Simon Pagenaud made Roger Penske wait for his first win as a member of Team Penske, but he picked a fantastic spot to get it. The Frenchman got it done on the streets of California, winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in the third round of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. It’s the fifth career IndyCar victory for Pagenaud, who retains his lead in the championship standings, which now stands at 14 points over Scott Dixon. Simon’s winning margin was just 0.3032 seconds, which is the closest finish in Long Beach history.
Dixon was right on Simon’s tail in the final two turns, but was unable to overtake him. Helio Castroneves started on pole and led the most (47) laps on Sunday, and joined Pagenaud and Dixon on the podium. Juan Montoya and Takuma Sato rounded out the top five. For the first time since 1989, there were no cautions during the race. The last time IndyCar had a caution-free race was in 2013 at Mid-Ohio.
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Box Score
The controversial warning that was issued to Pagenaud has drawn the ire of Scott Dixon, Mike Hull, and the rest of the Ganassi organization. That is understandable, but Robin Miller also suggests that the paddock has already lost respect for Race Control. Miller stated that in each drivers’ meeting this year, they have consistently said that there would be no more warnings given. It was the first major decision that they were faced with, and it’s been met with mixed reviews.
IndyCar issued a statement on the ruling shortly after the race: Simon Pagenaud’s actions during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach were deemed an infraction per Rule 126.96.36.199. “Lane Usage” of the INDYCAR Penalty Guidelines: Failing to follow designated procedures entering or exiting the pit area, including the proper use of the acceleration and deceleration lanes. The penalty for this infraction ranges from a warning (minimum), putting the driver to the back of the field (mid) and drive-through or stop and go/hold (maximum). INDYCAR race stewards determined his actions were not severe enough to warrant a harsher penalty than the warning that was issued.
While Sato carried the torch for Honda on Sunday, many of the other drivers struggled. Graham Rahal was moving through the field in the opening laps, and had a decent car throughout the race. He was running on fumes on the final lap, and dropped to a 15th place finish. Ryan Hunter-Reay was the last car on the lead lap, and finished 18th. His teammate Marco Andretti was behind him in 19th, in what was an incredibly disappointing weekend for the Andretti Autosport drivers. They finished 12th, 18th, 19th, and 20th on Sunday.
James Hinchcliffe had himself a solid weekend, finishing in 8th after starting in 7th. While their Penske and Ganassi teammates had all of the fun in the top four, both Tony Kanaan and Will Power had very quiet afternoons. Neither really made any noise, as they finished 6th and 7th respectively. Sebastien Bourdais moved up from 14th to finish in 9th, and Josef Newgarden rounded out the top ten.
The next race on the schedule is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, at Barber Motorsports Park on April 24. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 3 PM ET on Sunday. This is the last race before the series heads home to Indianapolis for the Month of May.
Race Photos via IndyCar
Juan Montoya: “It was actually pretty easy physically and it was not a problem at all. Track position was everything. We shorted our first run and I don’t understand their mentality there but I think we just made a mistake. I saved a ton of gas and then we short pitted and I still didn’t beat anyone. We didn’t gain anything and the second one we went all the way, as far as I could go and I think it was much better. We had one of the faster cars but track position is everything. I caught Helio (Castroneves) from like two seconds out, in like two laps and got there and there was nowhere to pass. It was tough. Our Verizon Chevy was good all day, so it’s a good points day.”
Helio Castroneves: “It was actually fine as long as we keep the rhythm and as long as we keep one rhythm. It’s only good in the beginning we were leading a lot of laps. A little bit of strategy. And we caught traffic and the guy decided to come in at the same time and that basically killed us and we ended up losing two spots. At the end of the day, congrats to Simon, it is the first win for him and Team Penske. At least I’m glad that one of the Team Penske guys ended up getting this victory and let’s go for the next one.”
James Hinchcliffe: “It’s been a bittersweet day, really. It was nice to come away with a top 10 in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car and we had a good first stint. We stayed out of trouble and kept up with the guys in front of us. On the first pit sequence, timing was bad: just as we had finished our stop and was about to be released, we had to hold for a bit because Munoz was entering his box. This ultimately cost us getting out and Takuma (Sato) was able to jump us in the stops. That’s really what differentiated us, he had that little bit better track position and stayed in front of the guys in the next round of stops to come away with a top five. I think we had his pace, definitely had more pace than the guys ahead of us right at the end. We just didn’t have the opportunity to get around them. When there are no cautions like this, it takes strategies out of the mix and unfortunately became a bit of a fuel saving race, which is never fun for us and not the best show for the fans. But we brought the car home, we were quick all weekend and hopefully we can take this momentum into Barber next week.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “We were gambling a bit on the strategy because we were towards the back of the field for the start of the race. We knew that the No. 7 SMP Racing car was one of the fastest cars on the track but our strategy just didn’t pay off. There were no yellow flags so that’s life. The good news is that we know we had a good pace and we were faster than most of the cars, so… next time.”
Max Chilton: “It was a really fun, exciting race. It could have gone two ways and it ended up not being too bad. In the start I struggled with constantly getting caught in traffic and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We had a really good strategy all race, especially the last stint when we did a full fuel stint when the others didn’t and ended up struggling a bit at the end. I was able to catch a couple of cars in the last five laps and then get past Rahal at the finish line. It’s not the best result, but considering where we started I don’t think a 14th place finish is all that bad.”
Scott Dixon: “It was definitely a pretty fierce battle up front, a bit of lapped traffic, some pit stop sequence, people trying to pit short, go longer, etc, so it was quite exciting for in and out (laps) and when to use your overtakes and things like that. I think on the last one we got caught off guard a little bit before the pit sequence had already been finished, and then to hear when we’re coming down the straight that the 22 was just coming out, we had actually backed off already and started saving fuel. With the gap that we had on Helio, I really didn’t think we had to worry about too much and didn’t get any warning from the pits. Obviously that scenario was a lot closer than we anticipated, and then when we got to Turn 1, it appeared that Simon turned a little early and crossed the line that you’re not meant to cross. But it is what it is, so second place today, and Team Target did a hell of a job, and pit stops were clean, and I think we had really good pace, but personally I think we should have won the race.”
Tony Kanaan: “NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing had a really quick car for today’s race. We struggled all weekend in practice to find setups that worked and then really came through in qualifying to get up toward the front for the race. The car was strong and I don’t think we made barely any changes during the race, but we just couldn’t make the passes we needed with no yellows and everyone up front on a similar strategy. I’m not thrilled with a sixth-place finish, especially when I know how strong the car was but we’ll take a top-10 finish and build on what we have for Barber.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a tough day at the office. I am very proud of the California Baptist University – KVSH Racing crew…everything well done in the race. It is just a shame. Yesterday (qualifying) didn’t really put us in the position to contend any higher than we finished. The car was pretty good today. We made some big moves and passed six cars in total, moved up five positions. I am just proud of the guys. We just did a good job. There were no yellows (caution flags) and not many more opportunities to move higher than what we did. So, kind of disappointed that we finished ninth at Long Beach, but happy that we took ninth under the circumstances.”
Will Power: “We had that unfortunate pit stop. Sometimes it takes longer. I can’t complain. My Verizon Chevrolet crew is phenomenal. We qualified where we qualified and were able to get another top-10 finish. Congratulations to Simon (Pagenaud) and the No. 22 team. That’s a great win for him and Team Penske.”
Takuma Sato: “We’re very pleased about today’s result. With no cautions we had to save fuel from Lap 2 which was a tough game. But we kept cool and it was just a matter of who could do the best job. When I needed to, I pushed like hell. Passing Tony Kanaan and challenging Juan Pablo Montoya for fourth, that was a thrill. The team did a fantastic job in the pits and got me out so I could push so hard. The car worked great so we’re very pleased.”
Graham Rahal: “I think we just made some mistakes today overall and put ourselves in a bit of a bind. With our strategy, we really needed a yellow but it’s what we needed to do to try to make up some ground after starting 17th and we did there for a while. We coasted across the finish line with no fuel and barely made it. It kind of stunk for me today because I had a great car, I just couldn’t do anything. I’m proud of the PennGrade boys because they worked hard this weekend. I put them in a hole yesterday. And once again the stops were great.”
Conor Daly: “We made the right calls today, we did what we could do. I felt like I passed a lot of cars. I got by (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, (Carlos) Munoz and a couple other guys. It really felt like I was making progress but everyone just kind of sorted themselves out. I’m really surprised it went green all the way. That was my first full green Verizon IndyCar Series race so that was tough. When I lost a spot to (Charlie) Kimball, the rear came all the way around in Turn 8 and I was just drifting towards the wall thinking here it goes but I saved it. We have to come out of it with the fact that we’re the highest finishing rookie and, overall, I think we did a great job.”
Luca Filippi: “I had a good start, side-by-side with Munoz. He gave me enough space and we went around Turn 1 and everything was fine until then. Eventually something happened in front of him and had to avoid somebody and he turned suddenly to the left and hit my wing. From there my front wing was broken and we chose to wait before changing it because I was able to continue and we didn’t want to lose too much time in the pits with an extra stop. It was difficult though because we lost about 10 percent of our aero balance and downforce so I was limited by the car’s aerodynamics. It’s a shame because after a while, nothing was happening in terms of yellow flags so we decided to change the wing for the last stint and we had the fifth fastest lap of the race and we had a strong pace at the end. It could have been a different race. It’s a bit of a shame, normally with this kind of racing you can have a problem and with other things happening in the race you are able to recover and come back and still have a chance but it wasn’t like that today. Next time will be better.”
Josef Newgarden: “Well, not the weekend we wanted! But, it’s always good if you get a Top 10, so points wise, not the worst weekend. Also, not the best weekend! With the way the race shook out, qualifying probably hurt us more than anything today. No yellows and tough to pass, but the race car was dynamite. The whole Fuzzy’s Vodka crew has been working their tails off and we had no real missteps this weekend. We had a little bobble there on the last pit stop, but we’ve got some of the best guys in the paddock. It’s going to come down to just qualifying better and running away with the thing, so next weekend that’s what we’ll try and do at Barber!”
Simon Pagenaud: “It is pretty cool. I tell you this is my favorite street course, like I said before the event. So winning here, especially in INDYCAR with the level of competition so high, it is amazing. That PPG car is good luck on me. Every time I have been in that car I have been on the podium. It’s awesome, glad to represent those guys and Chevrolet. They gave me a hell of a piece of equipment. And it’s my first win with Roger, so ‘check.'”
Carlos Munoz: “A really disappointing race. I ran the whole race with a broken wing, that didn’t help. It’s kind of weird, we saw some cars that we didn’t think we’re going to make it through the last lap on fuel, but they did. I don’t know what we’re doing. We’ll have to have a look at our car. I am a bit disappointed in 12th, we will see where we’ll go. I don’t know what to think about Barber (Motorsports Park), but here we were not strong at all.”
Marco Andretti: “The stuck throttle sensor really ruined the day for us. I came up to the green (flag) and I had no power, the car just shut down and that was that. From there we were never able to gain enough ground to get back in the mix. The guys did a good job in the pits, the car had good pace but the day was too far gone.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We really missed it this weekend – in a big way. We have a ride compliance issue where we just don’t have enough grip. In the race I found myself just racing myself; just trying to keep the car off the wall, that was the main exercise all day. Barber is a nice, smooth road course and we had a good test there so hopefully next week will look better for the DHL team.”
Charlie Kimball: “I feel like the No. 83 Tresiba® Chevrolet recovered really well. Everyone on Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing was disappointed with qualifying yesterday but we rolled the dice on strategy today and we were really hoping for a yellow at some point to make the strategy a little healthier. I can’t say I’m happy with an 11th place finish, but I know we were fast enough to be in the top five and it’s a good recovery after our qualifying yesterday. We’ll carry this momentum into Barber on Friday and Saturday to try to qualify up front and ultimately race up front on Sunday, especially after proving that once we’re racing strong we can stay strong.”
Alexander Rossi: “Super frustrating. The result for all of us (Andretti Autosport) was not good and we need to work hard the next couple days prior to Barber. On my side, I think we were much more competitive than we were in St. Pete. Unfortunately, we had a stall on the second stop and the car wouldn’t re-fire so that kind of ruined our race. I think compared to the other cars we were much more competitive on the No. 98 side, but still we’re missing something as a group that we need to find out as soon as possible.”