Simon Pagenaud posted his first-ever win for Team Penske during Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which much to everyone’s surprise, ran its entire duration under green flag conditions.
Pit strategy played in Pagenaud’s favor Sunday. The Chevrolet driver started the race from third position and soon found himself in a three-way battle with pole-sitter Helio Castroneves and second place’s Scott Dixon.
The trio continued their all-out assault for the majority of the race, with Castroneves leading 47 of the first 51 laps. The Team Penske driver pitted on Lap 52, while Pagenaud stayed out an extra two laps.
Pagenaud received a warning from IndyCar race stewards upon returning to the track from the pits after he crossed the blend line and entered too early. He managed to return ahead of Dixon and Castroneves, however Dixon wasn’t overly pleased with the rules violation.
“We have two drivers’ meetings a weekend, and it was clearly stated, by all means, any time you could not put more than two wheels over the line, and that was my understanding,” Dixon said.
Pagenaud argued that because his two of his tires had not crossed the blend line, he hadn’t broken any serious rules.
“It was an inch on the race track there, so I’m good,” the Penske driver said. “The left sides on the right side of the dots, which it is, so I’m good.”
Pagenaud held his lead for the final 25 laps, managing to keep the always-quick Dixon at bay- though just hardly. The Frenchman beat the Australian over the line by 0.3032 of a second, the closest IndyCar finish in Long Beach history.
“Hats off to my whole crew, to Kyle Moyer, my strategist, as well,” Pagenaud said. “The (No.) 22 team is just on it this year, compared to last year. We’ve just gone a big step forward. I believe there’s some more to come, so it feels great, and everybody is just having a good time, too. Great day.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Barber Motorsports Park next for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Aprl 24th. Click here for full results from Long Beach.