In a race where a flurry of early cautions resulted in a variety of pit strategies, Simon Pagenaud and his Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports team played the game to perfection Sunday at the Belle Isle Park in Detroit, winning the second of two IZOD IndyCar Series races this weekend on the 2.3-mile temporary street circuit, and leading a Honda first-through-fifth sweep.
Coupled with a win by Honda-powered Mike Conway in Saturday’s weekend opener, the weekend results moved Honda back to within three points from the lead in the 2013 IndyCar Manufacturers’ Championship, after seven of 19 races.
Starting sixth on the alternate “red” tires, which provide superior grip to the standard “black” sidewall tires but wear out much quicker, Pagenaud moved up to third behind Saturday’s winner Conway, as a total of six caution periods repeatedly interrupted the action during the first half of the 70-lap contest. During a caution on Lap 20, Pagenaud made his first scheduled stop and was fitted with the more durable “black” sidewall primary tires.
A long middle stint saw Pagenaud cycle to the front of the field as the race ran caution-free from Lap 37 to the finish. He built a massive lead of more than 20 seconds before his final pit stop, allowing him to resume in second place behind fellow Honda driver James Jakes. On a similar strategy, Jakes made his final stop three laps later, promoting Pagenaud into a lead he would hold to the finish.
Jakes, in turn, fought off a determined challenge from Honda-powered Saturday race winner Conway in the final laps to claim a career-best second place, while Conway capped off a surprisingly competitive weekend as a last-minute replacement driver at Dale Coyne Racing by finishing third.
Although on different pit strategies, Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti ran together during the final 10 laps, as Dixon caught and passed a fuel-saving Franchitti, who completed a sweep of the top five finishing positions for Honda. In the third Chip Ganassi Racing entry, Charlie Kimball had another strong run, leading three laps en route to a seventh-place finish.
After the first doubleheader street-circuit race weekend this year, the IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the ovals for the next three consecutive weekends, starting with the June 8 race at Texas Motor Speedway, the first Saturday night race of the 2013 season.
Simon Pagenaud (#77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda) started 6th, finished 1st, his first IZOD IndyCar Series victory; 3rd win for Honda in 2013 and 199th Indy car victory for the manufacturer: “There were a lot of things going on in the cockpit in the last two laps, I can tell you that. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know how we did it, but the car was mega-fast. The team did a fantastic job, and Honda has been amazing. I certainly had more horsepower than anyone else out there today. Thanks to everyone: my family and everyone around me. This would not have happened without them. Man, winning is a great feeling, one, I hope, of more to come.”
James Jakes (#16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Dallara) started 2nd, finished 2nd, his career-best IndyCar finish: “It’s huge, huge for a lot of people. The team did a great job this weekend, the car was just magical This one is for Honda. Three Hondas on the podium again in Detroit, it’s fantastic. Obviously, we didn’t have the month of May that we all wanted, but they’ve really worked their butts off since Indy, and we’re proud of them. Filling out the podium today was a great reward.”
Roger Griffiths (Technical Director, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race win: \"Two wins, two poles and a podium sweep in today’s race ... After yesterday’s win by Mike [Conway] – to think we could do it again today in such emphatic style is unbelievable. I’m so pleased to be here and see Simon [Pagenaud] get his first win, and the fantastic results for [second-place] James [Jakes] and [third-place] Mike as well. It’s a fitting tribute to all the hard work everyone at HPD has put forth since Indy.”