BY JIM MILLER
After finishing second in the first two races of the year, Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 PPG Automotive Finish Chevrolet) stepped up to the top step of the podium with his first win with Team Penske at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
What many of the drivers referred to as being a “boring, quick race”, Pagenaud would disagree.
“This is my favorite street course,” Pagenaud said. “To win here, especially in Indy car, given the level of competition, is amazing. The PPG car is good luck on me. Every time I’m in that car, I’m on the podium.”
The race was one of the quickest ever at this venue with no cautions or restarts. All 21 cars were running at the end. Teams used a 2-pit stop strategy, but these pit stops allowed for the few lead changes on this tight 1.968-mile temporary street course
Helio Castroneves (Team Penske No. 3, the Auto Club of California Chevrolet) started from the pole position and led 47 laps of the race. Scott Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet), who started the race in second place and looked strong all day, assumed the lead on lap 52 when Castroneves pitted.
Controversy came on lap 54 when Pagenaud took to the pits and upon exiting ahead of an approaching Dixon appeared to cross the double-yellow line with all four wheels. IndyCar officials reviewed the action and a warning was issued instead of a penalty allowing Pagenaud to maintain his position in the lead. He managed to stay ahead of a hard charging Dixon crossing the finish line by a mere 0.3032 seconds — the closest finish in Long Beach history.
Castroneves finished third with Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) fourth and Takuma Sato (A.J. Foyt Enterprises) rounding out the top five as the top finishing Honda.
This was Pagenaud’s fifth IndyCar career win. He now leads Dixon in the season long points standings by 14 points with Montoya in third 28 points behind.
The Verizon IndyCar Series now heads south for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park Sunday, April 24th.