Pagenaud wins chaotic Indy road race

Pagenaud wins chaotic Indy road race

11 May 2014 – Heading into the final few laps of the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, a handful of drivers were in position to win, it just depended on whether or not their fuel would hold out. After seeing no fewer than four race leaders have to pit for fuel with the checkered flag in sight, Simon Pagenaud emerged victorious, proving he had just enough left in the tank – both mentally and literally.

The Frenchman's car died a short distance past the yard of bricks on the cool-down lap, but the victory was already his, holding off Ryan Hunter-Reay and a charging Helio Castroneves (who was on newer tyres and had confidence in his fuel load). It was Pagenaud's third career win but undoubtedly one of his most memorable given that he's the first victor of an IndyCar road course race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 0.8906s triumph came after a carnage-filled 82 laps, the final 28 of which were spent by Sam Schmidt Motorsports wondering if their driver would make it to the end. The fuel calculations proved to be accurate, as did the choice to put on black tyres in the final pit stop – something none of the other top six runners did.

For as intense as the race's last laps turned out to be, it will also be remembered for the violent crash during the sport's second standing start of the year. Pole-sitter Sebastian Saavedra stalled his car as the lights went out, leaving him helplessly stranded as the field began to shoot around him. Carlos Munoz caught sight of the Colombian's car too late, clipping the stationary left rear tyre. Saavedra was sent right into the path of Russian Mikhail Aleshin who, after starting at the back of the pack, had gathered a head of speed before the impact.

Debris flew in every direction, including toward the mayor of Indianapolis who sustained a minor soft tissue injury as a result. Thankfully his was the only injury in the incident as all drivers were able to walk away unharmed.

That meant the first 11 laps of the race would be run under caution, though, routing the cars through the pit lane during cleanup. This allowed Juan Pablo Montoya, who stalled in an unrelated incident at the start, to get re-fired and catch up with the field, now being led by Ryan Hunter-Reay.

On the ensuing restart, a charging Jack Hawksworth, who had shared the front row with Saavedra, slid his way into P2 and then the lead around turn 4. Pagenaud also got around Hunter-Reay, who was then having to fend off Scott Dixon and Will Power. The rookie at the front of the field, though, was not concerned with the battles behind him, soon growing a 2.7s lead over the next 15 laps.

Castroneves pitted on Lap 20, slightly out of sequence to get a jump on the field – something he would embrace later in the race. It would be another eight laps before the leaders began to pit under green, most of whom switched to the black tyres. Hawksworth, who first pitted on Lap 28, chose the reds, allowing him to build another gap on his second stint.

Caution next came out on Lap 42 after a wheel-to-wheel battle between Dixon and Power led to the defending series champion locking tyres and striking the sidepod of Power. Dixon would be beached for a while, but he would be able to resume the race.

Caught again in a moment of good timing, Castroneves, who turned 39 today, was in the pit lane when the caution came out. When a few cars ahead of him pitted under caution, he made up a handful of positions to better his chances at claiming a birthday victory.

The leaders pitted again with Hawksworth going to blacks and Pagenaud to reds, setting up an important restart, but they would have to work their way through several cars who didn't pit, including new race leader Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Justin Wilson, Castroneves (who had just pitted) and Oriol Servia. Those strategies would all prove helpful, giving almost all of those men a chance to lead the race late.

An unusually clean restart saw the cars spread five abreast on the massive IMS fronstraight, but on the nearly-as-long backstretch, Martin Plowman spun under braking, hitting a kerb tail-first. He was subsequently launched into the air, landing on and destroying the back of Franck Montagny's Andretti Autosport machine. The former Super Aguri Formula 1 driver was uninjured, but his race – and perhaps that of the car Kurt Busch was to use in Indy 500 qualifying next week – was run.

More chaos ensued on the next restart with an accordion effect of cars causing Graham Rahal to be punted into retirement by Montoya.

Another round of pit stops saw the out-of-sequence Castroneves inherit the race lead with just 28 laps to go.  Trailing the Brazilian was Charlie Kimball, the man who started P23, and Hawksworth.

The race restarted again on Lap 56, calmly led to the flag by Castroneves, who slowed up the field in the penultimate turn instead of on the frontstretch. This allowed the birthday boy to get a few lengths' lead on Kimball and Hawksworth, but the shakeup was about to begin.

In a puzzling turn of events, Hinchcliffe came to a sudden stop on the runoff at the end of the backstretch. He would later be seen on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance bound for the infield care center and eventually to nearby Methodist Hospital.  Replays appear to show the Canadian's helmet coming into contact with flying debris from Wilson's car up ahead, but he was released this evening from the hospital with a concussion. IndyCar noted that he will be evaluated again before he's allowed to drive; if he's not cleared, EJ Viso will be the stand-in driver.

The track stayed green in the meantime, but for many, their chances of winning the Grand Prix of Indianapolis began to disappear like their fuel. Hawksworth was the first to show his hand, pitting on lap 61 for a splash of petrol. He would go on to finish P7.

A few laps later, Castroneves followed suit, then new leader Bourdais, then new leader Briscoe. One by one, all who inherited the race lead fell victim to a thirsty engine, except for Oriol Servia. He had pitted ten laps more recently than everyone ahead of him, but talk in the pit lane soon revealed that he, too, would be a couple of laps short. Pagenaud and Hunter-Reay were on nearly identical strategies running in P2 and P3, but behind them, the field had cycled Castroneves back to P4.

With several miles separating Servia from victory, he regrettably came down pit lane for fuel, settling for P12 and giving the Frenchman the lead. As the corners ticked down, Castroneves' fresh tyres and ability to run on full-rich allowed the Brazilian a perfect view of his rivals, now fewer than two seconds behind them on the road.

Hunter-Reay was being coached from the pit wall on the fuel mixture and engine settings he would need to follow in order to make it to the end, but this didn't end up being a problem for him. All three men would have enough fuel to cross the finish line in that order, allowing everyone at Sam Schmidt Motorsports to exhale.  It also allowed fans and drivers alike to reflect on this first Indianapolis road course race.

The idea of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis was not only to showcase the Verizon IndyCar Series' dexterity, racing both on ovals and road courses, but to center the racing world on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the entire month of May. The focus transitions now from the twisty road course to the blistering speed of the legendary oval, as teams will have one week to prepare for the first rounds of a newly-modified qualifying format ahead of the Indianapolis 500-mile race in a fortnight.

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Monday 20 February 2017

  2. Horner: Renault has had a 'big winter' 12:04

    Horner: Renault has had a 'big winter'

    Christian Horner is hopeful that his Red Bull team can be a "real challenger" in 2017, given the changes engine supplier Renault…

    F1
  3. Video: 2017 Formula 1 tyres explained 11:04

    Video: 2017 Formula 1 tyres explained

    Get the lowdown on Pirelli's 2017 Formula 1 tyres, and their expected impact, in this video from Mercedes.

    F1
  4. Kaltenborn: 'Great opportunities' at Sauber 11:01

    Kaltenborn: 'Great opportunities' at Sauber

    Monisha Kaltenborn reckons Sauber now has "great opportunities" to move back up the Formula 1 pecking order, following the…

    F1
  5. KTM unveils livery for 2017 MotoGP entry 10:52

    KTM unveils livery for 2017 MotoGP entry

    KTM has formally unveiled its 2017 MotoGP bike and team during a presentation at its factory in Munderfing, ahead of its…

    MotoGP
  6. Hamilton: 'Zero problems' at Mercedes 10:30

    Hamilton: 'Zero problems' at Mercedes

    Lewis Hamilton has moved to clarify comments he made about data-sharing in Formula 1, insisting that he has "zero problems" with…

    F1
  7. Sauber presents new Formula 1 car 09:34

    Sauber presents new Formula 1 car

    Sauber has formally presented its 2017 Formula 1 challenger, the Ferrari-powered C36, in an online launch, to kick-start a busy…

    F1
  8. Wolff, Lauda extend deals through 2020 09:10

    Wolff, Lauda extend deals through 2020

    Mercedes has announced that Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda have signed new contracts which will keep them with the World Champion…

    F1
  9. Di Resta to stay as Williams reserve driver 09:07

    Di Resta to stay as Williams reserve driver

    Paul di Resta will remain as Williams' reserve driver for the 2017 season. Di Resta, 30, joined Williams in a reserve role in…

    F1
  10. Ferrari youngsters join Prema in Formula 4 09:00

    Ferrari youngsters join Prema in Formula 4

    Ferrari Driver Academy members Enzo Fittipaldi and Marcus Armstrong will join Prema in Formula 4 in 2017, for their first…

    Misc
  11. Grosjean keen to utilise Pirelli wet running 07:56

    Grosjean keen to utilise Pirelli wet running

    Haas driver Romain Grosjean says gathering data from Pirelli's wet tyres during pre-season testing will be crucial, due to the…

    F1
  12. Video of the Day: Stroll on 2017 hopes 05:37

    Video of the Day: Stroll on 2017 hopes

    Canadian teenager Lance Stroll discusses his hopes for his rookie Formula 1 season with Williams.

    F1
  13. Sunday 19 February 2017

  14. Magnussen to get first taste of VF-17 15:35

    Magnussen to get first taste of VF-17

    Haas has confirmed its driver line-up for the pair of pre-season tests at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with new recruit…

    F1
  15. Hamilton: New Mercedes 'looks like a boat' 14:44

    Hamilton: New Mercedes 'looks like a boat'

    Lewis Hamilton says that Mercedes' new Formula 1 challenger, the W08 Hybrid, "looks like a boat" due to the new regulations…

    F1
  16. 13:44

    Formula E standings after Buenos Aires

    FE
  17. Buemi relieved to overcome brake complaint 13:42

    Buemi relieved to overcome brake complaint

    Reigning Formula E champion Sébastien Buemi expressed his relief at overcoming a brake issue with his second car as he…

    FE
  18. Video: Buenos Aires ePrix highlights 12:14

    Video: Buenos Aires ePrix highlights

    Watch race highlights from the Buenos Aires ePrix, the third round of the 2016/17 Formula E championship.

    FE
  19. Hellmund: Brazil result led to Manor demise 11:25

    Hellmund: Brazil result led to Manor demise

    US-based Tavo Hellmund says that Manor falling out of the top 10 in the championship standings late last season ended his and…

    F1
  20. King confident of GP2 championship fight 10:14

    King confident of GP2 championship fight

    British racer Jordan King is confident that he can challenge for the GP2 championship in 2017 after committing to a third season…

    GP2
  21. Video of the Day: Bottas on racing Hamilton 05:38

    Video of the Day: Bottas on racing Hamilton

    Valtteri Bottas talks about linking up with Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes and his hopes for the 2017 season.

    F1
  22. Saturday 18 February 2017

  23. 20:00

    Latest Formula E photos: Buenos Aires ePrix

    FE
  24. Buemi cruises to third straight FE victory 19:59

    Buemi cruises to third straight FE victory

    Renault e.dams driver Sébastien Buemi extended his lead in the Formula E championship to 29 points by maintaining his unbeaten…

    FE
  25. Brawn wary F1 changes will take time 15:12

    Brawn wary F1 changes will take time

    Ross Brawn says any changes Formula 1 implements in the future will "have to tick some boxes", though has warned that such…

    F1
  26. Video: Toyota Racing Series highlights 13:03

    Video: Toyota Racing Series highlights

    Watch highlights of the recent New Zealand-based Toyota Racing Series, won by Thomas Randle.

    Toyota
  27. Combined times: Phillip Island MotoGP test 11:22

    Combined times: Phillip Island MotoGP test

    MotoGP gathered at Phillip Island, the picturesque home of the Australian Grand Prix, for its second three-day group pre-season…

    MotoGP
  28. Overview: Biggest F1 stories of the winter 09:32

    Overview: Biggest F1 stories of the winter

    Away from team factories, Formula 1's winter period is usually a calm affair. But the 2016/17 off-season was packed with big…

    F1
  29. Video of the Day: F1 2017 aero explained 05:44

    Video of the Day: F1 2017 aero explained

    Get the lowdown on F1's major aerodynamic changes for 2017 in this Mercedes technical feature.

    F1
  30. Friday 17 February 2017

  31. 19:32

    New: Follow GPUpdate on Instagram!

    F1
  32. Hamilton sees city races as future for F1 19:18

    Hamilton sees city races as future for F1

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton believes new Formula 1 owner Liberty Media needs to concentrate its efforts on city-based events…

    F1
  33. Lorenzo focused on feeling, not times 16:08

    Lorenzo focused on feeling, not times

    Jorge Lorenzo says that establishing a comfortable feeling with Ducati's Desmosedici GP17 is of more importance to him than fast…

    MotoGP
  34. Video: López tours Buenos Aires in FE car 14:02

    Video: López tours Buenos Aires in FE car

    DS Virgin's José María López drives around the streets of Buenos Aires, ahead of Saturday's ePrix.

    FE
  35. Rossi 'not very happy' after second test 12:01

    Rossi 'not very happy' after second test

    Valentino Rossi declared himself "not very happy" at the end of MotoGP's Phillip Island test, after lapping significantly slower…

    MotoGP
  36. Honda 'getting closer' with electronics 11:19

    Honda 'getting closer' with electronics

    Marc Márquez says that Honda is "getting closer" to achieving the optimal level with its electronics package, after the second…

    MotoGP
  37. Wehrlein to miss first pre-season test 09:42

    Wehrlein to miss first pre-season test

    Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein has confirmed that he will miss the first of two pre-season tests at the Circuit de…

    F1
  38. Video: Williams showcases new FW40 09:26

    Video: Williams showcases new FW40

    Williams provides a first look at its 2017 challenger, the FW40, with this short rendered video.

    F1
  39. Williams reveals first images of 2017 car 08:10

    Williams reveals first images of 2017 car

    Williams has become the first Formula 1 team to reveal images of its 2017 challenger, the FW40, named in recognition of the…

    F1
  40. 07:54

    Latest MotoGP photos: Phillip Island - Day 3

    MotoGP
  41. Viñales ends Phillip Island test on top 07:48

    Viñales ends Phillip Island test on top

    Yamaha's Maverick Viñales remained at the top of the timesheets on the final day of MotoGP's second pre-season test at Phillip…

    MotoGP
  42. Register for GPUpdate Manager 2017! 07:36

    Register for GPUpdate Manager 2017!

    Have you ever dreamed of owning a Formula 1 team with your ideal driver pairing and engine? GPUpdate.net readers can now sign up…

    F1
  43. Video of the Day: Bottas at Mercedes HQ 05:31

    Video of the Day: Bottas at Mercedes HQ

    Earlier this week, new signing Valtteri Bottas visited Mercedes' headquarters in Stuttgart for the first time.

    F1
  44. Thursday 16 February 2017

  45. KV Racing confirms exit from IndyCar 19:15

    KV Racing confirms exit from IndyCar

    KV Racing Technology co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser have confirmed that the IndyCar outfit has closed, ending its…

    Indy
more news