For the third-straight Verizon IndyCar Series race, points leader Simon Pagenaud prevailed as the winner.
Sporting a bright yellow Menards livery, Pagenaud dominated the race’s opening stint and regained the lead during the final pit cycle to take the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, his third victory of the season for Team Penske.
“The momentum we have right now, the little domination is incredible, not only because you don’t see this happen often, but because this is the Verizon IndyCar Series… When you can have perfect weekends like that it’s incredible.
“The level of talent that the drivers and the teams have is incredible. It feels like living on a cloud, being in a dream.”
The decisive moment came during the races final stops. Pagenaud entered the sequence in third, trailing leader Conor Daly and teammate Helio Castroneves. However, the Frenchman’s stellar Team Penske crew mixed with Pagenaud’s exquisite in and out laps saw him turn a four-second gap into a five-second lead.
On an unusually cold track, Pagenaud’s driving history made all the difference.
“(The track) was very different today than it was yesterday, but with my sports car experience, I’ve experienced a lot of out laps like today.
“My stints in sports cars at LeMans, (pitting) at 3 a.m. really helped me.”
From the moment Pagenaud inherited the lead, it was smooth sailing to the end.
Finishing second to Pagenaud was Penske teammate Castroneves. The Columbian crossed the line 4.4748 seconds behind his teammate to end a strong performance for one of IndyCar’s top teams.
“Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug,” said Castroneves of finishing second to teammate Pagenaud. “Even though second place isn’t what we wanted, I’ll take it. If you would have told me at the beginning of the race that (I) would’ve finished second place, I would’ve said, ‘I’d need a lot of luck.”
James Hinchcliffe worked his way around Daly in the closing stages to claim a third-place finish for Schmidt-Peterson Racing. The result was Hinchcliffe’s first podium since last season’s victory at NOLA Motorsports Park, coming at the site of the vicious crash that left the Canadian out of his machine for the second half of last season.
After his return to IMS, Hinchcliffe confirmed that he finally had closure from the incident.
“For me, such a big part of it was just getting back into a racecar, so 99% of it was done in September. But to come back here and get back on the track… For me, it’s over and done with. It’s in the past, and so far the present’s working out pretty well.”
Graham Rahal drove through the field from the tail end of the grid after failing post-qualifying inspection to claim fourth.
Charlie Kimball rounded out the top five, with Daly, Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi completing the top 10.
There were two caution flags on the day. The first came in the opening lap, when Tony Kanaan and Sébastien Bourdais made contact going into the circuit’s first corner.
The second came on lap 38, when Bourdais’ wounded machine stalled in Turn 1, changing the pit sequence and allowing Castroneves and Daly to join the leaders for the final runs.
About the author
A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.