had pulled a 4sec lead by the time the complexion of the race changed on lap 37. Bourdais had been sent back out, but ground to a halt. He was off the racing surface but a full-course caution was deemed necessary. This was elongated by JR Hildebrand’s Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevy running out of fuel on track, as the pits were closed.

Those who thought they had earned a chance to go off-strategy by ducking for the pits – in particular Power and Newgarden – were told that wasn’t the case as the pits had been closed by the time they hit pitlane, and so they were waved around to the back of the field.

When the pits did open on Lap 40, all the leaders stopped, leaving Castroneves up front with Daly right behind, and Hinchcliffe won the race off pit road to assume third ahead of Pagenaud, Kimball, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, and Rahal.

On Lap 46 the green flag waved and immediately Daly charged alongside Castroneves to take the lead, which he held for 14 laps, while Pagenaud and Kimball got around Hinchcliffe, and Rahal passed Hunter-Reay and Dixon to grab sixth.

After a lap-long battle, Hinchcliffe repassed Kimball on lap 47, and the following lap Rahal did the same. Dixon’s attempt to demote his teammate further ended up with him running wide on Turn 6 and allowing Hunter-Reay into seventh.

By lap 55, Daly was 3.5 sec ahead of Castroneves but then the gap started falling again and on lap 60 Daly pitted, Castroneves followed suit two laps later, and emerged ahead of Daly. However, Pagenaud was now in clear air to show his pace. With an in-lap 1.7sec faster/out-lap 1.9sec faster than his teammate, Pagenaud was into a lead he wouldn’t lose.

Castroneves was equally comfortable in second, as Daly fell off the Penske pace, until Hinchcliffe passed him on lap 70. On lap 76, Daly lost two places – to Rahal at Turn 1 and Kimball at Turn 7 – but the Noblesville native took a noble sixth for the little Coyne team. Dixon was within a second as he came home seventh, and Montoya passed Hunter-Reay for eighth with three laps to go.

Rossi finished 10th despite having to yield position for exceeding track limits, while compatriot Spencer Pigot finished a respectable 11th in only his second race, having taken advantage when Carlos Munoz spun in the closing laps.

Debutant Matt Brabham brought the Pirtek Team Murray KV Racing car home 16th, having spent many laps fending off Power’s Penske entry. Will’s disastrous day was capped by a pit exit violation after his final stop.

Final positions

1 FranceSimon Pagenaud   Penske (C) 1:50:18.5823
2 BrésilHelio Castroneves   Penske (C) +4.4748
3 CanadaJames Hinchcliffe   Schmidt (H) +5.0807
4 États-UnisGraham Rahal   Rahal (H) +7.0715
5 États-UnisCharlie Kimball   Ganassi (C) +7.4234
6 États-UnisConor Daly   Coyne (H) +12.1838
7 Nouvelle-ZélandeScott Dixon   Ganassi (C) +12.9226
8 ColombieJuan Pablo Montoya   Penske (C) +13.6912
9 États-UnisRyan Hunter-Reay   Andretti (H) +15.1933
10 États-UnisAlexander Rossi   Andretti-Herta (H) +16.3134
11 États-UnisSpencer Pigot   Rahal (H) +20.5172
12 ColombieCarlos Muñoz   Andretti (H) +29.6369
13 RussieMikhail Aleshin   Schmidt (H) +43.3094
14 Royaume-UniMax Chilton   Ganassi (C) +43.3785
15 États-UnisMarco Andretti   Andretti (H) +44.6339
16  Matthew Brabham   KV/Murray (C) +45.5107
17 ColombieGabby Chaves   Coyne (H) +47.0326
18 JaponTakuma Sato   Foyt (H) +56.3389
19 AustralieWill Power   Penske (C) +57.4410
20 Royaume-UniJack Hawksworth   Foyt (H) +1:03.7229
21 États-UnisJosef Newgarden   Carpenter (C) +1:08.6234
22 États-UnisJ.R. Hildebrand   Carpenter (C) +1 tour
23 CanadaAlex Tagliani   Foyt (H) +1 tour
Ab. FranceSébastien Bourdais   KVSH (C) +62 tours
Ab. BrésilTony Kanaan   Ganassi (C) +82 tours

C = Chevrolet, H = Honda



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