Simon Pagenaud secured his tenth career Verizon IndyCar Series victory but his first on an oval as he took advantage of a lucky caution period to win at the Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday evening.
The Team Penske driver was the only driver not to have pitted when Takuma Sato hit the wall at turn four to bring out the caution flags, leaving him with a lap advantage over the field as a result. He pitted under the caution flags, which allowed the others to get back onto the lead lap, but he retained the lead and was never headed thereafter.
The race started with a first lap crash initiated by Mikhail Aleshin spinning and collecting Sebastien Bourdais, who had nowhere to go as he attempted to go around the outside, while Marco Andretti, Max Chilton and Graham Rahal were also caught up in the carnage.
All five drivers were out on the spot, which for Bourdais, the championship leader heading into the race, meant that he relinquished that lead and slips to fourth in the championship standings.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was extremely lucky not be caught up in the crash, with Bourdais’ car tagging his Andretti Autosport machine but his momentum was enough for him to survive virtually intact, with the American only suffering a left rear puncture.
Helio Castroneves had retained the lead at the start and led away at the restart from team-mates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, while Pagenaud quickly found a way passed JR Hildebrand to make it a Team Penske 1-2-3-4 at the front of the field.
Power took over the lead after the first proper round of pit stops ahead of Castroneves, Pagenaud and Newgarden as the Penske drivers continued to dominate, with all four leading laps at some point, with no other team making it to the front of the field.
Power led 59 laps and was ahead of Pagenaud when he pitted just before Sato crashed his Andretti Autosport machine, allowing the Frenchman to take over at the front.
Newgarden was forced to pit late in the day when he clipped Hunter-Reay’s car as they battled for position, with the issue allowing Hildebrand to make a move on a hesitant Castroneves, with the Ed Carpenter Racing driver securing a podium finish as a result, despite still racing with a broken hand suffered in a last lap crash around the streets of Long Beach at the beginning of the month.
Hildebrand finished right on the tail of Power in second and third, but both were over nine seconds down to Pagenaud at the chequered flag as the Frenchman, the reigning series champion, took over the lead in the championship standings this season.
Castroneves was the final driver on the lead lap at the end of the race, albeit 16.5864 seconds down on Pagenaud, while Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan were fifth and sixth respectively for Chip Ganassi Racing, both one lap down at the chequered flag, and the leading Honda-powered finishers.
From the back of the grid, Ed Carpenter finished seventh ahead of Charlie Kimball, while Newgarden could only recover to ninth after his unscheduled stop, ahead of Carlos Muñoz, Ed Jones and James Hinchcliffe, who was unable to make his fuel last as long as others and as a result pitted one extra time.
Phoenix International Raceway Race Result
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