• 1-2 finish for Honda-powered Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay
• Superior fuel mileage paves Honda’s “Brickyard” victory
Simon Pagenaud became the fourth different Verizon IndyCar Series winner in as many races Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as the Honda-powered driver combined both speed and fuel mileage to claim his first victory of 2014 at the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Starting fourth, Pagenaud successfully avoided a multi-car crash at the standing start that eliminated his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate, Mikail Aleshin, and fellow Honda driver Carlos Munoz, when pole-qualifier Sebastian Saavedra stalled at the line, resulting in a eight-lap caution period to begin the race.
Once the green flag flew on Lap 8, another impressive performance from rookie Jack Hawksworth saw the Honda-powered Bryan Herta Autosport driver pass early race leader Ryan Hunter-Reay in Turn One, with Pagenaud following through into second. The trio continued to lead the way for much of the 82-lap event, losing the advantage only when multiple cautions led the field to split into two separate pit-stop strategies.
Hawksworth’s chance for victory faded on Lap 61, however, when a communication miscue resulted in him staying on track when others on the same strategy pitted. That moved Pagenaud and Hunter-Reay to the front of “their” group, while Helio Castroneves led a group of four Chevrolet-powered cars on the alternative pit strategy. One by one, the Castroneves-led group was forced to pit, starting on Lap 69, as Pagenaud and Hunter-Reay moved to the front, and then held off their challengers to the Lap 84 checkers.
With the completion of the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the focus of Indy car drivers and teams now turns to the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, with activities on the famed 2.5-mile oval beginning Sunday with Opening Day of practice for the May 25th event.
Simon Pagenaud (#77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) started 4th, finished 1st, 1st win of 2014 and 3rd career Indy car victory: “I don’t like having to save fuel, but I did exactly as my team told me to do. I just kept working my [fuel] mileage and working my lap times and, thanks to Honda, I think we may have been ‘making’ fuel at the end! Definitely, I think we are now in the hunt for the championship. But at this moment, all I can think about is being at the Pagoda, in Victory Circle. It truly is something special that I will never forget.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race win: “What a great win for Simon Pagenaud, the Sam Schmidt organization and Honda. We all like to say ‘racing improves the breed’ but today, I think, a little of Honda’s well-earned reputation for efficiency and great fuel mileage helped us achieve a 1-2 finish. Congratulations to Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport their well-judged second place run today, and also to Bryan Herta Autosport and Jack Hawksworth, who demonstrated tremendous speed, until a communication miscue cost him a chance at victory. Our best wishes to James Hinchcliffe, who was injured by debris from a collision in front of him. We hope he recovers quickly. Now it’s on to the biggest prize of the year: the Indianapolis 500.”