Saturday’s roundup: Simon Pagenaud wins at Phoenix
Avondale, Ariz. — Simon Pagenaud took advantage of a caution flag that caught the other leaders on pit road to win the Verizon IndyCar race Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway.
The defending series champion grabbed the lead when Team Penske teammate Will Power pitted on the 137th lap, and the caution came out seconds later when Takuma Sato hit the wall in the fourth turn.
Pagenaud not only ended up with the lead, but had lapped cars between his Chevrolet and the other four lead-lap cars. Power cut Pagenaud’s 13-second lead to 3 with 40 laps to go before the Frenchman pulled away to win by over 9 seconds in front of a crowd of about only 7,000 fans at the mile oval.
“Those were the longest 50 laps of my life,” Pagenaud said. “I have a button on my wheel that tells me how many laps were left. I kept pressing it. It was stressful. The car was phenomenal.”
Pagenaud took the season points lead with his 10th career victory and first on an oval. Penske drivers led all 250 laps on the mile track en route to the team’s record-extending 189th series victory.
“This is incredible. This is my best win,” Pagenaud said. “You need to be so strategic to win on an oval and today was the perfect day. I couldn’t be any happier.”
Power had his first podium finish of the year.
“We just got caught out by a yellow,” the Australian said. “We just had a wait there. It made a bad race of it.”
JR Hildebrand was third in another Chevy for Ed Carpenter Racing, and pole-sitter Helio Castroneves finished fourth for Penske. Scott Dixon, the winner last year, was a lap down in fifth.
Hildebrand returned after missing the Alabama event last week because of a broken left hand. He was hurt after late contact with Mikhail Aleshin in Long Beach, California.
“At the end, we might have had the best car on the track,” Hildebrand said. “It’s a great result heading into May.”
Aleshin didn’t finish a lap Saturday, losing control and spinning in the second turn to start a wreck that collected fellow Honda drivers Marco Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal and Max Chilton.
“I turned and the rear just went sideways,” Aleshin said.
Bourdais won the opener in St. Petersburg, Florida, and took the points lead into the night.
“I was just along for the ride. Nothing I could do,” Bourdais said. “It’s just a shame.”
At Richmond, Virginia, Kyle Larson took the lead on pit stops with only a handful of laps to go when race leader Ty Dillon jumped a restart and won the race at Richmond International Raceway after barely beating a caution flag to the overtime line.
Justin Allgaier finished second after leading 157 of the 254 laps and won a $100,000 bonus in the Dash for Cash, and pole-sitter Daniel Hemric was third.
Larson was running near the lead when the race went back to green with about five laps to go. Dillon was the leader and took off too early when the green flag flew, setting up a battle between Larson and Allgaier for the victory in a two-lap dash to the finish.
Allgaier started on the outside and stayed side-by-side with Larson into the first turn. But Larson slowly put a few car lengths between them before an accident behind them brought out a caution flag, making official Larson’s second victory in five Xfinity starts this year.