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. Saturday 1 October 2016

  2. Nissany controls V8 3.5 opener at Monza 15:19

    Nissany controls V8 3.5 opener at Monza

    Lotus' Roy Nissany secured an emphatic third victory of the season during the opening Formula V8 3.5 race of the weekend at…

    FV8 3.5
  3. 14:02

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Saturday at Sepang

    F1
  4. Button hails overnight car improvements 13:37

    Button hails overnight car improvements

    Jenson Button praised McLaren for the positive changes it made to his car overnight after qualifying ninth for the Malaysian…

    F1
  5. Vettel hopes to fight for podium finish 12:27

    Vettel hopes to fight for podium finish

    Sebastian Vettel hopes that Ferrari will be able to challenge Red Bull for a podium finish during Sunday's Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  6. Verstappen pleased to slot behind Mercedes 12:09

    Verstappen pleased to slot behind Mercedes

    Red Bull's Max Verstappen expressed positivity after he was able to slot in behind Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg…

    F1
  7. Rosberg still 'very optimistic' for race 12:04

    Rosberg still 'very optimistic' for race

    Nico Rosberg is still "very optimistic" over his victory chances in Malaysia, despite being beaten to pole by team-mate Lewis…

    F1
  8. Hamilton 'could have been faster' in Q3 11:40

    Hamilton 'could have been faster' in Q3

    Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has claimed that he "could have been faster" after comfortably taking pole position for the Malaysian…

    F1
  9. 11:05

    Malaysian Grand Prix: Qualifying results

    F1
  10. Hamilton storms to Malaysian GP pole 11:03

    Hamilton storms to Malaysian GP pole

    Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying to claim pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix, ahead of Mercedes team-mate and…

    F1
  11. 09:48

    Follow qualifying for the Malaysian GP!

    F1
  12. Formula 1 tightens double yellow flag rules 09:02

    Formula 1 tightens double yellow flag rules

    Formula 1 drivers have been told that they must now abandon any laps during free practice and qualifying sessions if…

    F1
  13. Vandoorne: Positive to race next to Alonso 08:42

    Vandoorne: Positive to race next to Alonso

    Stoffel Vandoorne reckons it is "positive" that he will be racing alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren next season, due to the…

    F1
  14. 08:05

    Malaysian Grand Prix: Full Practice 3 results

    F1
  15. Hamilton leads Verstappen in final practice 08:02

    Hamilton leads Verstappen in final practice

    Lewis Hamilton remained at the top of the timesheets during Saturday morning's final practice session for the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  16. Alonso's penalty increases with new parts 07:18

    Alonso's penalty increases with new parts

    Fernando Alonso's grid penalty at the Malaysian Grand Prix has increased to 45 positions after McLaren-Honda elected to fit new…

    F1
  17. 06:52

    Follow final practice for the Malaysian GP!

    F1
  18. 05:58

    Latest GP2 photos: Saturday at Sepang

    GP2
  19. Giovinazzi wins race, Prema clinches title 05:54

    Giovinazzi wins race, Prema clinches title

    Antonio Giovinazzi wrestled back control of the GP2 Series title race with victory during a thrilling Feature Race at Sepang…

    GP2
  20. 04:18

    Latest GP3 photos: Saturday at Sepang

    GP3
  21. Albon wins after dramatic opening lap 04:16

    Albon wins after dramatic opening lap

    Alexander Albon claimed his fourth victory of the GP3 season for ART Grand Prix after a dramatic opening lap in the first race…

    GP3
  22. Video of the Day: Mercedes pit-stop challenge 03:06

    Video of the Day: Mercedes pit-stop challenge

    Watch as Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg become mechanics and take on the pit-stop challenge.

    F1
  23. Friday 30 September 2016

  24. Bryan Herta/Andretti renew partnership 19:05

    Bryan Herta/Andretti renew partnership

    Bryan Herta Autosport and Andretti Autosport have confirmed that they have extended their partnership into the 2017 IndyCar…

    Indy
  25. Hockenheim: No agreement for 2017 F1 race 17:58

    Hockenheim: No agreement for 2017 F1 race

    Officials at Hockenheim say there is currently no agreement in place for the circuit to host the German Grand Prix next year…

    F1
  26. 14:02

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  27. 13:30

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Friday at Sepang

    F1
  28. Palou excluded from GP3 qualifying 13:29

    Palou excluded from GP3 qualifying

    Campos driver Álex Palou has been excluded from the results of GP3 qualifying at Sepang after his car was found to be in breach…

    GP3
  29. Alonso boosted by McLaren improvements 13:15

    Alonso boosted by McLaren improvements

    Fernando Alonso was left boosted by McLaren's progress after an encouraging pair of practice sessions for the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  30. Renault: Valve problem led to Magnussen fire 12:12

    Renault: Valve problem led to Magnussen fire

    Renault Technical Director Nick Chester has confirmed that a problem with the valve on a fuel breather pipe triggered Kevin…

    F1
  31. Force India 'very confident' Pérez will stay 10:53

    Force India 'very confident' Pérez will stay

    Force India Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley has reiterated that the outfit is "very confident" over Sergio Pérez remaining…

    F1
  32. 10:36

    Latest GP3 photos: Friday at Sepang

    GP3
  33. Leclerc leads ART 1-2-3 in Sepang qualifying 10:35

    Leclerc leads ART 1-2-3 in Sepang qualifying

    Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc extended his GP3 Series title advantage to 28 points after taking his fourth pole position of…

    GP3
  34. Verstappen optimistic over long run pace 09:50

    Verstappen optimistic over long run pace

    Max Verstappen feels that Red Bull is looking "very strong" on its long run pace after the first day of practice for the…

    F1
  35. 09:42

    Latest GP2 photos: Friday at Sepang

    GP2
  36. Gasly beats title rival Giovinazzi to pole 09:41

    Gasly beats title rival Giovinazzi to pole

    Pierre Gasly extended his GP2 Series advantage to 14 points after beating Prema team-mate and title rival Antonio Giovinazzi to…

    GP2
  37. Hamilton: First day a 'good building block' 09:28

    Hamilton: First day a 'good building block'

    Lewis Hamilton has called his first day of practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix a "good building block", after struggling in…

    F1
  38. Vettel urges Ferrari to take any chances 09:10

    Vettel urges Ferrari to take any chances

    Sebastian Vettel has urged Ferrari to take any opportunities that come its way over the final six races of the season, starting…

    F1
  39. 08:35

    Malaysian Grand Prix: Full Practice 2 results

    F1
  40. Hamilton moves ahead in second practice 08:33

    Hamilton moves ahead in second practice

    Lewis Hamilton moved to the top of the times during Friday afternoon's second free practice session for the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  41. 06:51

    Follow second practice for the Malaysian GP!

    F1
  42. Renault hopes to run Magnussen in FP2 04:59

    Renault hopes to run Magnussen in FP2

    Renault is hopeful of fielding Kevin Magnussen during Friday afternoon's second practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix…

    F1
more news