Pagenaud wins inaugural GP of Indianapolis
The starting order for the race looked like a small track event after someone drew out the “invert all” ball. Sebastian Saavedra was the surprise pole winner, taking advantage of a combination of rain woes and mishaps by the regular pole contenders. Next to him was IndyCar rookie Jack Hawksworth, who was in the process of quitting auto racing before getting the call to drive for BHA.
The carnage started early in this one. Pole sitter Saavedra’s car stalled in front of the field when he dropped the clutch, and was collected first by Carlos Munoz and then heavily by Mikhail Aleshin. Aleshin’s car ended up on top of Saavedra, who fortunately had been able to pull his hands back into the car between the time he signaled a problem and impact.
Once the race resumed, Jack Hawksworth put on a clinic. There is no doubt that this guy can be a contender. He ran with red “alternate” tires for the first half, which no doubt helped his cause, but it was pit miscues that doomed the effort. On the first trip to the pits, he had trouble leaving, and then later his team called him into the pits after he was past the pit entrance, putting him into a green flag pit situation. Still, he finished 7th, and no doubt the team knows it has a winner.
On lap 42 the yellow flew for a spin by Scott Dixon, who was trying to get around Will Power at the time. Dixon struggled all day, finishing 15 and only unlapping himself in the last couple of laps of the race. Power likewise had a disappointing day, finishing 8th.
In the ensuing pit stops, strategy reared its ugly head. Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Justin Wilson, Carlos Huertas, Helio Castroneves, Oriol Servia and James Kimball all stayed out, giving them track position. The first pitted car – Simon Pagenaud – started 8th, and ensured a day of fuel mileage and pit strategy.
The restart after that showed an issue that needs to be addressed by race control. As the cars came to the green flag, the leader didn’t pick up speed until the assigned area – but the cars in the back didn’t get that memo. Juan Pablo Montoya – already having a bad day, including almost hitting Castroneves on the warm-up lap as well as stalling on the standing start event and running a lap down – hit Graham Rahal in the rear. Rahal was taken out, finishing 21st, and JPM finished 16th. Rahal later commented, “Starts are pretty stupid and you can’t see back there. Someone is gonna get hurt out here. They need to let the leader go early.” And in fact, the next start was handled differently, with a later green flag on the restart.
During the green flag, there was a trend in who pitted. Justin Wilson (Honda), Hunter-Reay (Honda), Simon Pagenaud (Honda), Marco Andretti (Honda), Huertas (Honda), Oriol Servia (Honda), Tony Kanaan (Chevy), Plowman (Honda) and JPM (Chevy) pitted. At that time we wondered if the Honda teams might in fact have a fuel mileage surprise for the Chevys. Jack Hawksworth (Honda) was supposed to pit too, but he didn’t get the call until he was past the pit entrance, and that effectively ended a great chance at winning the race.
The race restarted, but on lap 57 debris flew from one of the cars, striking fan favorite James Hinchcliffe in the head. James was in obvious pain, and radioed his crew that his visor was broken. He was taken to the hospital, and finished 20th on the day.
At the restart, Helio was in the lead, followed by Charlie Kimball and Hawksworth. Simon Pagenaud was the first car with any chance to run the fuel to the end, but that would take unheard of fuel mileage discipline. On lap 61 Hawksworth pitted, followed by Kimball on lap 69, and Helio on lap 70. Oriol Servia was in the lead until he pitted as well, leaving the race a fuel mileage dual between Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay. In the end, both cars finished – Pagenaud winning the race, Hunter-Reay’s car running out on the warm-down lap but with a runner-up trophy, and Castroneves finishing third.
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda): “This car was unbelievable. The engine. The fuel we’re saving is amazing. With the pace it was nerve-wracking. I’ve got to tell you, I was worried about Helio (Castroneves) coming back and I didn’t know what (Ryan) Hunter- Reay was doing either, so I just kept working. My lap time was saving fuel, being off throttle. I don’t like racing off throttle. But it worked out, thanks to the whole (Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports) team. I think it’s amazing. The car that they provided me this weekend was definitely the fastest, and we got the win, so thanks to everybody” (About becoming the first Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner): “It’s pretty cool. It’s awesome. Obviously we work for this every weekend and… this year we’re in the hunt for the Championship. But here looking at the Pagoda, it’s very emotional. Very happy. My dad’s here and he never comes here so it’s amazing.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “That was a really close call (at the start of the race). That was such a close call and we made it through that. The rhythm got kind of strange there. Everybody doing different strategies, but it was a lot of fun. Would rather not have saved fuel at the end. But the team put us on the right strategy, so thanks to them. I thought maybe we had a shot that time but hopefully we’re saving that last step of the podium for the big race at the end of the month, The 500… Thanks to all the fans that came out and made the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis a success. We really appreciate it. We’ll see you tomorrow going the other way.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Verizon Team Penske): “Sometimes you’re just there and you’re going for it. I guess you just didn’t want to take a chance with the fuel. But at the end of the day, I’m happy with the result. I’m ready for practice tomorrow and I’m ready for the Pennzoil car, too.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): “This is a great day for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. My engineer, Brad Goldberg, and my team manager, Tom Wurtz, gave me the right pit stops at the right times and just let me go race the car. There were so many different strategies going on and all of those yellows made it challenging for our strategy because we had to run hard towards the end just to get back up into the top five after that last stop. I think without that last yellow at the end we might not have had to fight as hard to get back into the top five and could’ve possibly finished even higher. Overall, I’m just really happy with the guys. We needed this result, especially with the Indianapolis 500 coming up.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Mistic KVSH Racing): “I knew this race was going to be a bit of a crash fest and sure enough it turned into one, but I am sure it was exciting to watch. It was one of those days when you feel you have the pace, if you can just keep your front wing on and not get hit you can usually have a good day, a good result and earn strong points and that is what we did. I am really proud of the Mistic E-Cigs crew. They did awesome pit stops and the car was strong. We faded a bit at the end on new tires, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a strong finish and that was what we were shooting for this weekend.”
CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "The race went pretty well for me until we had a slow pit stop and we lost a couple of places. The fuel didn't go it, the total amount that we needed, and we had to make another stop otherwise we would have finished easily top four, maybe second or third."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Honda): “I don’t know. Everything happened really fast, you know…I was really in the back. I was already in 5th gear. I was really close to the car in front of me. I just saw him go to the right. I had to go to the left but was not fast enough. I wasn’t okay to go a little to the left side and not to crash him just in front and just to crash him with my rear front…Everything went wrong. When you’re qualifying so bad in the rear you can expect these kind of things. Not to forget tomorrow starts another race so we’ll just concentrate on tomorrow and move on. I feel sorry for my guys. They work hard all the time really hard.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 98 Charter/Castrol Edge Honda): “It was a shame. We had the race under such good control in the beginning. The car was perfect. We got lost in that yellow and then we got shuffled back. It cost us some points. It’s disappointing because we could have won the race. It was and IndyCar race and anything can happen. We just have to move on to the next race. The car was okay late, I pushed so hard on the rights. We did our best. I feel good about the oval; it will be a different challenge. We will be back with a good car as usual.”
MIKE CONWAY (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “We had a good start and I started picking my way through some guys. I went to the right and I heard on the radio that (Sebastian) Saavedra had stalled. I stayed inside and I could see that the car was stopped. I went for the spot that was open along the wall. (Carlos) Munoz was in front of me and he misjudged the space and clipped Saavedra. That moved Saavedra’s car out just enough that there was no enough for me and it caught me. That put me into the inside wall and we broke the right side suspension, front and rear. The ECR/Fuzzy’s boys did a great job fixing it. And all I could do was go back out and salvage his points. We tried to learn something with couple of setup changes. Still need to pick up some speed but it was good to get some points and I think we are in 6th now.”
MARTIN PLOWMAN (No. 41 Alfe/ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "That was a very eventful day for the #41 Alfe Heat Treating Car. The start of the race I had a very good first stint and I managed to pass three or four cars on track. We had a really good pace on the reds. [The engineers] were telling me I was keeping up with the leaders times. Then we pitted for black tires and that was not as good. We a had a bit of oversteer but were still doing okay. Then we just caught the yellow which helped us so we were looking really good on the strategy. But then on that restart we got bottled up behind Marco and then got a run on him into turn 7. A car went on my outside to make it three-wide which pushed me further to the inside. Then under braking I got caught out on the debris on the inside, which locked the rears up instantly, and then I was just a passenger. That was a tough break there. I was just flying through the air thinking, 'This is going to hurt really bad.' Luckily we came out of it unscathed. The car was in relatively one piece. We got it started again on the lead lap and were still running in the top 15. We had a chance to come back with a gamble at the end. We decided to pit and go onto red tires early. Normally a stint is 22 laps, but with 28 laps to go we decided to gamble and save fuel. So the last 28 laps were in heavy fuel save mode. A couple of guys, the leaders, pitted and they came back to pass me but we were having to stick to our plan of saving fuel. Then at 5 laps to go, we were almost clear to race until the end when the rear suspension broke. It was a shame. I think we definitely had a chance to be a top 10 car at the end, but we learned a lot and we handled a lot of different situations well. I'm not happy with the result, but it was a fun race and the boss is happy. And if he's happy, I'm happy."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 8 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Chevrolet): : “It’s a really exciting result for us. I wasn’t confident after we got the penalty in pit lane early on in the race, but we had a couple of really strong restarts and the car just came to us as the rubber went down on the track. The No. 8 NTT DATA Chevrolet just got better and better as we went through the race. I’m really happy with the result from today and it’s just a great way for the NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing crew to roll into the month of May.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “What an eventful race. The initial start was tough because we’ve been having a small issue with the clutch since yesterday. Last night we had a good look at it and tried to solve the problem but there still seems to be an issue so I couldn’t get off the start and I was delayed massively. Maybe that’s why I could avoid the accident on the initial start but some debris knocked out our telemetry and we had to replace the nose because debris lodged in it. On the second start I could see a big black chunk flying towards me and I couldn’t move over because there was a car next to me and a wall on the other side. But I could see it coming and I tried to move my head but it brushed my helmet and then there was a big hole in my headrest. Very close but very fortunate that I missed that debris. We damaged the right mirror and head protector. Then I had what I thought was a puncture but because we lost the telemetry at the start, we couldn’t tell if the pressure was going down. So we had to pit and change the tires and we lost a lot of places. But after that we kept on pushing and were able to make up some positions on the restarts. There were many accidents that happened in front of me but I was able to avoid them. We got our lap back in the end and we got a top 10. It was a tough race but it was really good. A big thanks to the whole ABC Supply team—they did a great job.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “The start was crazy and we had bad luck, but in a way good luck. A tire flew in the air and landed in front of my wing. And actually for half of the straight I was pushing the whole tire in front of me and I was afraid to jump over it and break more stuff. Luckily it only broke the front wing. Then we changed the wing but I think something else got bent because the whole race I was very, very loose to the right hand corner. I almost stopped early on but then we changed the front wing angle to balance it and the car was reasonable. We were not super quick but at the end we knew that we either had to save a lot of fuel like some of the guys which meant we couldn’t attack and finish seventh or eighth or try to win. If there was just one more yellow, we could easily get to the end. We only needed one yellow. It was a chance to win and when we were leading, that’s all we needed was one yellow but it didn’t happen but it was definitely fun. From starting where we started, I think we came back really strong. We’re ready to attack the month of May very aggressively.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet): “It was a tough day for the Target car. We had good pace and got a good start to the inaugural road race here for the Indy cars. The turning point of the race for us was really battling with Power. We had a moment right before I spun where he didn’t give me room, and then the next time he opened the door, closed it, and I locked up the tires and spun. Not the day we wanted obviously but we need to focus on tomorrow and prepare for the 500.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet): “Not the day we wanted today but the restarts were really tough and people needed to pay more attention. I think our cars are improving but now it’s time to turn the page with the Lexar car here for the grand prix and starts having some fun getting ready for the 500.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "The race went pretty well for me until we had a slow pit stop and we lost a couple of places. The fuel didn't go it, the total amount that we needed, and we had to make another stop otherwise we would have finished easily top four, maybe second or third."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We had a winning Verizon Chevrolet today, to be honest. It was very frustrating to have all the problems we had. Got off on the wrong foot at the start. We did what we normally do on a standing start; I dropped the clutch and it just stopped. From there we were behind, but even then we were catching everyone. The lead pack knew we were coming. I really thought we were going to win the race. Then we had the problem in the right rear and lost a lap. That was it. We had a good run but just weren’t able to finish were we should.”
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