Sunday, 24 April 2016

Pagenaud makes it two at Barber while Dixon takes a lap record.

Three of the big names at last years Indy 500 
and set to be centre stage again soon. Pagenaud, Power and Dixon.

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Simon Pagenaud's dominance in the IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsport Park was interrupted briefly by a late charge from Graham Rahal, but it didn't last long.That's the story of this round of the 2016 championship.

Rahal stole the lead from Pagenaud with a pass on Lap 82 of the 90-lap event that involved contact between the two IndyCar Series drivers' cars, only to see Pagenaud return the favor four laps later and drive on to victory.
It gave the Team Penske driver his second straight win of 2016 and sixth of his Indy car career, continuing the impressive start to the season that has seen the Frenchman finish in the top two at all four races and extend the championship lead.

From here the teams will focus on the two big events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy Grand Prix on the Speedways impressive Road Course on the 14th May and then the big one the 100th running of the Indy 500 on May 29.Looking set to be a sell out for the first time in 20 years this years 500 will raise the bar in true Indy style.

"We are just on a roll," race winner Pagenaud said. "The car is amazing and I am so comfortable driving that car.  We made it exciting at the end for the fans, which is great. I am happy there was some action." With the win, Pagenaud has accumulated 188 points in the first quarter of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season and now holds a 48-point advantage over Scott Dixon. 

Race winner and the Pole winner, Pagenaud started first and had little issue maintaining a gap until coming upon lapped traffic. Slower cars in front allowed the charging Rahal to close late, similar to what he did a year ago at Barber when he finished second to Josef Newgarden. However on Lap 82, Rahal dove inside Pagenaud in Turn 8, Rahal's left-front tire making contact with Pagenaud's right rear. Pagenaud drifted wide and Rahal took the lead. Newgarden finished third in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, the same place he started the race. Will Power, a two-time Barber race winner, was fourth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy. Juan Pablo Montoya mounted the strongest charge of the day, starting last in the 21-car field and moving all the way to fifth in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevy, just ahead of James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. "At the start of the race, if you would have told me I would have finished fifth, I wouldn't have believed it. I'm pretty happy where we finished and now we look ahead to Indy," said Montoya, the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner.
Dixon, the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion in the No. 9 Coca-Cola Chevrolet from Chip Ganassi Racing, was turned around on Lap 3 by Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 11 Team Europa - KVSH Racing Chevrolet and fell to 20th position. Dixon rebounded to finish 10th, setting a race lap record of 1 minute, 8.4533 seconds (120.958 mph) along the way.
Pagenaud on the streets of Detroit in 2015. 
The Detriot Grand Prix double header is one week after the 100th indy 500 in 2016

Bourdais commented after the race "Obviously not what we wanted today. I feel really sorry for Scott (Dixon). He was collateral damage in something that was not in any way his fault. I was fighting with Graham (Rahal), side-by-side with him, trying to hold position and Scott was probably trying to do the crossover on the inside in Turn 5 on someone. I was boxed in. Scott in front and Graham on the right, there was no escaping from there. It is my fault, so I have to apologize for that. It is a shame because the car had pace. I held the gap with Simon (Pagenaud) despite running into some traffic. I definitely had the car to contend at the front. I just couldn't show it. I am very disappointed for the Europa - KVSH Racing guys. They worked really hard all weekend. This was a wasted opportunity, but there is nothing I can do about that now, so just move on and try not to make a mistake like that again."

The heart rates will soon go up now that's for sure as the teams will draw all their attentions to Indy and  in just over a month now we will have a new Indy 500 Champion and the winner of the 1090th of the great race. The pressure will be very firmly on the teams as well as the drivers and while the field looks set at 33 never count out a few more entries and already there are planned press conferences for this week ahead on driver announcements for the 500 so be expecting the official announcements of Oriel Servia for Sam Schmidt Racing and the entry of Stefan Wilson (brother of the late Justin) to become official and then expect the unexpected as the month of May arrives.

The official results of Sundays Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed:

1. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 90, Running
2. (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 90, Running
3. (3) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 90, Running
4. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 90, Running
5. (21) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 90, Running
6. (8) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 90, Running
7. (7) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 90, Running
8. (9) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 90, Running
9. (10) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 90, Running
10. (4) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 90, Running
11. (18) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 90, Running
12. (19) Marco Andretti, Honda, 90, Running
13. (16) Takuma Sato, Honda, 90, Running
14. (15) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 90, Running
15. (20) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 90, Running
16. (5) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 89, Running
17. (13) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 89, Running
18. (12) Luca Filippi, Honda, 89, Running
19. (14) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 89, Running
20. (17) Conor Daly, Honda, 89, Running
21. (11) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 89, Running

Race Statistics
Winners average speed:  114.254
Time of Race: 01:48:42.3334
Margin of victory: 13.7476
Cautions: 1 for 1 lap
Lead changes: 4 among 2 drivers
Lap Leaders:
Pagenaud 1 - 19
Rahal 20 - 21
Pagenaud 22 - 81
Rahal 82 - 85
Pagenaud 86 - 90

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 188, Dixon 140, Montoya 136, Castroneves 118,  Kanaan 106, Rahal 100, Power 94, Newgarden 91, Sato 90, Hunter-Reay 87.

                                          Pagenaud and Power at Indy in 2015.

                               Race day quotes from the IndyCar Series Media Team
                                     Photos are from the David Turner collection.

                                   Learn about the Indy 500 in my latest book out now.

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