Pagenaud takes points lead with Phoenix win
Simon Pagenaud has taken over the IndyCar Series lead with a win in Phoenix while Will Power finally bagged a solid result in second.
Pagenaud’s ascension to the top of the table was aided by a first-corner crash which took out previous points leader Sebastien Bourdais.
Behind Power, JR Hildebrand (Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet) was close behind in third despite nursing a broken hand after his Long Beach crash.
Pagenaud had not long passed Power for third as the field began to pit around the Lap 70 mark, and emerged in the same position when the stops shook out.
A Lap 138 caution caused by a sizeable shunt for Takuma Sato (Andretti Autosport Honda) gave Pagenaud his big break, allowing the Frenchman to ultimately take over the lead with his three Team Penske team-mates and Hildebrand.
The latter four were stuck behind the safety car having already pitted a second time or been in the pits when the yellows were thrown.
With Power battling traffic thereafter, Pagenaud just had to keep his composure for the final 100 laps of the 250-lap race, going on to take his first ever win on an oval.
“It was the most stressful end of the race I’ve ever lived but the car was just phenomenal,” said the French Team Penske driver.
“For me this is my best win, because it’s so strategic to win on an oval, you have to really study what the others are doing, how your car is responding, adjust it during the race to be good at the end, and today it was an exactly perfect day so I couldn’t be any happier.”
Power had taken the lead through the first round of pit stops and held that advantage until Sato drew the second caution of the race.
The outcome was bittersweet for the Toowoomba driver after a puncture cost him the win six days earlier, his fifth finish outside the top 10 in a row.
“It was a very good result, I definitely needed that one,” said Power.
“It’s just unfortunate that we caught that yellow because I felt like we had the strongest car and the guys did great stops.
“Still, second place, (so it was) a good solid day.”
The #12 Team Penske Chevrolet driver moves up from 14th to seventh in the series, but did lose another point to the lead.
Helio Castroneves was fourth for the second race in a row, meaning that three of Team Penske’s four cars have finished in the top four in both of those races.
It might have been four out of the top five but last-start winner Josef Newgarden was forced into a second front wing change inside the final laps when he clipped a slow-moving Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had just glanced the wall in his Andretti Honda.
The first 21 laps were run under yellow after Mikhail Aleshin lost his Schmidt Peterson Honda on his own and hit Bourdais’s Dayle Coyne Honda as he spun.
Max Chilton (Chip Ganassi Honda) and Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport Honda) were also caught in the incident, while Graham Rahal also retired when he couldn’t thread his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda between that pair.
Only four cars finished on the lead lap, the rest having fallen back under the Sato caution, with Scott Dixon fifth in a Chip Ganassi Honda.
With the month of May just over a day away in America, the Verizon IndyCar Series next moves to Indianapolis for the road course race on May 12-13.
Results: Grand Prix of Phoenix
|Pos||Driver||Grid||Laps||Race time||Laps led||Status||Pit stops|
|11||Ed Jones (R)||16||247||01:46:38.6580||–||Running||4|
Championship points: After Round 4
|10||Ed Jones (R)||81|