Simon Pagenaud Wins at Barber

At the end of last season, many people began to question if and when Simon Pagenaud would begin to reward Roger Penske for adding him to the team. It’s safe to say those questions are long gone now.

Today, Simon won his second consecutive race of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, holding off a furious charge by Graham Rahal. The Team Penske driver led 84 of the 90 laps on Sunday, and increased his lead in the championship to 48 points over Scott Dixon. In the four races this season, Simon has two wins, two poles, and two runner-up finishes. He’ll carry that momentum into the next event on the calendar; the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Simon won the inaugural race on the IMS road course in 2014.

Rahal ran into trouble twice in the closing laps, essentially driving without a front wing after contact with Pagenaud and the lapped car of Jack Hawksworth. He still managed to finish 2nd for the second year in a row. Last year’s winner, Josef Newgarden, joined them on the podium after an impressive move around Will Power. Power ended up 4th, and Juan Montoya rounded out the top five with a phenomenal run, after starting the race in last place.

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Box Score

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James Hinchcliffe had another solid run, finishing in 6th place, while Helio Castroneves followed him in 7th. Three of the Ganassi drivers (Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Dixon) rounded out the top ten. It was a disappointing day for Dixon, who got spun by Sebastien Bourdais on Lap 3, and dropped to 20th. He rebounded nicely though, setting a race lap record of 1:08.4533 seconds on Lap 66. Andretti Autosport drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti each improved seven spots from their starting positions, finishing 11th and 12th on Sunday.

The race was similar to last weekend’s event at Long Beach, in regards to passing. It’s already a tough course to pass on, but the race went essentially caution-free for the second time in a row. There were plenty of hold-your-breath moments, where drivers were going wheel-to-wheel around the 2.3 mile road course. Hinchcliffe and Kanaan were two of those mixing it up, which was sensational to watch.

The last ten laps of the race however, were absolutely incredible. The battle that was had between Pagenaud and Rahal was epic, and there was action on every lap. In the end, the damage was just too much for Rahal to hold onto the lead.

This is the 6th career win for Pagenaud, and the 180th win for Team Penske. “In the end, Graham really caught up and he gave me a good piece of driving that was amazing from him,” Pagenaud said. “I put my hat off to him for that. He got me really excited … after I went off track. I said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to get that one back no matter what.’ We had so much pace in the car that I could get back to him, and then it was about being aggressive.”

With a quarter of the season in the books, the series now turns its focus to Indianapolis, and the Month of May. The next race on the schedule is the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 14. ABC will provide coverage of the race, which begins at 3:30 PM ET from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Race Photos via IndyCar

Driver Quotes

Juan Montoya: “The Verizon Chevy was very good. We had a good car all weekend, but just in qualifying, our tires just didn’t come in. I don’t know what happened and we’ll go back and look at what went wrong there. We knew we had a fast car. It was fun and we made some good moves today. On the red tires, I ran them all day pretty much. They were wearing at the end a little bit, but we kept pushing it. At the start of the race, if you would have told me I would have finished fifth, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’m pretty happy where we finished and now we look ahead to Indy.”

Helio Castroneves: “We started on the black Firestone tires with the AAA Chevrolet and we stayed just inside the top 10 all day. We couldn’t seem to move forward, unfortunately. Strategy-wise, it was very tough to pass out there. I got held up by a group at one point, then we just started blistering tires. They were down to the cords at one point. So all of those details resulted in us finishing seventh. At least we collected points for the championship. Now, let’s move forward to Indianapolis.”

James Hinchcliffe: 
“It was a solid day. Being able to move up a couple spots was good. We struggled a little bit more than others with tire degradation, so it forced us to stop early a couple times, which meant we were saving fuel in those runs there. All in all, the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was really quick, maybe just a little bit rough on tires, but it’s good two weekends in a row to come out with strong finishes and we’ll hopefully keep this momentum going into the month of May.”

Mikhail Aleshin: “Well, that’s what happens when someone doesn’t use their brain. The rest of the race was bad because I got hit in the back of the car at the start and then someone hit me on my front wheel. The car was completely unbalanced after that. Something was bent, so the job was done before it even started.”

Tony Kanaan: “We had a top-five car but made a bad call on the tires. We should have gone to reds but went to blacks when everyone else was on reds. We got passed by three cars and could never make it back. All in all, we had great stops. The NTT guys did a great job in the pits. It’s one of those things. It could have gone right for us but it was the wrong call this time.”

Sebastien Bourdais: 
“Obviously not what we wanted today. I feel really sorry for Scott (Dixon). He was collateral damage in something that was not in any way his fault. I was fighting with Graham (Rahal), side-by-side with him, trying to hold position and Scott was probably trying to do the crossover on the inside in Turn 5 on someone. I was boxed in. Scott in front and Graham on the right, there was no escaping from there. It is my fault, so I have to apologize for that. It is a shame because the car had pace. I held the gap with Simon (Pagenaud) despite running into some traffic. I definitely had the car to contend at the front. I just couldn’t show it. I am very disappointed for the Europa – KVSH Racing guys. They worked really hard all weekend. This was a wasted opportunity, but there is nothing I can do about that now, so just move on and try not to make a mistake like that again.”

Will Power: “The Verizon Chevy boys worked really hard to keep us up in the forefront. We had a good car going into it. However, we had a slower pit stop on our last pit stop and that’s how we lost track position, from P2. Then on the last lap, we caught the train of cars and didn’t have enough time to make that back up, unfortunately. Passing is very hard here. It’s not the finish we hoped for, but, overall, I’m proud of the Verizon Chevy team and we’re excited to go back to Indy. We’ll definitely look for better results there.”

Takuma Sato: “At the start it was ridiculous that (Carlos) Munoz punched (Mikhail) Aleshin before the green flag. I avoided them and gained a few positions but then on the restart, I lost all (of them) in Turn 2. There were lots of cars on the inside and a car had a moment. I avoided him, but then I had moment and dropped the left side in the dirt and went to the back of the queue. The ABC boys did a good job in the pits. Our strategy to pit early and attack worked because I was able to gain some positions. Then the mission was to save fuel and we did. We did everything we could.”

Graham Rahal: “It’s just a racing incident. (Jack) Hawksworth was on the outside of (Turn) 5, and I thought he was going to stay out and he just caught me out. He was going to let us by, it was just the direction in which he was and Simon was very good in Turns 2 and 3. I know that I had to get a good run out of (Turn) 5. I was better than them in (Turn 5), and you know, all in all our front flap, the right front flap, broke on Lap 40. We were doing the whole race without the front wing as it should have been. So it was a tough battle to stay with those guys in the first place. So ultimately I am proud of those MiJack boys. They keep working hard and obviously had a great result for us. We should have won today. There is no doubt that we were better than (Pagenaud). Honda has done a heck of a job putting us in this position. We can race with these guys. We are getting close. We are going to keep working to make them proud. We aren’t giving up anytime soon, I can tell you that.”

Conor Daly: “The start was bad. It was just a massive stack up and the same thing that happened on the first start was about to happen on the second start if I didn’t just jump out of the way of the guys in front of me. We have to think about the way we start these races. I hate rolling starts. I think we should be doing standing starts on road courses. It was just tough from then on. It was a difficult race. It’s just a shame. Plus, it’s almost impossible to pass out there. We made a few passes work but it doesn’t matter when you’re that far back.”

Luca Filippi: “The start was good. There was a bit of a mess in Turn 5. Everybody had to slow down quite a lot and I was on the inside. Somebody turned around on the outside, so everybody suddenly came closer to me, and I had a bit of damage on my front wing. It wasn’t big but we had to carry that for the entire race. The balance of the car was still good but we probably lost a bit of overall downforce and performance. The pack was so tight and the pace was the same for everybody so the strategies and pit stops became very important. I was quite happy with the balance of the car and I don’t think our pace was that bad. It’s just that it didn’t work out as I wanted it to. Unfortunately, every time I was leaving the pits on new tires, I always had someone in front of me so I never could make the strategy work as we wanted. It didn’t really turn our way.”

Josef Newgarden: “Pretty decent weekend for sure!  You know, it’s great to go out with a great result in the Fuzzy’s car. We have the 100th Running bottle so everybody has been pretty excited about that. So I was really happy to get a good result for those guys. It is going to be a really fun month of May for sure. We have JR (Hildebrand) coming back on board for the next race, for the Grand Prix and then we are all back together with Ed (Carpenter) for the 500. I think this is a great lead in for our team. Really proud to be a part of this group and everything that we are doing. We were good today. I think we were there, we just didn’t have enough for those first few guys. We will regroup and try to do a little bit better. We weren’t far off. So I am pretty proud of everyone.” (You got passed Will Power, that’s something to say and you did that last year, too): “Yeah I got him a couple times. I think I have his card right now and it’s going to be fun racing him all year. I can’t believe he let me do that twice to him. I got him in the beginning and then I thought he would learn and then I got him again. It got a little tighter on the second on but I got him again. So it was fun at least getting some racing in today. I can’t believe we went no yellows. I don’t know what’s going on just that everybody’s keeping their heads cool. A little bit of racing but obviously we would like to be a little higher up.”

Simon Pagenaud: “I tell you it is impressive. Thanks to everybody. We are just on a roll. The car is amazing and I am so comfortable driving that PPG Car. And Chevrolet man, those guys. I always tell Jim Campbell after a good race; it’s the best equipment you could give us on the racetrack. So thank you so much for that. First and foremost, I am just so excited. Another green flag race I guess. We made it exciting at the end for the fans which is great. I am happy there was some action.”

Carlos Munoz: “We had to restart the race in the back (after the Lap 1 yellow). On the first start everyone started to pack up and brake. I couldn’t avoid hitting (Mikhail) Aleshin. They put us in the back of the grid, that didn’t help at all. After that the rest of the race had no yellows, and with no yellows it’s hard to move to the front or do any strategy, so it is what it is.”

Marco Andretti: “It was an extremely hard fought race – were just really struggling for grip as a team. We got a bit of track position on the start for the hhgregg/Snapple car, but that’s all we could do. We were just hanging on. We’ve had four well balanced race cars this year, just no grip to the front runners.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “That was a lot of hard work for P 11, I don’t even know what to say. With no yellows coming out- we needed at least one yellow for our strategy to work out. We had nothing, no help. We’re really looking for some luck this year at some point, hopefully we’re saving that up for Indy. We’ve had nothing, if not bad luck this year. The race running green just went against our strategy, we only picked up seven spots.”

Jack Hawksworth: “We didn’t get a good start because (Mikhail) Aleshin got hit [by Carlos Munoz] and spun in front of us and I had to go off track to miss him. They sent all of us to the back. On the reds, the car had a lot of understeer. We went to blacks on the third stint, and it was OK and we saved a lot of fuel. We had to go to used blacks on the last stint and it wasn’t very good. I got hit by Aleshin at the end (lost four positions) and that was it.”

Alexander Rossi: “Yet another day where we could have used some yellows, but they didn’t come. It was already going to be difficult starting from 20th. Our pace on the alternate tire was not good, but I think the primary tire was decent – we need to understand why we lost out on that. Again it’s not a great team result but we brought the car home and we need to work really hard for the Angie’s List Grand Prix (of Indianapolis).”

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