In an incident-filled 75-lap battle on the downtown streets of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Simon Pagenaud came through the carnage to score his second IZOD IndyCar Series win of 2013 in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Baltimore, aboard his Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda Dallara. The win, Honda’s eighth of the season, ties it with rival Chevrolet for Manufacturers’ Championship honors with only three races remaining. Josef Newgarden drove an inspired race to finish second for Honda and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a career-best for the sophomore Indy car driver.
After starting third, Pagenaud produced a strong run in the opening laps, running in formation with early leaders Will Power and Scott Dixon. But, in what would become a pattern for the event, the caution flag waved for the first time after just 12 laps, as car-to-car contact and crashes became the order of the day, which resulted in 25 laps of the 75-lap distance being run under caution. The early yellows resulted in several different pit strategies being employed, with the Schmidt team being one of the few to “split” its cars, running a standard schedule for Pagenaud while trying an off-sequence pit strategy for teammate Tristan Vautier.
As the race neared its mid-point, it appeared to be a contest between Power and Dixon among the drivers on a normal two-stop strategy, and Sebastien Bourdais and Vautier among those running an “alternate strategy”. Honda drivers delayed or eliminated by contact included Vautier, Charlie Kimball – who was forced to a full stop on track several times by crashes directly in front of him – and Dixon, whose Target Chip Gansssi Racing Honda was hit by Power while attempting to pass on Lap 52.
As the cautions continued, all without injury to the drivers involved, the strategies converged to set up a 10-lap sprint to the finish among the survivors. When the field took the green flag for the final time on Lap 65, Pagenaud stalked leader Marco Andretti for several laps, then made his move under braking for the hairpin on Lap 69 to claim a lead he would not surrender.
Once in front, Pagenaud held off several passing attempts by first Bourdais, then Newgarden, who had moved into second on Lap 70. Fading brakes then ended Newgarden’s challenge, and Pagenaud stretched his advantage to just over four seconds at the checkers.
After back-to-back events – traveling from Sonoma Raceway in California to Baltimore on the eastern U.S. shore in the process – the IZOD IndyCar Series now takes a four-week break before resuming October 4-6 with the third and final doubleheader race weekend of 2013, the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers, at the Reliant Park temporary street circuit in Houston, Texas.
Simon Pagenaud (#77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda Dallara) started 3rd, finished 1st, his second IndyCar victory of 2013 and career; Honda’s 8th race win of the season: “The car was fantastic, as you could see on the first stint [run until the first pit stop]. I struggled for a bit mid-race, but then we were able to pick it up again at the finish, just when we needed it. You know in racing, you’ve got to have some luck, and to be honest, today I was lucky on the restarts. We didn’t get ‘collected’ [hit]. But you’ve got to keep pushing, and that’s what we did today, all the time. I pushed hard on the last restart against Marco [Andretti] and ‘TK’ [Tony Kanaan]. It was an awesome job for the entire team. They’ve been fantastic all weekend, and I guess it’s good for the championship, too!”
Josef Newgarden (#67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda Dallara) started 5th, finished 2nd, career-best IndyCar result: “You know, I like Baltimore a lot. I finished second here in Indy Lights, and second here in Indy car, so I have seconds in my only two appearances here, and I’m happy for a great result for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. I wanted to challenge Simon [Pagenaud], but we had a bit of a brake problem at the end. I almost drove into the tire barriers with two laps left, because I had no brake pedal, and at that point I just had to back off and keep [third-place] Sebastien [Bourdais] from catching me.
Roger Griffiths (Technical Director, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: \"Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of everything going on out there today! There was a lot of confusion out on the track, and a lot of very aggressive moves. Some worked out all right, but not all of them! I genuinely feel sorry for Scott [Dixon], that’s two very tough races in a row now for him, and he was driving an excellent race today until being forced into the wall. Josef [Newgarden] did a great job as well and is continuing to mature as a driver. Ultimately, congratulations to Simon [Pagenaud] and the entire Sam Schmidt organization. The team had a great race strategy, and once Simon was in the lead, no one was going to catch him today. Now the manufacturers’ [championship] race is all tied up once more, and shows every indication of going down to the end of the season.”