Simon Pagenaud is turning the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season into his launch pad to stardom.
The 31-year-old Frenchman dominated today’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, starting on pole and leading 57 of the 82 laps around the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course to collect his third consecutive win this year.
Pagenaud became the first series driver to win three straight races since Scott Dixon won at Pocono and then both ends of the Toronto doubleheader to propel him to the 2013 championship.
“What a day,” said Pagenaud, who also won the inaugural Angie’s List Grand Prix in 2014. “Three races! It’s incredible to win three in a row like this and, here in Indy for me, it’s very special. I lived here for nine years so this place is very special in my heart.”
Pagenaud, in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, finished 4.4748 seconds ahead of teammate Helio Castroneves. The key to victory came on Pagenaud’s final stop on Lap 63, when he entered and exited the pits with the lead.
“The car was fantastic once again,” Pagenaud said. “The balance was perfect all race. When we were in the lead, we were cruising, doing what we could to save the tires. But the car was just fantastic to drive.
“It was very difficult on cold tires, so you could really make some ground on the pit sequence,” he added. “After the first (stop), I realized it was something to do with it. I let Kyle (Moyer, race strategist) know. He already knew but that’s what we did the next two pit stops. We did the opposite and it worked. Thanks to my guys.”
Pagenaud has collected 242 points and hasn’t finished worse than second in any of the first five races. Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who finished seventh today in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, is second in the standings with 166 points.
Castroneves was pleased with his runner-up finish in the No. 3 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevy. It was the Brazilian’s 39th career second-place finish, second on the all-time list, and his 88th career podium, tying him with Bobby Rahal and Al Unser Jr. for sixth all time.
“Great teamwork. Never give up,” Castroneves said. “The hum by Verizon boys, everybody was really in sync. We never gave up because we knew we had issues and knew we didn’t have the fastest car, but we had the heart, man. We had the passion. We put it out there and had a little bit of luck, obviously, but it all blends together.”
James Hinchcliffe had his best run of the season, starting and finishing third in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. The native Canadian pledged $15,000 of his winnings to the Canadian Red Cross to assist in relief for the Fort McMurray wildfires in the Alberta province.
“We had a great car,” Hinchcliffe said. “Huge credit to everybody at Schmidt Peterson. The Arrow Electronics car was great all weekend. Missed the whole first practice, managed to put it on the second row (in qualifying). Got caught up on some of the restarts there but the guys were awesome in the pits. We were way quicker than Helio but just didn’t have enough to get by him. Great result.”
Graham Rahal came from 24th starting position to finish fourth in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda, while Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball was fifth in the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet.
The Verizon IndyCar Series teams remain in Indianapolis, as next up is the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 29 (11 a.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
Indianapolis 500 practice begins Monday
Practice for the 100th Indianapolis 500 begins Monday on the 2.5-mile IMS oval with rookie orientation and veteran refresher tests, followed by a session open to all entrants.
Rookies scheduled to participate are Matt Brabham, Max Chilton, Spencer Pigot, Alexander Rossi and Stefan Wilson. They must complete three phases of testing, with 10 laps in the range of 210-215 mph, 15 laps between 215-220 mph and 15 laps at 220-plus mph.
Veterans in the refresher program must complete the final two phases. Expected to participate are Townsend Bell, Bryan Clauson, JR Hildebrand, Sage Karam, Buddy Lazier, Oriol Servia and Alex Tagliani.
Practice continues daily through Friday, with qualifying scheduled for May 21-22.
1. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 82, Running
2. (13) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 82, Running
3. (3) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 82, Running
4. (24) Graham Rahal, Honda, 82, Running
5. (2) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 82, Running
6. (22) Conor Daly, Honda, 82, Running
7. (7) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 82, Running
8. (6) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 82, Running
9. (15) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 82, Running
10. (12) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 82, Running
11. (18) Spencer Pigot, Honda, 82, Running
12. (17) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 82, Running
13. (9) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 82, Running
14. (11) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 82, Running
15. (19) Marco Andretti, Honda, 82, Running
16. (14) Matt Brabham, Chevrolet, 82, Running
17. (23) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 82, Running
18. (20) Takuma Sato, Honda, 82, Running
19. (10) Will Power, Chevrolet, 82, Running
20. (4) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 82, Running
21. (25) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 82, Running
22. (16) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 81, Running
23. (21) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 81, Running
24. (8) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 20, Mechanical
25. (5) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 0, Contact
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 242, Dixon 166, Montoya 160, Castroneves 159, Rahal 133, Kanaan 111, Kimball 111, Hinchcliffe 110, Hunter-Reay 109, Power 105.