|Simon Pagenaud in favor of NASCAR 'Lucky Dog' rule|
A little more than a year ago, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud moved to North Carolina to join Team Penske. Apparently, a hint of NASCAR has crept in.
After emerging with Sunday's difficult victory at Barber Motorsports Park, the Frenchman waded into waters most IndyCar supporters staunchly avoid.
"It's just a shame we don't have the 'Lucky Dog' because then you could really race," Pagenaud said.
NASCAR instituted the procedure to allow the highest-running car not on the lead lap to regain a lap each time a caution flag waves. While the provision is rooted in entertainment – it keeps more cars in contention – it also softens the blow for a car being lapped by the leader. It often helps the leader, too.
In the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, slower cars being stalked by the leader impacted the outcome. Pagenaud spent considerable time trying to clear Conor Daly, and that allowed Graham Rahal to erase a 6-second deficit. Later, Rahal had a similar, albeit shorter, issue with Jack Hawksworth.
Rahal ran into the back of Hawksworth's car as he glanced down briefly and missed Hawksworth's attempt to get out of the way. The contact broke Rahal's front wing and from there he was no match for Pagenaud, who soon passed him for the lead for the final time.
Pagenaud and Rahal did not complain about the slower cars because they know traffic is part of the game. Daly and Hawksworth had reasonable pace and seemed to be driving smartly.
But this isn't the first time even this month that traffic has played a pivotal role. It also happened at Phoenix International Raceway as James Hinchcliffe ran in front of the leaders for most of a fuel stint.
"I've been in that position before," Pagenaud said of the slower car's situation. "It's a judgment call from the driver (when to let the leader go). It's the rules. He's just playing by the rules, and that's his right.
"I used to get upset about it but now I understand better that it's the rules. If there was a yellow he would have been back with a chance to (improve his position). So I get it. Is it frustrating? Absolutely."
IndyCar has no plans to adopt NASCAR's procedure because navigating traffic is part of the leader's responsibility. Curt Cavin/USA Today