Simon Pagenaud won the Verizon IndyCar Series Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix for his 1st Oval Win!

Simon Pagenaud gives the checkered flag a ride after winning the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix — Photo by: Chris Owens

Starting from 5th place Car 1 Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, won the Verizon IndyCar Series Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix for his 1st oval win. The Margin of victory was 9.1028 seconds mostly due to Pagenaud staying out when most the field being in the pits as the 2nd Caution came out. On the re-start Pagenaud was the only car on the lead lap. 2nd Place Car 12 Will Power, Chevrolet,
started from 2nd place. 3rd Place Car 21 JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, started from 3rd place.

The podium of Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and JR Hildebrand with the Firestone Firehawk in Victory Circle following the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix — Photo by: Chris Jones

4th Place Car 3 Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, started from pole followed by 5th place Car 9 Scott Dixon, Honda, started from 8th place. 6th Place Car 10 Tony Kanaan, Honda, started from 6th place followed by 7th place Car 20 Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, started from 21st place. 8th Place Car 83 Charlie Kimball, Honda, started from 14th place followed by 9th place Car 2 Josef Newgarden,
Chevrolet, started from 4th place. Lastly in the Top 10 was Car 14 Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, in 10th place, started from 19th place.

Helio Castroneves leads the field to the green flag to start the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix — Photo by: Chris Jones

The race had 2 Cautions for 32 laps: 1st Caution on lap 1 for Contact: Cars Car 7 Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, ) Car 8 Max Chilton, Honda, Car 15 Graham Rahal, Honda, Car 18 Sebastien Bourdais, Honda & Car 27 Marco Andretti, Honda in Turn 2. 2nd Caution on lap 138 for Contact: Car 26 Takuma Sato, Honda in Turn 4.

Cars slide in Turn 2 in the first lap incident during the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix — Photo by: Richard Dowdy

The Holmatro Safety Team rush into action following the Lap 1 incident during the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix — Photo by: Richard Dowdy

The Holmatro Safety Team hoist the car of Max Chilton following the Lap 1 incident during the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix — Photo by: Richard Dowdy

The race had 4 Lead changes among 4 drivers. Lap Leaders: Castroneves 1-73, Newgarden 74-75, Pagenaud 76-77, Power 78-136, Pagenaud 137-250.

Helio Castroneves leads the field into Turn 1 at the start of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix — Photo by: Chris Owens

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 159, Dixon 141, Newgarden 133, Bourdais 128, Hinchcliffe 120, Castroneves 118, Power 91, Kanaan 87, Hunter-Reay 82, Jones 81.

JR Hildebrand rolls down the frontstretch during the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix — Photo by: Chris Jones

James Hinchcliffe comes in for tires and fuel on pit lane during the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix — Photo by: Chris Jones

Pagenaud races away to first oval victory, takes points lead

Simon Pagenaud sets up for Turn 1 during the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix — Photo by: Chris Owens

AVONDALE, Arizona (Saturday, April 29, 2017) – Simon Pagenaud picked one of the Verizon IndyCar Series tracks richest in open-wheel history to earn his first oval victory. The reigning series champion drove away from the field in the final half of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix Raceway, winning by 9.1028 seconds over teammate Will Power and assuming the points lead after four races of the 2017 season. Driving the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, Pagenaud collected the 10th win of his Indy car career and led a Chevy sweep of the top four positions on the 1.022-mile oval that has hosted 63 Indy car races dating to 1964. It was also win No. 450 for Team Penske in all racing competitions and its 100th on Indy car ovals.

“I can’t explain how excited I am,” Pagenaud said. “Ovals are not my specialty – 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!” Pagenaud took control midway through the 250-lap race, running longer while other frontrunners had to stop for fuel and tires. Pagenaud pitted on Lap 140 with a one-lap advantage on the field under a caution period caused when Takuma Sato’s car made contact with the Turn 4 SAFER Barrier. Pagenaud returned to the track in first place and led the final 114 laps. “The car was phenomenal and thanks to the Menards Chevrolet crew,” Pagenaud said. “The car was so strong at the beginning of the race; we were able to save fuel in traffic. 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.”

Team Penske’s four drivers led all 250 laps, the first time a team has paced every lap in a race since Team Penske did the same thing in the first race of Belle Isle doubleheader last year. Power led 59 laps in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet before finishing second. “It was good night considering where we’ve finished the last few races,” said Power, whose best result this season prior to tonight was 13th. “I’m happy to finish second and get some points.”

Pole sitter Helio Castroneves led 73 laps in the No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevy and finished fourth. Josef Newgarden, the winner of last week’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, led two laps in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevy and ran up front most of the night until contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay forced an unscheduled pit stop and Newgarden finished ninth.

JR Hildebrand finished third in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet – the best result for Hildebrand since his memorable runner-up finish in the 2011 Indianapolis 500 when he crashed while leading on the final lap. Hildebrand was pleased with tonight’s showing after he sat out last week’s race at Barber Motorsports Park while a broken bone in his left hand mended from an April 9 crash in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. “The car was just awesome all day,” Hildebrand said. “Excited to get the result for the team, for sure. The car was bitchin’. I think at the end of the race we had obviously one of the top three, but I think we might have had the best car on the track.”

Pagenaud holds an 18-point advantage in the championship over Scott Dixon, who finished fifth in the race. Newgarden sits third in the standings, 26 points out of first place.

Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing, who led the points entering the night, was caught in a five-car incident on the opening lap when Mikhail Aleshin spun and collected the cars of Bourdais, Marco Andretti, Max Chilton and Graham Rahal in Turn 2. No drivers were injured. Bourdais finished 19th and dropped to fourth in the standings.

The Verizon IndyCar Series heads to an open test on Tuesday at Gateway Motorsports Park, where the series will race under the lights on Aug. 26. After that, it’s back to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the road course May 13 (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network), followed by the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28 (11 a.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

‘What They’re Saying’ from the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “I can’t explain how excited I am. Ovals are not my specialty. 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. he 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.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Tonight’s a tough blow. It’s tough when you have a podium car, potentially a winner car if everything goes right, and you finish ninth. We can’t be too displeased over ninth, but I don’t thTink we’re super happy. I think the Hum by Verizon Chevrolet team is going to truck forward. We think we have fast cars, we’ve had fast cars all year, so hopefully that bodes well for the month of May and we can try to get some more victories.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet): “A lot of battles out there, with teammates even. I’m proud of my REV Group Chevy team. They stayed with it all night. That’s what happens when you have three other amazing drivers. Someday it’s going to be somebody’s day. It was amazing to see. It was a big break for Simon (Pagenaud) on the yellow, but he also was very good. At the end of the day it was a tough battle with some of the guys laps down, which wasn’t really necessary to be honest, but that’s racing. We have another top five in a race, collecting points. We’re going to get our break sooner or later.”

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “The ABC guys gave me an awesome car. We had it in qualifying, but we just didn’t have the information yet to know how much to trim. We put ourselves back there because it’s a process and we learned we can be a lot more trimmed for qualifying. We go into the race and we had a great mechanical balance. And the whole stint the car felt great. We were making progress pulling away from people, catching other guys and I really enjoyed that. It’s a shame what happened but four races in a row, we had some issues but things will turn our way. I’m really proud of the team because we worked so hard to get it back on track, and as soon as we did, the car was just as good as it was. It was really fun to drive again and I know it was fast and that’s the good part.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Certainly not the end result we were hoping for. For us, the race started pretty decently. Obviously, I felt bad to see Mikhail get caught up in a Turn 1 incident. From there we had a decent first stint. During the first round of stops, we realized we weren’t on the same program as everyone else. We ended up having to stop a whole lot earlier than the other cars, and we just weren’t getting the (fuel) mileage. Even though it got us the track position early on, ultimately having to stop five, six laps earlier than everyone over the course of a race adds up. There was no yellow that kind of came out at the right time to put us on the same page as everyone else, and at the end of the race, we had to come in for a splash and go which cost a couple spots. It’s too bad; I think we could have had a solid top-10 finish. The Arrow Electronics car was the strongest that we’ve had here between last year, the test and now; it was a really good car. Unfortunately, the mileage situation really deterred us today. Big credit to the Arrow boys – we rolled off the truck with a good car again. We’ll head into the Month of May and see what we can do.”

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Unfortunately, when we got to Turn 1, I felt the rear of the car went, and I just couldn’t do anything. I was full lock, and I just understood that that was it. I feel sorry for the guys that hit as well, but that’s racing. Very sorry to my Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team and everyone that works on the No. 7 because I think the guys did a fantastic job. Sometimes situations like this happen, but we’ll keep moving forward.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): “There was just nowhere to go really. I was sort of tensing because I knew four-wide on the start on a short oval wasn’t good. It was just one of those things. I hate going out on Lap 1 but I just spun to avoid the accident and got collected. Hopefully we can get a better result with the Gallagher car in Indy next month.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): “Obviously, it was a tough night for the No. 9 NTT Data car, and all the Honda entries I think. Chevy had a leg up on us here and they showed that tonight. Wetried to keep our nose clean but just didn’t have anything for them tonight. Hopefully we can get some momentum back at the Grand Prix of Indy next month.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): “We knew coming into this weekend that it was going to be a difficult one for us. Eric (Cowdin) gave me a stellar car, but we just couldn’t get it done. We have good cars heading into next month, so we’ll just refocus on the month of May and hopefully get the results we’ve been waiting for.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was good night considering where we’ve finished the last few races. I’m happy to finish second and get some points. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a race to be had after that final yellow because there were so many (lapped) cars in between. I think the Verizon Chevrolet was the strongest car. I would have liked to have got the win, but I’ll take the points. This was just what we needed for the championship points. We’ve been good everywhere.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was good to get a top-10 finish. We just kept our nose clean the whole night. It was a really physical race and got more physical as the track gripped up. At the end, I was just trying to hold my line and get to the finish. We still need to improve speed-wise but we are getting better and better with this ABC car.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “I was told by my spotter ‘Go low, go low’ but Max (Chilton) was spinning in front of me to the bottom so I could not go low. My only choice was to go above him and when he released the brake pedal, his car came back up the banking. Where do you go? There was no way to stop the car on the banking. It’s not his fault, that’s just the circumstances of racing. Unfortunately, we got pinched between Max and Marco (Andretti). We’re all innocent bystanders. I haven’t seen the replay yet but I heard Aleshin lost it. With all the smoke, you can’t see a thing. There are cars flying everywhere. I was just kind of hanging on. It’s a shame because we obviously wanted to get a good finish for United Rentals and all of our sponsors.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda): “It’s disappointing. We work so hard and try to do things right. We had a good position at the start, being on the outside, and I could’ve probably picked up one or two positions because I had a good run going. But then all it takes is someone who takes a little bit too much risk to ruin your day. You can take risks when you’re on the outside all alone, but if you’re in the middle, in the gearbox of the car in front of you there’s a good chance that you’ll lose the car. It’s disappointing to lose the points lead like this, I knew we would lose it this weekend but we’re really missing out on some precious points. Plus, there’s a lot of damage to the car and we really didn’t need that.”

ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): “It was pretty difficult. I struggled a lot in traffic but I managed to avoid all the incidents which we could have easily been caught up in, so it’s good to finish the race and finish P11. It’s the first oval race for me in an Indy car so it was a lot to learn. I gained a lot of experience and that’s always important. I’m looking forward to the next one.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “Yesterday (qualifying) was kind of a nightmare, so to be able to come back from that with a seventh-place finish was pretty good. And having our other car in the top three and rolling both on the truck, that’s a pretty good day. JR (Hildebrand) was super motivated to get back in the car and though he was bummed not to be able to make Barber, it’s great for him to get his first podium result here with the team. The whole team did a good job the entire weekend. Now we’re going to head to St. Louis for our next test, then it’s on to Indianapolis.”

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “The car was just awesome all day. It was a little tricky on those first starts and restarts. I couldn’t quite get the timing right and the other guys were running a little less downforce than we were. I was having a hard time fighting everyone off when we were jammed together that close. Towards the end of the race, the car was just awesome. I really felt like I had something for Will (Power) there. If we were in a little more traffic for a little longer, I think we could have gotten him. That’s where we were at our best at this race, just running in a whole pack of cars. A huge thanks to the Fuzzy’s Vodka guys and I’m psyched to be able to come back with a good weekend.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “Tough race. We were struggling with pace at the beginning and after the second pit stop. The second lap out, the car just wouldn’t turn and I got wide in Turn 3. I went into the gray and never came back and brushed the wall. It’s disappointing to finish the day like this, but hopefully we’ll have a good test next week in Gateway.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Oberto/Circle K Honda): “I think we were all just trying to miss Mikhail (Aleshin). He just sort of lost it and I didn’t know which way to go. I spun to actually try to miss him, kept it off the wall and then because of my smoke, he couldn’t see and then Graham (Rahal) ended up getting into me. It’s just a bummer.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It’s very frustrating. I couldn’t do anything with the car all day. I love short ovals and it’s just really frustrating. The DHL car had a great start. We got by a bunch of guys and then we got a puncture. It’s just the way it’s been. (Scott) Dixon was coming up behind me there, stuck his nose in. I was afraid I’d turn across, and I should’ve just turned across. I got out into the gray and two guys got by me. Then I got down into Turn 1 and the car wouldn’t turn at all. I don’t know. It was a really wild ride in that thing today, it was way too complicated behind the steering wheel.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): “Three Chip Ganassi Racing cars in the top 10 is a solid day. We knew coming in after the open test in February that we’d have some challenges for the race weekend. But overall the Honda engine ran great, and we were able to get good mileage when we needed to. It was an interesting race with the way it developed with the long yellow at the start and then the yellow in the middle. I lost a spot or two at that second restart; the tires weren’t quite there. Overall I’m really proud of the way the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew rallied this week. We had a few challenges coming into the weekend and we knew dealing with the weather conditions would be tough, especially with just the one practice session. We had great stops by the team in pit lane and really nice calls from the timing stand. I’m happy with the eighth-place result tonight. We’ll take those points and move on to the month of May in Indy.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Andretti/Curb Honda) : “Everything was fine, I came out of the pits on new tires, and everything was status quo until the weight went out on the wheel and the front grip went away. I brushed the wall and we came back into the pits to see what was going on and unfortunately couldn’t fix it. We don’t really know what happened. We were having a decent race until then, we were running consistently in the top 10, staying with the Ganassi cars. I don’t really know what to say, I’m just not really sure what happened.”

AVONDALE, Arizona – Results Saturday of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.022-mile Phoenix Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, Car #, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (5) Car 1 Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 250, Running
2. (2) Car 12 Will Power, Chevrolet, 250, Running
3. (3) Car 21 JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 250, Running
4. (1) Car 3 Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 250, Running
5. (8) Car 9 Scott Dixon, Honda, 249, Running
6. (6) Car 10 Tony Kanaan, Honda, 249, Running
7. (21) Car 20 Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 248, Running
8. (14) Car 83 Charlie Kimball, Honda, 248, Running
9. (4) Car 2 Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 248, Running
10. (19) Car 14 Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 247, Running
11. (16) Car 19 Ed Jones, Honda, 247, Running
12. (11) Car 5 James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 246, Running
13. (12) Car 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 220, Mechanical
14. (20) Car 4 Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 180, Running
15. (15) Car 98 Alexander Rossi, Honda, 141, Contact
16. (18) Car 26 Takuma Sato, Honda, 135, Contact
17. (7) Car 7 Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 0, Contact
18. (9) Car 27 Marco Andretti, Honda, 0, Contact
19. (10) Car 18 Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 0, Contact
20. (13) Car 8 Max Chilton, Honda, 0, Contact
21. (17) Car Car 15 Graham Rahal, Honda, 0, Contact

Race Statistics:
Winner’s average speed: 144.058
Time of Race: 1:46:24.9473
Margin of victory: 9.1028 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 32 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 4 drivers
Fastest Lap: 186.340 mph (19.7446 seconds) on Lap 208 by 12 – Will Power
Fastest Leader Lap: 184.707 mph (19.9191 seconds) on Lap 155 by 1 – Simon Pagenaud
Verizon P1 Award: Helio Castroneves (37.7538 seconds, 194.905 mph)
Legend: R = Sunoco Rookie of the Year Candidate; All cars use fourth-generation Verizon IndyCar Series Chassis (IR-12) with Chevrolet or Honda aerodynamic bodywork and Firestone tires

Next Race: May 13 INDYCAR Grand Prix Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Indianapolis, IN

IndyCar
http://www.indycar.com/
Graphics & Photos Courtesy of Indycar

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