Gabby Chaves and Simon Pagenaud have found one piece of common ground since their testy encounter following Monday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
The Harding Racing and Team Penske drivers haven’t spoken and aren’t sure if or when they’ll revisit the intense argument over correct etiquette for lapped cars, but the two would like to move on from the embarrassing moment captured on video.
Reached by RACER on Tuesday, Pagenaud declined to revisit the topic in public. For Chaves, offering his view on whether he was two laps down when they met on track – as the Frenchman asserted while driving home his belief the Colombian-American should have moved over and let him pass – was an important point to address before turning the page.
“In our pre-race meeting we discussed how we were going to deal with traffic. What we all agreed on was if we’re going to hold someone up, we gotta to let them by. But if we’re not holding anyone up, we gotta try and get our lap back,” Chaves said in “The Week in IndyCar” podcast.
“At the point that this whole thing with Simon started, we were only a lap down from the leader, we had him in sight – he was a straightaway in front of us; if a yellow falls right that lap, we get our lap back and we’re back on the lead lap. I have huge respect for the guy – he’s a champion, he’s a veteran, he’s a great guy off and on the track – but I think he had his facts a little backwards.
“He thought I was two laps down, which I was not. I wasn’t even a lap down to him at that point. I understand his frustration, but sometimes people gotta chill out a little bit and do their research before they start assuming things.”
A foggy visor forced Chaves to stop early in Sunday’s rain-filled race, causing the No. 88 Chevy to lose a lap to the leaders. After a review of the Barber timing and scoring information, once the race resumed on Monday, Chaves had been lapped by the top five cars in the field and restarted behind them. At that point, Chaves had yet to be lapped by the drivers behind him.
Pagenaud was listed in 12th at the time and was on the same lap as Chaves when the green flag waved. Despite being one lap down to others, Chaves stayed on the same lap with Pagenaud until he was called into the pits by the Harding team on Lap 44.
Returning one-lap down to Pagenaud’s No. 22 Chevy, Chaves circulated with that deficit until the Penske team brought Pagenaud in on Lap 50. While sitting in the pits during his stop, Chaves passed Pagenaud and regained his lap, but the Penske driver wasn’t far behind.
Although the No. 88 was still down a lap to the leaders, IndyCar’s timing and scoring data does corroborate Chaves’ claim of being on the same lap as Pagenaud when the No. 22 was attempting to make a pass.
By Lap 55, Pagenaud crossed the start/finish line 0.6s behind Chaves, and through Lap 63, the No. 88 fended off the No. 22’s advances. Pagenaud was finally successful on Lap 64 and put Chaves down a lap. On Lap 69, Chaves was lapped for the second time by the race leader, Josef Newgarden.
Turning back to the post-race confrontation, Chaves – who’s listed at 5 feet 6 inches – lacks size and height to almost every IndyCar driver, including Pagenaud who’s listed at five-foot-10. Although he’s one of the smallest drivers in the field, the sight of Chaves holding his ground was one of the more remarkable aspects in the encounter.
Backing down, as he explained in a somewhat lighthearted manner, wasn’t a consideration.
“I tell you what, if 10 years of jiu-jitsu say anything here, I’d put my money on myself,” he said. “I wouldn’t bet against me.
“All joking aside, I have huge respect for a lot of the guys in the paddock, including Simon Pagenaud. I understand the guy’s frustrated, and his frustration was just misplaced. Either because he had the wrong facts, or just because things aren’t going his way compared to his teammates. He was looking for someone to blame for that and he picked the wrong guy. Being picked on is not the way to do it. And I’m pretty sure everyone on my team felt the same way as no one interrupted.”