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 30 August 2014

  2. 18:24

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday at Silverstone

    MotoGP
  3. Márquez beats Dovizioso to Silverstone pole 15:01

    Márquez beats Dovizioso to Silverstone pole

    MotoGP championship leader Marc Márquez claimed pole position for the British Grand Prix in cool and cloudy conditions...

    MotoGP
  4. Maldonado anticipating tough Monza weekend 13:18

    Maldonado anticipating tough Monza weekend

    Pastor Maldonado is anticipating a tough time for Lotus as Formula 1 heads to the high-speed Monza for next weekend's...

    F1
  5. 12:30

    Photos: Red Bull's 50 Formula 1 wins

    F1
  6. Márquez quickest despite fall at Silverstone 10:48

    Márquez quickest despite fall at Silverstone

    Marc Márquez set the fastest time during the third practice session for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, before...

    MotoGP
  7. Aleshin in 'serious but stable' condition 10:09

    Aleshin in 'serious but stable' condition

    SMP Racing driver Mikhail Aleshin is in a 'serious but stable' condition following a violent accident during practice for...

    Indy
  8. Video of the Day: Singapore winner's trophy 05:00

    Video of the Day: Singapore winner's trophy

    View the winner's trophy for this year's Singapore Grand Prix, inspired by the Singapore Airlines logo.

    F1
  9. Aleshin airlifted to hospital after violent crash 04:50

    Aleshin airlifted to hospital after violent crash

    Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin has been airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center in California after a violent...

    Indy
  10. Friday 29 August 2014

  11. Castroneves chips into points lead with Fontana pole 23:57

    Castroneves chips into points lead with Fontana pole

    Helio Castroneves picked up his second pole position of 2014 at the most crucial time possible: On the eve of the...

    Indy
  12. IndyCar to lose Houston, switch Toronto for Mosport 20:17

    IndyCar to lose Houston, switch Toronto for Mosport

    IndyCar confirmed today that the Houston street course would not be a part of the 2015 schedule.   Twice a sight of...

    Indy
  13. Season finale preview: Power heads three-man fight 19:51

    Season finale preview: Power heads three-man fight

    The MAVTV 500 at Fontana will be the ninth consecutive time that the last race of the year will determine the champion, and...

    Indy
  14. 16:00

    Latest MotoGP photos: Friday at Silverstone

    MotoGP
  15. Márquez stays fastest in second practice 15:26

    Márquez stays fastest in second practice

    Repsol Honda's Marc Márquez remained in charge during Friday afternoon's second practice session for the British Grand...

    MotoGP
  16. Mercedes drivers react to crunch talks 14:53

    Mercedes drivers react to crunch talks

    Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have publicly responded to the clear-the-air talks staged at the team's...

    F1
  17. Ex-Caterham staff start legal action 14:26

    Ex-Caterham staff start legal action

    Ex-Caterham staff have started legal action against the F1 team's new owners, claiming unfair dismissal. Having...

    F1
  18. Video: Verstappen drives F1 car in Rotterdam 14:04

    Video: Verstappen drives F1 car in Rotterdam

    Max Verstappen made his first public outing in Formula 1 machinery on Friday, the 16-year-old getting behind the wheel of a...

    F1
  19. Rosberg accepts responsibility for Spa clash 13:07

    Rosberg accepts responsibility for Spa clash

    Nico Rosberg has "acknowledged his responsibility" and apologised for clashing with team-mate Lewis Hamilton at last...

    F1
  20. Márquez tops opening Silverstone practice 11:08

    Márquez tops opening Silverstone practice

    Marc Márquez set the pace during Friday morning's opening practice session for the British Grand Prix at...

    MotoGP
  21. Verstappen compares driving style to Alonso 09:44

    Verstappen compares driving style to Alonso

    Newly-signed Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen, son of ex-Formula 1 star Jos, claims that his driving style is closest to...

    F1
  22. 09:30

    Photos: Kovalainen drives DTM car

    DTM
  23. Kovalainen completes BMW DTM test 09:29

    Kovalainen completes BMW DTM test

    Ex-Formula 1 driver and Grand Prix winner Heikki Kovalainen made his DTM testing debut with BMW on Thursday, getting behind...

    DTM
  24. Video of the Day: Hamilton at Goodwood 05:00

    Video of the Day: Hamilton at Goodwood

    Watch highlights from Lewis Hamilton's visit to this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed.

    F1
  25. Thursday 28 August 2014

  26. 16:11

    Photos: Márquez crosses the River Thames

    MotoGP
  27. Accident at Toro Rosso construction site 14:53

    Accident at Toro Rosso construction site

    Toro Rosso says two construction workers have been injured while working on a new factory building. The outfit reports...

    F1
  28. Webber: Mercedes not a team at the moment 12:04

    Webber: Mercedes not a team at the moment

    Mark Webber says there is a lack of cohesion at Mercedes as its drivers fight for individual glory. While the...

    F1
  29. Video: Caterham takes ice bucket challenge 10:43

    Video: Caterham takes ice bucket challenge

    The Caterham Formula 1 team takes the ALS ice bucket challenge.

    F1
  30. Button admits retirement is possible 10:14

    Button admits retirement is possible

    Jenson Button has admitted that he could be forced into retirement at the end of the 2014 season. McLaren is taking time...

    F1
  31. Jordan: Mercedes rudderless without Brawn 09:49

    Jordan: Mercedes rudderless without Brawn

    If Ross Brawn was still in charge at Mercedes, the collision between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at the Belgian Grand...

    F1
  32. IndyCar adds New Orleans to 2015 roster 09:12

    IndyCar adds New Orleans to 2015 roster

    IndyCar will race in New Orleans next season, with the Grand Prix of Louisiana being added to the roster. The race will...

    Indy
  33. Video of the Day: Red Bull goes infrared 05:00

    Video of the Day: Red Bull goes infrared

    FLIR, a Red Bull partner, captured some unique footage at the recent Gamma Racing Day in Assen.

    F1
  34. Wednesday 27 August 2014

  35. Vettel gets new race engineer for 2015 15:17

    Vettel gets new race engineer for 2015

    Red Bull has confirmed that Gianpiero Lambiase will become Sebastian Vettel's new race engineer from the 2015 season, after...

    F1
  36. Video: Rosberg's ice bucket challenge 13:30

    Video: Rosberg's ice bucket challenge

    Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg takes the ALS ice bucket challenge.

    F1
  37. Frijns management denies GP2 speculation 11:58

    Frijns management denies GP2 speculation

    The management team behind Robin Frijns has denied that the Dutchman is pondering a GP2 return. According to media...

    F1
  38. Yamaha 'confident' of Silverstone victory 11:15

    Yamaha 'confident' of Silverstone victory

    Yamaha Team Director Massimo Meregalli says he is "confident" that the Japanese manufacturer has what it takes to claim its...

    MotoGP
  39. McLaren admits drivers 'uncomfortable' over futures 10:33

    McLaren admits drivers 'uncomfortable' over futures

    McLaren admits that the uncertainty over its line-up for 2015 and beyond has left Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen feeling...

    F1
  40. Mark Sutton: Story behind the shot - Belgium 09:56

    Mark Sutton: Story behind the shot - Belgium

    Especially for lovers of motorsport photography, GPUpdate.net is this season running a feature series entitled Story behind...

    F1
  41. Renault with 'renewed confidence' for Monza 09:00

    Renault with 'renewed confidence' for Monza

    Renault has said it will go to the Italian Grand Prix next week with "renewed confidence". The French manufacturer took...

    F1
  42. Video of the Day: Wind tunnel guide - Part 7 05:00

    Video of the Day: Wind tunnel guide - Part 7

    Sauber's Head of Aerodynamics, Willem Toet, continues his talk on the science of F1 wind tunnel design.

    F1
  43. Tuesday 26 August 2014

  44. Video: Onboard with Vettel in Sochi 18:05

    Video: Onboard with Vettel in Sochi

    Join Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel as he becomes the first ever Formula 1 driver to do a lap of the Sochi Autodrom, venue for...

    F1
  45. Ecclestone: Greece 'keen' to hold F1 race 17:30

    Ecclestone: Greece 'keen' to hold F1 race

    Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that a grand prix in Greece is still a possibility, even though the...

    F1
more news