Pagenaud, who has already clinched IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year honors, starred in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Baltimore, jumping from sixth to first on a Lap 35 restart and going on to lead 14 laps en route to a third-place finish, his fourth podium result of the 2012 season.
Pagenaud fell back to third during the final round of pit stops, and was unable to make a final bid for victory when his Schmidt Hamilton Racing Honda Dallara picked up an understeer in the final laps of today’s 75-lap contest, making it impossible for him to mount a successful attack on either race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay or runner-up Ryan Briscoe.
Takuma Sato also make a strong bid for victory, despite starting near the back of the field after a difficult qualifying session on Saturday. Sato led 12 laps while a brief, light rain shower blanketed portions of the 2.04-mile downtown temporary street circuit, and continued to lead on dry weather “slick” tires when many others elected to pit for rain tires. But a lack of fuel pressure caused Sato’s engine to stumble on the same Lap 35 restart that saw Pagenaud snare the lead, and soon ended Sato’s day on Lap 38.
Scott Dixon finished fourth, while Alex Tagliani led one lap today for Barracuda Racing. Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal, Dario Franchitti and Charlie Kimball all ran in the top five for portions of today’s race before being delayed by a wide variety of causes in an incident-filled race. Wilson, along with Mike Conway, lost time in a late-race, multi-car collision; Franchitti came up one lap short in an attempt to stretch his fuel mileage to the checkers; while Kimball ran as high as third before mechanical failure ended his day.
Simon Pagenaud (#77 Schmidt Hamilton Racing Honda) started 9th, finished 3rd, his 4th podium finish of 2012: “My team gave me a fantastic car today. After the second restart, when we took the lead, I thought there was no way anyone was going to be able to get us today. But we lost a bit of ground during the last pit stops, and it became difficult to make it up as the car picked up some rubber and started to understeer on the last set of tires. I thought we might have one more chance [for the victory] on the final restart. Ryan [Hunter-Reay] went so deep on the brakes that I did not think he would make the corner. I tried to cut under him but the car wouldn’t turn quickly enough to make the pass.”
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) started 2nd, finished 4th: “It was a really hard day with the rain. We had a little bit of a push [understeer] all day, which made it difficult to pass. Then, we missed out on the first [pit] sequence, so we pitted off-sequence to try to get to the end. We were able to make it, but had to save a lot of fuel to do so. It was just a long, difficult race.”
Roger Griffiths (Technical Director, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: \"Simon [Pagenaud] had a great race, absolutely amazing restarts, but he seemed to fade at the end [with understeer]. But he kept his head, kept clean and really showed everyone why he is the IndyCar Rookie of the Year. Now, we go to Fontana [Auto Club Speedway] and we want to finish the season on a high note. We want to show that on the high-speed ovals, Hondas are the engines to beat. We’ve got a strong group of drivers and teams; and we’re doing everything we can to give them the very best engines for the final race.”