Simon Pagenaud took his tenth career Verizon IndyCar Series victory on Saturday evening, but more importantly he finally took that elusive first win on an oval, winning the 250-lap Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix.
The Frenchman may have taken advantage of the timing of a caution period, being the only driver up to that point not to have pitted and holding a one-lap lead, but the way he stretched his advantage over the remainder of the race, it left no doubts that Pagenaud was the man to beat at the Phoenix International Raceway.
Pagenaud felt they deserved the luck that took him to the front, but he praised his Team Penske crew for giving him a great car and for working the pit stops to near-perfection as he took the lead in the Championship standings.
“I can’t explain how excited I am,” admitted Pagenaud. “Ovals are not my speciality. I grew up in Europe racing go-karts. I learned about ovals when I was 26 years old, so I had to learn the skill and the technique that I didn’t know.
“Man, this is incredible. What a win. The car was phenomenal and thanks to the Menards Chevrolet crew. On the pit stops these guys never make any mistakes – I can completely rely on them and the car was just incredible from the beginning to the end.
“The car was so strong at the beginning of the race; we were able to save fuel in traffic. And it paid off with that lucky yellow but we’ve had our fair share of bad luck too this year so it doesn’t hurt sometimes to have a little break.”