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article imageINDYCAR: Pagenaud 'so delighted' with consecutive wins

By John Duarte     Apr 25, 2016 in Sports
Birmingham - Simon Pagenaud rode the momentum he gained winning the Verizon IndyCar Series race in California one week ago by taking the Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday.
“The car is amazing and I am so comfortable driving that PPG car,” said Pagenaud, who has placed first or second in all four series races. “We are just on a roll.”
Pagenaud started from the pole position and led the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama for its first 19 laps before losing the lead to eventual race runner-up Graham Rahal. Pagenaud resumed the lead after two laps and remained there for the next 60 circuits of Barber Motorsports Park. Rahal took over the head of the field for another three laps until Pagenaud took over for good on Lap 86. The French driver led the Grand Prix of Alabama for 84 of its 90 laps.
“I had a really fast car. I'm driving my best and having a fantastic time,” said Pagenaud. “Man, second time in a row we're in Victory Lane. I'm just so delighted.”
Rahal wasn't satisfied with his performance, saying he had “just let this one slip” despite having the car to beat.” According to Rahal, the critical moment of his race came on Lap 85 when he ran into a slower car, causing damage to his front wing.
“Just kind of took my eye off the ball there for a second (at the end of the race)... looked down, pressed push-to-pass and, by the time I looked up and got my reaction, it was a little too late,” Rahal said. “Just a brain lapse there for a second and I got into the back of Jack (Hawksworth).”
Pagenaud took advantage of the opportunity and cruised from to a nearly 14-second gap at the finish line. After the race, Pagenaud talked about the on-track incident between him and Rahal.
“It was all about keeping Graham behind me,” he said. “Graham damaged his front wing, so I took my chances. And, then, I just ran away.”
The incident in question had the two drivers jockeying for position. Pagenaud was protecting his lead and moved over in front of Rahal, in an attempt to stop him from slipping by. Rahal made contact with Pagenaud, who was unapologetic for the move.
“I felt like I was being pushed,” he said of his actions, adding it was not a factor in the race. “It was just a great race, and a great battle.”
IndyCar officials reviewed the incident and decided no disciplinary action was required.
Rahal called Pagenaud's move “a really solid block,” but dismissed it as not intentional.
“You would never turn in where he turned in. He was purposefully trying to cut me off,” Rahal said. “I'm glad it was a no-call (by race officials because for sure it's just a racing incident.”
Rahal elected not to pit and simply ease his car the rest of the way to finish just ahead of Josef Newgarden, the third-place finisher in the race.
This week's win helps Pagenaud extend his lead on the Verizon IndyCar Series driver standings. He now leads Scott Dixon by 48 points and is 52 ahead of third-place Juan Pablo Montoya.
Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, on the infield road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is the next event on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. The race takes place on May 14. Two weeks later, the same track hosts the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
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