Simon Pagenaud said earlier this year that his favorite road course on the schedule is the 2.439-mile course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Simon started on Pole and won the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis for the second time on Saturday, after winning the inaugural event here two years ago. This is his third consecutive victory, and he finished runner-up in the other two Verizon IndyCar Series events this season. Simon’s lead in the championship now stands at a whopping 76 points over Scott Dixon. He clearly is on his own level right now, and has all of the momentum heading into the biggest race of the year.
Simon is the first driver to win three straight races since Scott Dixon in 2013 (Pocono, Toronto 1, Toronto 2). It’s his 7th career victory, and the 181st for Team Penske. “What a day. Three races! It’s incredible to win three in a row like this and here in Indy for me, it’s very special. I lived here for nine years so this place is very special in my heart,” Pagenaud said. “The car was fantastic once again. The balance was perfect all race.”
Pagenaud’s margin of victory was 4.4748 seconds, over his Penske teammate Helio Castroneves. James Hinchcliffe finally had some good fortune at IMS, and joined the two Penske drivers on the podium. Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball rounded out the top five. Pagenaud led the most laps (57) in the race, but had to re-take the lead on Lap 63 with a lightning quick (6.7 seconds) pit stop.
Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis Box Score
For Rahal, it was an impressive drive, finishing fourth after starting in 24th position. He continues to impress, as does fellow Honda driver Conor Daly. The Noblesville native put on quite a show just past the halfway point of the race. He got his Dale Coyne machine out in front, and quickly distanced himself from the rest of the field. He led 14 laps, and finished in 6th after starting back in 22nd.
It was a so-so day for Dixon, who suffered a broken wing at some point during the race, and never really had a chance to get to the front. The same was true for Juan Montoya, as the two finished 7th and 8th respectively. Andretti Autosport drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top ten. Rossi looked strong throughout the race, but was forced to give up a position on Lap 51, but seemingly gave up more than that. Still, it was a solid outing for the Rookie, who recorded the fastest lap of the race.
Another Rookie, Spencer Pigot, also turned some heads on Saturday. He finished 11th after starting in the 18th spot, and managed to drive a rather smooth race. Carlos Munoz, Mikhail Aleshin, Max Chilton, and Marco Andretti rounded out the top 15 on Saturday. It was another weekend to forget for Will Power. The 2014 series champion just hasn’t been himself over the last year or so. His last IndyCar win was in this race last year, making his winless streak now at 15 races. He spun early in the race trying to fend off Rossi, and never recovered. He finished in 19th position.
It was a disappointing weekend for the ECR cars. Josef Newgarden and JR Hildebrand finished 21st and 22nd in the race. After what the team went through last year in the Indy 500, this is not the start to the Month of May they were looking for. The only two drivers that may have had it worse were Sebastien Bourdais and Tony Kanaan. They got together on the first turn of the first lap. Kanaan was done, and Bourdais later ended his day with a mechanical failure.
The main event is up next. Practice for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 begins on Monday, where Rookie Orientation will take place from Noon – 2 PM. The entire field will be able to participate in practice from 2 PM – 6 PM. Open Wheel America will provide coverage at the Speedway each day, as practice will run from Noon until 6 PM during the week. Qualifications will follow on Saturday and Sunday.
Juan Montoya: “I struggled leaving the pits. I was on cold tires and I went down there and turned and the car never turned. I needed to go through the line and I didn’t manage to. It was really close, so I got on the brakes and tried to make it but I didn’t so I got a drive through penalty and pretty much ruined our day. At the beginning I was struggling a little bit, but we made a change to the car and it got a lot better. At the end we had a really good car.”
Helio Castroneves: “Great teamwork. Never give up. The hum Verizon boys – everybody was really in sync. We never gave up because we knew we had issues and knew we didn’t have the fastest car. But we had the heart, man. We had the passion. We put it out there and had a little bit of luck, obviously, but it all blends together. A great sauce. It turned out to be great momentum for the Indianapolis 500. I can’t thank the guys enough, but again – it was a total team effort.”
James Hinchcliffe: “It was great to be able to push and not have to save fuel. That yellow in the middle there kind of really helped everybody because the windows here were pretty small up to that point. We had a great car. Huge credit to everybody at Schmidt Peterson. The Arrow Electronics car was great all weekend. Missed the whole first practice. Managed to put it on the second row. Got caught up on some of the restarts there but the guys were awesome in the pits. We were way quicker than Helio but just didn’t have enough to get by him. Great result.”
JR Hildebrand: “It started out all right. We definitely made the car better. Josef and I were kind of running the same thing. The car had pretty good long run pace. We made up some spots, we got through our first stop and passed a few guys on track. We were looking OK but ended up getting caught out by a yellow and didn’t quite have the fuel in the car that we thought we did. We ran out of fuel and ended up going a lap down. At that point I don’t want to get in the way of anybody who’s running full time, but we had a consistent pace and made up the spots that were available to us. We needed a yellow to get back on the lead lap which we didn’t get. All things considered it was good to just get a race under our belts here. We’re rolling into the Month of May, the car’s in one piece and we can move forward with a few more live reps going to the oval. We’re looking forward to that.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “I think the team did a good job putting the No. 7 DOOM and SMP Racing car into the second round of qualifying. It was progress for us and P11 is a good place to start from. It’s going to be a long race and I’m confident that we can score some good points.”
Max Chilton: “It was a pretty frustrating race for the Gallagher team today. We got the car handling where we wanted it but when we got around other cars it just went off. We were around sixth or seventh and we ended up dropping to around P20. We did get to P14 but we need to get the car better when we need it at the start of the stint. I’m sure we’ll continue to work on that and I look forward to getting where we need to be.”
Scott Dixon: “At the start I didn’t feel a touch or anything. I thought (Tony Kanaan) was on my right, but it sounded like he was actually on my left. At some point we broke the front wing and we didn’t have any speed. We were just off and it was one of those days where we tried to work something and it didn’t play out for Team Target.”
Tony Kanaan: “It was a quick and unfortunate end to our day with the NTT Group car. It’s a very wide track here at the IMS road course and people were going three- and four-wide. Scott (Dixon) was trying to give me room and I was trying to do the same with others but it was just a racing incident. I don’t think it was any one person’s fault. It’s just disappointing and I wish we could have still been out there today.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “Obviously it was a disappointing end to the weekend for the Europa – KVSH Racing team especially since we damaged the car. I got a run on the outside of Scott (Dixon) and was up against the wall. There was still a reasonable amount of room and I was on my line. From what I saw, (Tony Kanaan) just got pushed a bit to the left and that was it. Tough luck.”
Will Power: “Unfortunately, things didn’t end the way we would have liked for the Verizon Chevy. We just weren’t good in traffic and were never able to recover from there. The front wing had some issues, so we took the time to change it during the second pit stop. Then we couldn’t capitalize on that caution because we were too far behind the leader. In the end, I could have finished a lot higher without the final penalty. It just wasn’t our day. The Verizon Chevy boys worked really hard today, though. We’ll just look ahead towards better results at Indy 500.”
Takuma Sato: “A tough and long day. I didn’t have the speed to compete. A lot of things were unfortunate as well. We really need to go back and see why we were not quick enough. At one stage we were competitive in Practice 3 but since qualifying we lost speed and couldn’t get it back. It was really a tough day but the boys did a good job on the pit stops. We fought hard but it was a tough one.”
Graham Rahal: “These are the days that build character. Our backs were up against the wall for sure. To come out and have a result like that is pretty awesome. Twenty-fourth to fourth is better than I expected today. With the cold I’ve got, I’m going to sleep well tonight. This one took it all out of me. The Steak ‘n Shake boys do a great job for me, great strategy again, topping off on that early yellow, going a little bit long on that stint, getting into that top eight, I think, after one stint was good. After that we just kind of chunked away. We were on the blacks at the wrong time when everyone else was on reds, but to still make up three spots on that (last) restart was pretty good.”
Spencer Pigot: “The race was really good. I think we had a really good first stint; I was able to pass a few people. The pace was good and the car was handling great. Unfortunately that yellow (for Bourdais) came out at a bad time for us but still we kept our heads down and had great stops. The guys did an awesome job. We were able to jump people every time we stopped. I’m just happy to be back in the car. I can’t thank Manitowoc, Mi-Jack and the team enough for the support. Now I will try to recover a little bit, rest up and turn all of the focus to the Indy 500. I’m really excited about that. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and now it’s only a few hours away.”
Conor Daly: “It was a great effort from the team. They put us in the right place at the right time and thankfully I was able to get around Helio (Castroneves) on the restart and go from there. It was a crazy race, even after the last stop coming out in traffic was just so painful but we tried our best to work around it. When Graham (Rahal) got around me I had no more overtakes left. I was really helpless and our rear tires were going away and Charlie (Kimball) got a good run on us. The other manufacturer is really hard to keep up with on the straight so he was able to get me but I had to hold on to what we could do. We just lost the tires at the end. But it was awesome to lead laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s a good way to kick off May here.”
Gabby Chaves: “It was the first race back for me. We had the potential just like our teammate did. We were on the same strategy as Conor (Daly), we just got caught by a safety car at the wrong time. A few seconds difference and we would have been right there as well. We could’ve had a double team run for the top six. We just got unlucky with the safety car. I think I took a step forward as well, with this being my first race back and figuring everything out. It felt good in the car. We just have to keep working.”
Josef Newgarden: “It’s just a tough weekend all around. I’m proud of all of our efforts. We’ve got a lot of great partners here with Fuzzy’s and Preferred Freezer Services. It’s a shame we couldn’t do better for this first race in May, but the big show’s up next that’s what really matters. We’ll treat this as a warm-up and make sure we get all of our ducks in a row for the 500.”
Simon Pagenaud: “The car was fantastic once again. The balance was perfect all race. When we were in the lead, we were cruising, doing what we could to save the tires. But the car was just fantastic to drive. Charlie (Kimball) had a really good pit stop on the first one. I managed to get him on the outside on Turn 7. It was very difficult on cold tires so you could really make some ground on the pit sequence. After the first one I realized it was something to do with it. I let Kyle (Moyer) know. He already knew but that’s what we did the next two pit stops. We did the opposite and it worked. Thanks to my guys. Obviously, we had great last pit stops, too. Drove like a rally car into pit lane and that was it. What a day. Three races! It’s incredible to win three in a row like this and here in Indy for me, it’s very special. I lived here for nine years so this place is very special in my heart.”
Carlos Munoz: “That was a really hard race, we were pushing the limit of the hhgregg car the whole time – I really couldn’t push much harder than that. I made a mistake and went off of the track and that cost us the top 10. Now we have to concentrate to our big goal which is the ‘500.’”
Marco Andretti: “We had a decent warm up this morning, but the race didn’t pan out for us. It’s frustrating; I wish we were going into the 500 with more momentum than we are. The whole start to the season has been tough and we just can’t put our finger on it.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We started 15th and had a monster start – went straight up to seventh. From there we settled into a rhythm and everything was looking great, and then the yellow came out and my race kind of went sideways. We pitted early after that then I had to save fuel, it just snowballed. We found ourselves trickling back from fifth, lost a couple spots on the yellow and then found ourselves in ninth. It could have gone better, but we salvaged a top 10 for DHL on what was a pretty messy weekend going.”
Alex Tagliani: “I think out of our three cars, we had the strongest, we just got into some really weird situations on track. In regards of pace, we definitely had something to fight for a top 10 finish today.”
Jack Hawksworth: “The first stint wasn’t great but I thought we could hold our own. When we came in to put on the other reds we were P6 but we did not have a good pit stop. We fell way down in the order. We had some issues with the car after that and then the front wing broke and I didn’t hit anything, so that just added to the day we were having. It was a long day.”
Matt Brabham: “I think it was almost the perfect introduction for me to the Verizon IndyCar Series. I wasn’t sure how things like the pit strategies were going to play out, having never done a racing pitstop before, but the PIRTEK Team Murray guys were on fire with every single stop. The start was crazy, I nearly shat myself going into turn one – there was so much stuff that was flying around, the buffeting on my head was unbelievable. Due to the crash, we were able to get through clean and then settle into a rhythm for the race. The whole experience was definitely different, I had never done anything like the restarts, push to pass or pit strategies before, but it all went pretty smoothly!”
Charlie Kimball: “Frankly I’m a little disappointed with a top five, I think we were better than that today. I wasn’t awesome on a couple of the race craft pieces but we made progress in the pits. The Chip Ganassi Racing guys are always solid in the pits. We had a pretty good car, the Novo Nordisk car was solid, but the wake behind the Hondas seemed pretty big so I was struggling with that a little bit more. The conditions being so different I think we got caught out a little bit. The car was definitely better when it was warmer yesterday, but overall a solid day for the No. 83 car.”
Alexander Rossi: “Considering I think that the pace that we had was one of the best on track, it’s very disappointing to come away 10th. I would’ve been really pleased with a 10th a week ago, it’s weird how goals shift. We had a really questionable penalty which cost us quite a bit on the next to last stint- we’ll need to look at that and understand what that was because I don’t understand it. The team did a really good job and the car was pretty fantastic the whole race, it’s just unfortunate we came away 10th, but it’s something to build on for the future.”