Pagenaud Beats Rookies, Wins Houston GP
HOUSTON – Having a Verizon IndyCar Series race in Houston at the end of the June promised to be a very hot experience.
The real heat wasn’t the temperature; it was the temperament.
Sunday’s Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers was probably more fierce and frantic than Saturday’s first race of the double-header weekend.
With driver’s shaking fists and one another and contact throughout the field, Simon Pagenaud believed the safest place on the track was in front away from the action.
He used that strategy to lead twice for 43 laps including the final 41 to drive to his second IndyCar Series victory of the season and the fourth of his career.
When he was out front, however, he complained that three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford was driving the pace car too slow and with all five cautions coming in the final 48 laps he was concerned it would affect his tires on the restarts.
“Yes, absolutely, but you know, what was difficult is the safety car was going very slow, so it was very difficult to get temperature in the tires, and I was worried because I was the first one on track, so I was worried to slid off, brake too late and make a mistake, so I was the first to experience that, a little bit like rain condition,” Pagenaud said. “But my car was good enough, I could really change braking zones, I was out of danger in Turn 1 and I just kept pushing to get the tires up to temp and just keep going. The faster we’d go, the more aggressive I was, and the better the car was.”
Pagenaud led a 1-2-3 Honda sweep, as his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate rookie Mikhail Aleshin of Russia was second, 7.2622-seconds behind the winner. Another rookie, Jack Hawksworth, drove from the last starting position in the 23-car field to third place for Bryan Herta Autosport.
While those three new faces in IndyCar were able to celebrate it was a brutal day for some of the big names in the series.