IndyCar point leader Simon Pagenaud beat Scott Dixon out of the pits on a questionable pit exit violation and held off the defending champion for a nose-to-tail finish in the 42nd running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
It was the closest finish in the 42-year history of the race in a race run all the way without a caution. It was also run at a record speed.
Polesitter Helio Castroneves was third ahead of Juan Montoya and Takuma Sato in front of a sun-drenched crowd that was on the edge of their seat from start to finish.
The race was clean all the way with no cautions, a testament to the quality of drivers in the 2016 IndyCar series.
In 42 years it was only the 4th caution free running of the Long Beach race and the first since 1989.
All the cars were still running at the end of the race as well. The last time that happened in an IndyCar race was at Texas in June 2011.
It was Pagenaud's first win since being hired by Roger Penske and he gave Penske his 179th IndyCar victory but it wasn't without controversy.
On the last pit stop as Pagenaud was exiting the pits, he crossed the dividing line between the pit exit and the race surface a bit too early and his wheels went over the line as he turned left into turn 1 just in front of a charging Scott Dixon.
The rules says that if you cross the line with your wheels it's a penalty.
However, the race stewards chose to give Pagenaud a warning instead of a penalty (which is allowed by the rules) and I feel it was a borderline call.
Perhaps a more fair call would have been to make Pagenaud fall behind Dixon and then race for the win.
Starting the 80-lap race third, Pagenaud took his first lead on Lap 52 when teammate and pole sitter Helio Castroneves made his final pit stop. Pagenaud was able to push two laps farther before stopping for fuel and tires, exiting the pits just ahead of Dixon and Castroneves.
INDYCAR race stewards warned Pagenaud for improper lane usage exiting the pits, but he was able to lead the final 25 laps to collect the win in the first Verizon IndyCar Series caution-free race since Mid-Ohio in August 2013 and the first completely green-flag race on the often-chaotic streets of Long Beach since 1989.
Dixon, in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, believed Pagenaud should have been assessed a stronger penalty, but was resigned with the runner-up finish that kept him second in the standings. Pagenaud leads with 134 points after three of 16 races, Dixon has 120 and Team Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya is third with 106.
"It appeared that Simon turned a little early and crossed the line (exiting the pits) that you're not meant to cross," Dixon said. "But it is what it is, so second place today and Team Target did a hell of a job."
|Dixon, Pagenaud and Castroneves wave to the fans after the race|
SIMON PAGENAUD, NO. 22 PPG AUTOMOTIVE REFINISH TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, RACE WINNER:
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DREAMING ABOUT WINNING THIS RACE AT LONG BEACH?
“Yeah, 2006 was my first American race right here. So, a lot of memories, you know? The funniest one was in Sports Car when I won on the last lap. But, this one, holding (Scott) Dixon, that’s a lot of work. I’m just so proud of the guys. As you saw, the pit sequence just won it; was just awesome. I don’t know what to say. The PPG car is actually good luck for me. Every time I’m driving this car I get good results. Hat’s off to Ben (Bretzman), my engineer. A big gamble, as you know, paid off."
THAT BIG GAMBLE WAS TRYING REALLY LOW DOWNFORCE IN PRACTICE AND YOU DECIDED TO GO AHEAD AND GO THAT WAY “Yeah, with the package the way it is, it’s so hard to pass. The only way to pass is to afford running less downforce in the corners and be fast on the straights. So, I had to take care of the tires a lot, but we managed to do it and to be in position to pass people. Whew! It’s awesome."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet): "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 (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "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 (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "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 (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "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 (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "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 (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): "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 (No. 11 California Baptist University-KVSH Chevrolet): "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 (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "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 (No. 15 PennGrade Motor Oil Honda): "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 (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality Honda): "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 (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "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 (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "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 (No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "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 (No. 27 United Fiber & Data/Snapple Honda): "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 (No. 28 DHL Honda): "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 (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet): "I feel like the No. 83 TresibaÂ® 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 (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): "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."
|4||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||80||12.2162||1.3786||2||1:08.942||0||5||Chevy|
|19||27||Marco Andretti||79||1 LAPS||21.8494||3||1:09.329||0||21||Honda|
|20||98||Alexander Rossi||79||1 LAPS||10.0771||2||1:08.995||0||16||Honda|
|21||41||Jack Hawksworth||77||1 LAPS||34.2527||3||1:09.243||0||20||Honda|
Winners average speed: 100.592
Time of Race: 1:33:54.4835
Margin of victory: 0.3032 of a second
Lead changes: 6 among 4 drivers
Castroneves 1 – 26
Dixon 27 – 28
Kimball 29 – 30
Castroneves 31 – 51
Pagenaud 52 – 54
Pagenaud 56 – 80
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 134, Dixon 120, Montoya 106, Castroneves 92, Kanaan 82, Hunter-Reay 68, Power 62, Rahal 59, Kimball 58, Aleshin 57.