Pagenaud leads Schmidt 1-2 at Houston
29 June 2014 – Simon Pagenaud was the pole-sitter for yesterday's race at Houston, but he wasn't able to convert. Today, through steady speed and a slew of incidents elsewhere on track, the Frenchman finished on top of the podium ahead of his Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports team-mate Mikhail Aleshin and Bryan Herta Autosport's Jack Hawksworth.
Pagenaud assumed the lead from today's polesitter Helio Castroneves around a third into the race, never looking back, even through two well-timed pit stops that allowed him to hold the lead.
Hawksworth inherited third on the last lap after Will Power's rear suspension broke on the frontstretch. Hawksworth had been involved in a massive battle for the last third of the race against Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball, countless times going wheel-to-wheel but managing to stay clean. He started the race at the back of the grid but managed to complete 38 laps in his final stint to remain in the mix up front.
In a frenetic last 10 laps following a caution caused by Takuma Sato hitting the wall, Pagenaud and Aleshin got away cleanly, gapping themselves over P3 Power by seven seconds. Power, who again started in P18 after a poor qualifying, looked to have made contact a couple of laps from the end, and on the final lap his rear suspension buckled, sending him into the runoff. He would officially finish 11th, but with the other championship challengers also faltering, he doesn't lose his points lead after the 10th round of the season.
Castroneves was set to make up some ground on Power, but when a charging Sebastien Bourdias looked to the outside of the Brazilian into Turn 6, Castroneves slid to the right, apparently unaware that the Frenchman was beside him. In a mirror of Sato and Aleshin's incident from yesterday, Castroneves speared the wall, but Bourdias only escaped with a damaged front wing element. He would leave the wing alone when he pitted, eventually grabbing several positions in the final 10 laps to finish fifth.
Well over half of the field ended up having some form of contact during the 90-lap race on the streets of Houston, some being self-inflicted. The majority seemed to occur whilst jostling for position on the multiple restarts throughout the race, despite running the first third of the Grand Prix of Houston caution-free.
Carlos Huertas, yesterday's race winner, was the first car out, heading five runners that would retire by the time the event was done. Fellow podium finisher Carlos Munoz was next after hitting the wall and breaking his right-rear suspension. Following Helio's ignominious retirement, Josef Newgarden found himself in the tyre wall after losing a wheel nut on his right front tyre. Sato would round out the retirees after bouncing over a kerb and landing hard against the wall on the exit of the chicane. It was the lengthy cleanup from his incident that only left 10 green laps remaining.
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished in sixth following his P21 start, just getting by the damaged car of Montoya on the final lap. Ryan Briscoe also found himself in the top 10 after scrapping with Marco Andretti (P9) and Tony Kanaan (P10) in the latter stages of the event.
Up front, though, Pagenaud won his fourth IndyCar series event, braving well over 100°F (38°C) track temperatures to lead the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton team to a 1-2 finish, also giving Honda a 1-2-3 result as engine supplier. Pagenaud now sits fourth in the standings, gaining some 31 points on leader Power heading into the 500-mile race at Pocono – the second leg of the new IndyCar Triple Crown – next week.