Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet put on a passing clinic for all to see Saturday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as he won the sixth annual IndyCar Grand Prix. He made smooth move after smooth move in the rain, passing the cars who were in front of him after the last restart. Pagenaud, who started eighth, lived up to his words said after qualifying “I enjoy driving in the rain, so we will put on a good show tomorrow.” After the race, he said “I love racing in the rain. I grew up on it in racing. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Left to Right: Simon Pagenaud. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.
This is the third IndyCar Grand Prix win for Pagenaud, and his 12th IndyCar victory. His last win was 22 races ago at the Sonoma season finale. Todays victory marks the fifth straight IndyCar Grand Prix win for Team Penske, and its 205th IndyCar win. Pagenaud won the first one racing for Schmidt Motorsports. Pagenaud said “It was amazing the whole race. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I thought everyone was saving fuel; I was just so fast. Chevy did a fantastic job giving us the horsepower. Third time – I’m equal with Will (Power). That’s awesome; we kept it in the Penske family. I can’t believe it; it’s awesome. What a race!” He led twice, for five laps.
Runner up for the third straight year was Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, who lost the lead to Pagenaud on Lap 84 of the 85-lap race. Dixon led three times for 39 laps – the most of any leader. This is the third straight runner-up position for Dixon this season, and third consecutive time time he’s finished runner up in this race. ” It was a tricky race. It sucks to obviously lead that many laps and come up short, but again, congrats to Simon (Pagenaud), he drove a hell of a race and it’s nice to see him back in Victory Lane.”
Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Meyer Shank Racing Honda came in third, his first podium and highest IndyCar finish. This was Harvey’s first time running the road course race. “It wasn’t an easy race, but we put on a great show for everyone. It’s my first podium in IndyCar and I can’t wait to keep this momentum going for the 500. You can see how happy these guys are about getting a podium, imagine how happy they will be when we finally get a win!”
Weather was the concern all afternoon. The race started in the dry, which then segued into drizzle and finally into rain, causing drivers to scramble to put on wets. This was one of the more exciting races this season, with 11 lead changes among six leaders. Most lead changes were during pit stops, except for the final one which provided drama and suspense. Would Pagenaud be able to overtake Harvey and Dixon for a much needed victory? He did, smoothly for the most part and with a little rubbing with Dixon for the final pass. The Margin of Victory was 2.0469 seconds.
Also having his best IndyCar finish was Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet, coming in fourth, after starting 21st. He gained the most positions-17-of any driver in the race. Leist had been running third near the end of the race, having made some smooth passing moves on veterans. Then Pagenaud put the move on him after the last restart, and Leist finished fourth. “Just finished our best result here in IndyCar. It’s an awesome place to have my best finish in IndyCar. And about the race, it was just another tough one. We started from 21st and it had been a pretty tough weekend here until the race. But the good thing about this team is that we never gave up and we always kept going, we always kept working hard and trying to improve as much as we could. Today before the race I was like ‘Man, today I want the rain to come so we might have a shot here.’ I was probably the only one on the team who wanted it to rain, and when it started raining and I was restarting the race in P4 I knew we had a shot. I knew we could stay there and finish up there and that’s exactly what happened. Just so glad for the team.”
Spencer Pigot/No.21 Autogeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet finished fifth. He started 12th, gaining seven positions in the results. “It was a really tricky race that threw everything at us. I had a lot of fun as I was able to pass a lot of guys in the dry and I thought our pace was really strong. The rain was teasing us the whole race. The team made a great call to go on the wets when we did as we were able to jump a handful of cars. I’m happy with fifth and it was a good, strong finish for me. Ed Carpenter Racing has done a great job and I want to thank ECR, Autogeek and Chevy for all their hard work.”
Pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda led the first fifteen laps before being passed by Dixon. He finished eighth, the top placing Rookie of five in the race. He said “It was a tough race, with a lot of things happening. It was kind of bad timing on some things, we had some bad luck and we had some errors here and there. I think the main point for us was we were still having issues with degradation in the front on red (Firestone alternate) tires mainly. I don’t know why it’s happening, but it’s something we are looking into. We came out toward the back on the wet tires, and I think we managed to get four or five guys in the end and ended up P8.”
There was the expected scuffle in Turn One on the first lap. Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda was the unlucky victim of the fracas, and he required rescue. He apologized to his crew for the short run. “Today was another disappointing day on the racetrack. The No. 88 GESS International guys can keep their heads up high because it wasn’t anyone’s fault. The guys worked flawlessly all weekend again and provided me a great car for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. I’m tired of not finishing a race, so hopefully, we get a good finish for the Indianapolis 500 at the end of the month.”
Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet received a Drive-Thru penalty for avoidable contact on Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti, which caused Rossi to limp to pits for repairs. Rossi finished 21st, four laps down, and O’Ward finished 19th, the last car running. He ran as high as second at one point.
Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda spun and hit the wall in Turn 14 on Lap 11, bringing out the first caution. Ericsson retired, uninjured. “We were struggling a bit to get close on the straights, so we were trying to get as close as possible through (Turn) 14, and I think I just got a bit too close and lost a bit of front downforce, understeer then snapped into oversteer and I just couldn’t catch it.
The second caution was again in Turn One, this time for Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, who was hit by James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. RHR was rescued and Hinch had to serve a Drive Thru penalty for avoidable contact. O’Ward got caught out in this also, but continued on. Hinchcliffe came in 16th and Hunter-Reay finished 17th.
The last caution was for Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. He spun on cold slicks on a wet track in Turn One. He finished 21st, two laps down.
The race was scheduled for 85 laps or two hours – whichever came first. It ran for 85 laps and lasted 2:00.28.1166 hours. Other leaders were Josef Newgarden/No.2 Fitzgerald Team Penske Chevrolet, who led twice for 20 laps, and remains the Points Leader; Graham Rahal/No.15 Mi-Jack Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda. There was periods of heavier rain, and a mad scramble of drivers pitting for rain tires. Rooster tails could be seen on the straights.
The grass is really as lush and green as it appeared on TV, thanks to all that Indiana rain.
1. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
3. (3) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running
4. (21) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running
5. (12) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 85, Running
6. (5) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 85, Running
7. (6) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
8. (1) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 85, Running
9. (7) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
10. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 85, Running
11. (10) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
12. (20) Zach Veach, Honda, 85, Running
13. (23) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
14. (11) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
15. (13) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
16. (18) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
17. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
18. (22) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 85, Running
19. (19) Patricio O’Ward, Chevrolet, 85, Running
20. (24) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 83, Running
21. (15) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 83, Running
22. (17) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 81, Running
23. (4) Colton Herta, Honda, 15, Contact
24. (9) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 11, Contact