Avondale, AZ – Tonight, was a tale of two separate races mixed into one. It was basically two classes of cars in the 250 Lap Verizon IndyCar Series race at the Phoenix International Raceway.
Chevrolet once again was the most dominating manufacturer for the second straight year at the 1.022-mile track, as they swept the race weekend. Last year, Chevy drivers led all 250 laps in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. This year, they did it again.
On Friday, the four Team Penske drivers and JR Hildebrand swept the top five of practice as well as qualifying.
In Saturday night’s race, they did the same all night. No one could pass them, as for 95-percent of the race, all five ran inside the top five.
Simon Pagenaud inherited the lead on the second pit sequence, and a caution came out just before he came down pit road. He chose not to pit because of that, which was a wise move, because he had literally everyone a lap down at at that point.
He’d never relinquish the lead from there, leading the final 116 laps en route to his 10th career IndyCar victory.
But, this was his first oval win, as Pagenaud called this his best win of the 10 due to that. He also took over the points lead and has finished inside the top five in every race this season.
He beat his teammate Will Power by 9.1028-seconds, as Power got his first top 10 finish of the season. By virtue of his runner-up, Power moved from 14th to seventh in the points standings.
Power, led 59 laps tonight
JR Hildebrand, broken hand and all, broke up the Penske party up front bringing his No. 21 Chevrolet home third for his second career IndyCar podium, while a third Penske car in Helio Castroneves finished fourth, for his 134th career top five finish and 214th top 10.
Castroneves, led 73 laps himself.
Scott Dixon rounded out the top five, as he and Pagenaud are the only two to come away with top fives in all four races to start this season.
The start of the race went about as bad as a start can go. It all started (no pun intended) when Helio Castroneves accelerated really way too early. In Turn 3, he was going which caused the back half of the field to spread out.
The start should have been waved off then.
Then, carnage happened.
Mikhail Aleshin lost control of his No. 7 Honda entering Turn 2 and collected four other cars as the other four had nowhere to go.
Points leader Sebastien Bourdais, Max Chilton, Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal were all involved in the first lap melee in Turn 2.
For Bourdais, it was his first finish outside the top 10 since last summer. For Andretti, it just kept his bad luck streak going as he’s had three straight races with finishes of 18th or worse.
The first 22 laps were run under caution.
After that, we’d go a while under a caution came out on Lap 138 when Takuma Sato got into the Turn 4 SAFER barrier. Unfortunately, the second pit sequence was almost over, as Simon Pagenaud was the only car on the lead lap at that point. He’d pit under caution, but only five cars were on the lead lap from that point on.
The series will test at Gateway on Tuesday, then head to the Month of May at Indianapolis. Next up is the IndyCar Grand Prix on May 13.
Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix Results:
- 1 Pagenaud
- 12 Power
- 21 Hildebrand
- 3 Castroneves
- 9 Dixon -1
- 10 Kanaan -1
- 20 Carpenter -2
- 83 Kimball -2
- 2 Newgarden -2
- 14 Munoz -3
- 19 Jones R -3
- 5 Hinchcliffe -4
- 28 Hunter-Reay OUT
- 4 Daly -70
- 98 Rossi OUT
- 26 Sato OUT
- 7 Aleshin OUT
- 27 Andretti OUT
- 18 Bourdais OUT
- 8 Chilton OUT
- 15 Rahal OUT