BY JIM MILLER WEEKLY INDYCAR WRITER
Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 PPG Automotive Finish Chevrolet, Team Penske) came into the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama feeling good about his season so far. He left it feeling like a winner for the second week in a row.
Pagenaud started at the pole position and led all but 6 laps of the 90-lap 207 mile race at the Barber Motorsports Park’s 2.3-mile permanent road course. He ran virtually unchallenged until Lap 82 when Graham Rahal in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda took advantage of slower traffic and passed Pagenaud on a turn. Contact was made between the two cars resulting in a damaged front wing for Rahal and rear pod damage for Pagenaud who ran off into the grass.
Both cars continued as IndyCar officials deemed the pass to be legal with no penalty for blocking for Pagenaud.
Four laps later Rahal ran into the back of Jack Hawksworth’s car at the rear of the field, further damaging his front wing. With Rahal struggling and slowing with no downforce, Pagenaud retook the lead for the remaining four laps ultimately finishing 13.7 seconds ahead of Rahal who managed to finish in second place.
“We’re just on a roll,” Pagenaud said after the race. “The car is amazing. First and foremost, I am so excited. OK, another green flag race, but we make it exciting for the fans in the end.”
Josef Newgarden (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet) passed Will Power on the last lap giving him third place on the podium and sliding Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penkse Chevrolet) into fourth.
Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) who started the 21-car field in the last position delivered the most impressive result of the day moving up to finish fifth.
With this win Pagenaud now has six IndyCar career victories and 188 points in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, 48-points ahead of Scott Dixon.
The Verizon IndyCar Series now goes back home again to Indiana for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course on Saturday, May 14th, broadcast live on ABC 2:30 p.m. CT. Practice for the much anticipated 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil begins on Monday, May 16th.