Simon Pagenaud emerged victorious from a chaotic IndyCar race on the streets of Baltimore.
The Frenchman was one of a cluster of drivers involved in a frantic battle following a late restart, and took the lead from Marco Andretti with seven laps remaining. As Andretti’s charge faded, Josef Newgarden emerged as the main threat to Pagenaud’s chances, and the Sarah Fisher Hartman driver managed to reduce what had been a 1.9-second deficit to 0.9sec within just two laps. But Pagenaud was able to pull away to win by 4.1sec. The win moves the Schmidt driver up to third in the points.
“We got very lucky on the restarts; we didn’t get collected. I pushed hard on the last restart against Marco and TK (Tony Kanaan). Awesome job for the HP team.”
Newgarden held on for second, putting the Sarah Fisher Hartman driver onto the podium for the first time in his IndyCar career, while Sebastien Bourdais was one of many to survive contact on his way to third for Dragon.
“I really wanted to give Simon a run for his money,” said Newgarden, who qualified a season-high fifth. ” I think we had the pace for him, we just had no brakes left.”
Aside from the late action, the race was defined by the proliferation of incidents, a string of disasters for the main title protagonists, and another development in the rivalry between Penske and Ganassi.
A long stretch through the middle of the race was held almost entirely under yellows due to constant accidents on restarts, but the most significant came when Will Power skewed toward the wall on the front straight and slammed straight into Scott Dixon, putting the Kiwi into the barriers.
The clash came just a week after Dixon was penalized for hitting one of Power’s pit crew at Sonoma, and the Kiwi’s anger was further stoked when IndyCar refused the team’s request to bring his car back to the pits so that it could attempt a repair in the hope of salvaging some points.
“The No. 15 (Graham Rahal) should have received a penalty (for spinning us) and the No. 4 (Oriol Servia) car passed us on a yellow. So that restart near the end was a complete botch,” fumed Dixon. “On the restart I had an overtake advantage on Power, it must have been in fourth gear, so they can’t complain about wheelspin. Then I got beside him and he ran me straight into the wall. Then, they wouldn’t bring the car back.”
Power accepted full responsibility for the incident.
“I feel really bad,” he declared. “We had a good start to the race in the Verizon car but then I made a mistake on the first pit stop and then the accident on the restart that really ended up ruining two good days. I thought I had a really good run on Bourdais and I was going to the inside to get around him, and I thought I hit a bump or just lost it on cold tires. I really had no idea that Dixon was there. I actually didn’t even know until I got back to the pits and they told me. I feel terrible for him and his team. All I can do is tell them how sorry I am and move on to Houston.”
Prior to the crash, Dixon had been in a strong position to capitalize on what was shaping up to be an awful afternoon for points leader Helio Castroneves, whose dramas included an accident at the start that required him to pit for a new front wing, a bad pit stop in which he was dropped off the jack before his right-front wheel had been fitted, and a drive-through penalty for hitting one of his own tires in the pits.
Instead, Castroneves came out of the afternoon having actually extended his points lead to 49. He crossed the line in ninth.
“First off I have to say sorry to (right front tire changer) Doug (Snyder),” Castroneves said. “I’m glad he seems to be all right. It was very slippery in the pits and I just slid in I’m not really sure what happened. I want to thank PPG and Team Penske for never giving up. I am glad we were able to finish in the top 10 and keep our lead in the championship.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay’s title defense also took a hit when he encountered an anti-stall problem on the first lap that dropped him toward the rear of the field, and his misery was completed when his car shut down with an electrical problem later on.
The Andretti driver was one of several to be sidelined with mechanical or engine problems during the afternoon, joining a list that also included Dario Franchitti (brake issues), Takuma Sato and Luca Filippi.
Results - 75 laps:Pos Driver Team/Engine Time/Gap 1. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda 2h16m32.3443s 2. Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda +4.1592s 3. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon/Chevy +7.9588s 4. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda +10.7598s 5. Simona de Silvestro KV/Chevy +11.6017s 6. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Honda +21.4160s 7. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Chevy +22.8422s 8. Sebastian Saavedra Dragon/Chevy +25.5377s 9. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy +29.3117s10. Marco Andretti Andretti/Chevy +40.5499s11. Tristan Vautier Schmidt/Honda +1 lap12. Oriol Servia Panther/Chevy +1 lap13. EJ Viso Andretti/Chevy +1 lap14. Ed Carpenter Carpenter/Chevy +1 lap15. Tony Kanaan KV/Chevy +2 laps*16. Stefan Wilson Coyne/Honda +3 laps17. Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda +7 laps*18. Will Power Penske/Chevy +8 laps* Not running at finishRetirements: Scott Dixon Ganassi/Honda 52 laps Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Chevy 42 laps Dario Franchitti Ganassi/Honda 22 laps Luca Filippi Barracuda/Honda 12 laps James Jakes Rahal/Honda 5 laps Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda 4 laps