Simon Pagenaud claimed the second win of his IndyCar career and second this year in an incident-strewn Baltimore Grand Prix that added further fuel to the recent Ganassi versus Penske fire that flared one week earlier at Sonoma.
For the race overall, Hollywood scriptwriters couldn’t on their best day write a screenplay with as many twists as the conclusion to the 2013 IndyCar Series is providing.
At one of the many restarts of the day, Will Power and Scott Dixon suffered a coming-together that ended Dixon’s race and saw Power finish eight laps down on Pagenaud.
Power was making a run on leader Sebastien Bourdais and moved out to dive up the inside for the pass. The problem was that Dixon was already there trying to make a move of his own on Power and found himself squeezed into the wall, with broken suspension bringing on an early end to his afternoon. The polesitter was running strongly all afternoon, notwithstanding a late race spin perpetrated by Graham Rahal, who was also having a very strong afternoon behind the wheel.
Dixon was understandably seething, and while repairs were being carried out on Power’s car, the New Zealander was seeking answers from Penske management at Power’s pit stall next door, which incidentally was right next door, albeit reversed from the positions occupied at Sonoma.
Power later took full responsibility for the crash, admitting he should have consulted his mirrors prior to pulling out of line for the overtake attempt on Bourdais. The guilty plea was bittersweet for Dixon, who now found his points deficit to Helio Castroneves increased further to 49 points. Prior to this, the two were racing fiercely practically all race long, with numerous passes and near-passes executed on each other.
Speaking of Castroneves, the Brazilian had a fairly clumsy day with no less than seven pit stops covering things like front wing changes, regular fuel and tyre stops and even a penalty for hitting one of his tyres upon exiting the pit lane on one occasion. An early scrape with Josef Newgarden damaged his front wing to the point of requiring a replacement, which dropped him to the back of the field.
Getting caught up in a few more mishaps over the remainder of the day didn’t help matters, but with so many others falling around him, it still resulted in a ninth place finish.
The race started very poorly, with an artificial chicane near the start/finish line meaning only five rows were able to be formed by the time the started waved the green flag. At this point, many cars further back than tenth were still negotiating the chicane and weren’t really given a fair shot at the start.
Despite this, the “field” contesting the first corner made it through without incident. A high attrition rate was exhibited early, with James Jakes, Takuma Sato and Dario Franchitti all suffering early problems and parking their cars before the lap count even reached double figures. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Luca Filippi and Ed Carpenter were all creating work for the safety crew, the latter of which overshot a corner on Lap 13 and went into the tyres before being restarted.
The narrow Baltimore layout proved more problematic than in the two previous runnings of this event, with the track being blocked numerous times due to concertina-style pile-ups involving multiple cars. This happened at Turn 1 on two restarts and again at Turn 3 soon after another. Multiple drivers were at fault but essentially they were caused by a driver spotting a gap up the inside that really wasn’t there, and going for it too hard.
Halfway through, Sebastien Bourdais found himself in the lead by a good 10 seconds due to a pit strategy that paid dividends with all of the cautions that were happening all around him. The same could be said of Josef Newgarden and Simona de Silvestro, who were all running much higher up the order than normal.
Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia, Marco Andretti and Tristan Vautier all had strong races too but faded late with various niggling problems on their cars.
Through it all, Pagenaud held strong to find himself in the right place at the right time, and once he hit the lead late in the race, that’s where he stayed, taking the chequered flag and leaping up to third place in the Drivers’ Championship, 70 points behind Castroneves and definitely not out of contention yet.
Josef Newgarden followed home in second place – a career best result and one well deserved by the entire Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team. Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the podium.
After a late summer break, the series will gather up the pieces (and there were many), heal their cars and egos before regrouping for the third and final double-header of the season in Houston in four weeks time. As was proven by Scott Dixon at the last double-header in Toronto with a pair of wins, two good results in succession is all that is needed to vault back into the title picture. This title hasn’t been won yet, Helio.
2013 IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Baltimore Final Classification (75 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Laps||Result|
|1.||Simon Pagenaud||SPH Racing||75||2:16:32.3443|
|2.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing||75||+ 4.1592|
|3.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dragon Racing||75||+ 7.9588|
|4.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing||75||+ 10.7598|
|5.||Simona de Silvestro||KV Racing Technology||75||+ 11.6017|
|6.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||75||+ 21.4160|
|7.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport||75||+ 22.8422|
|8.||Sebastián Saavedra||Dragon Racing||75||+ 25.5377|
|9.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||75||+ 29.3117|
|10.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||75||+ 40.5499|
|11.||Tristan Vautier||SPH Racing||74||1 lap behind|
|12.||Oriol Servia||Panther Racing||74||1 lap behind|
|13.||E.J. Viso||Team Venzuela / Andretti||74||1 lap behind|
|14.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing||74||1 lap behind|
|15.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology||73||??|
|16.||Stefan Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing||72||3 laps behind|
|17.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||68||??|
|18.||Will Power||Team Penske||67||8 laps behind|
|DNF.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||52||Collision|
|DNF.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||42||Electrical|
|DNF.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi Racing||22||?|
|DNF.||Luca Filippi||Barracuda Racing||12||?|
|DNF.||James Jakes||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||5||?|
|DNF.||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises||4||?|