Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud has taken a dramatic victory as the Verizon IndyCar Series raced on the Indy Motor Speedway Road Course for the first time.
The race started in dramatic fashion as Sebastian Saavedra, who scored his first IndyCar pole position, stalled on the line. He was avoided by a good portion of the grid except from Mikhail Aleshin and Carlos Munoz who collected the KV Racing machine and showered the front straight with DW12 debris.
That brought out the full course yellow with Ryan Hunter-Reay leading behind the safety car, eight laps later and the track went green again and rapid rookie Jack Hawksworth took the lead for 29 laps of the 82 lap race in a sign that he will be fighting for podiums soon. This time however, he finished seventh – 14 seconds behind eventual race winner.
Hawksworth lost the lead during the pit stops under yellow after Scott Dixon needed to be recovered from the grass after a tangle with Will Power. Hawksworth was leading going into the pits, but the Bryan Herta Autosport crew were outclassed by Schmidt Peterson and Pagenaud came out first.
Another incident that saw a front runner forced into retirement was a bizarre one for James Hinchcliffe. The Andretti driver was believed to have been hit on the helmet by a piece of debris and pulled off track to retirement.
A trip to the IU Health Methodist Hospital for Hinchcliffe diagnosed a concussion for the driver, which has meant that EJ Viso will deputise for the Canadian during Andretti’s build up to the Indy 500.
After that incident, and a collision between Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal which saw the RLL driver hit the wall, the final stages of the race saw Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud and Oriol Servia in a three way sprint for the win.
In the end, both Hunter-Reay and Servia took fuel saving as far as it could go and both had to pit for a splash. Hunter-Reay recovered to second but Servia fell back to 12th with Helio Castroneves taking his spot on the podium.
Frenchman Pagenaud said after the race: “With the pace it was nerve-wracking. I’ve got to tell you, I was worried about Helio coming back and I didn’t know what Hunter- Reay was doing either, so I just kept working. My lap time was saving fuel, being off throttle. I don’t like racing off throttle. But it worked out, thanks to the whole Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team.”
Now the grid will be gearing up for the 500 with practice sessions beginning soon.