INDYCAR: 'What a day' for Pagenaud as he gets third-straight win

Posted May 15, 2016 by John Duarte
Simon Pagenaud opened the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday leading the first 21 laps and closed it leading the final 20 on his way to his third-consecutive victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Simon Pagenaud celebrates his third-straight win of 2016 on the Verizon IndyCar Series. He won the A...
Simon Pagenaud celebrates his third-straight win of 2016 on the Verizon IndyCar Series. He won the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 14, 2016, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Shawn Gritzmacher/
The French driver opened the festivities leading up to the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 taking the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the same track where The Greatest Spectacle in Racing will be contested in two weeks. The Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis runs on the infield road course and incorporates portions of the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It's incredible to win three race in a row like this and, here at Indy for me, it's very special,” said Pagenaud, whose streak started on April 17 at the Grand Prix of Long Beach and continued April 24 at the Grand Prix of Alabama. “What a day.”
In five Verizon IndyCar Series races so far this year, Pagenaud finished second twice before embarking on a hattrick of victories. The run surprises even the driver himself.
“You don't see this happening,” Pagenaud said. “The domination we are having is incredible.”
While savouring his latest triumph, Pagenaud knows that success in racing is fickle at best and a driver can't dwell on what is past, but must stay focused on what is ahead.
“I'm happy about the beginning of my season and contending for the championship,' he said. “But I have to keep my head down. The crown jewel(the Indianapolis 500) is coming.”
Pagenaud's teammate, and runner up in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Helio Castroneves, shared the winner's sentiment. He said he knew his car wasn't the fastest on the day, but “we had the heart, man” and that “passion” is sometimes more important in racing. He led the race for seven laps.
“Great teamwork. Everybody was really in sync,” said Castroneves. “We put it out there and had a little bit of luck, obviously, but it all blends together.”
As for dueling with his teammate on the track, Castroneves admitted it was never really a close race.
“Simon saw me behind him and he was just playing with me,” Castroneves said. “I'd come close and then he would put distance (back between us).”
Few people were happier at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday than Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe. Sidelined by serious injury for most of last year and nearly ended his career, Hinchcliffe finished third in the race, for his first Top 5 standing and third straight race in the Top 10. It was a satisfying day for Hinchcliffe, who said Pagenaud was practically unbeatable.
“Simon was in a class of his own,” he said. “I don't know if we could have had enough for him either way.”
After the race, the Canadian driver said he would donate his winnings to the Canadian Red Cross and the people affected by the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Pagenaud's run has him leading the Verizon IndyCar Series driver standings by 76 points. Scott Dixon and Juan Pablo Montoya are second and third in the standings, with Castroneves closing in fast on the leaders. Montoya is the defending Indy 500 champion. Dixon finished fourth, Castroneves seventh and Pagenaud 10th in last year's race.
Being able to extend his winning streak to four on one of the grandest stages in racing is something Pagenaud dreams about.
“It would be the completion of my career,” he said. “I would be complete personally, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't want to do it again.”
Few events draw the attention of motorsport fans like the Indianapolis 500, which this year will be even more special since the race celebrates its centenary running. Qualifying for the pole position of the Indy 500 starts on May 21 and the race itself goes May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A big announcement coming out of the weekend was a change in location for what was to be the Grand Prix of Boston, in the first week of September. The race which was to take place on the streets of the Massachusetts city was canceled April 29 after concerns of traffic congestion by local residents and demands from city and sate government.
IndyCar officials found themselves scrambling for a replacement venue and announced Friday the event would now be known as the IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen and would go as scheduled on Sept. 4, but now at Watkins Glen International, in upstate New York.
Happy to see IndyCar return to Watkins Glen, where the series hasn't run since 2010, was Dixon. The winner of the last three races held at the venue said he enjoys racing at “old-school” tracks.
IndyCar president of competition and operations said, “This wasn't about replacing (the Boston) event . This was about replacing it with the right event.”