INDIANAPOLIS – The third annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis was a textbook case of patience paying off.
After leading much of the first half of today’s race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Simon Pagenaud paced himself, confident that, as long as he stayed close to the front, he’d eventually regain the lead.
Resisting the desire to pit a lap or two earlier, Pagenaud took service on Lap 63 of the 82-lap event, rocketed back onto the 2.439-mile permanent circuit in the lead and never looked back, easily coasting to his third consecutive victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
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The lightning-quick, 6.7-second stop for four tires and fuel put the Team Penske driver back on track in front of teammate Helio Castroneves. From there, the Frenchman drove away to a 4.4748-second victory in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.
"What a day. Three races! It’s incredible to win three in a row like this and, here in Indy for me, it’s very special,” said Pagenaud, who backed up wins April 17 on the streets of Long Beach and April 24 at Barber Motorsports Park.
“We realized it was better to pit later,” Pagenaud said. “The biggest key was the last pit sequence. We had no fuel left.
“The (No.) 22 team, just like it had been doing all year long, did an incredible job getting me out in front and the car was a bullet. I had a great time.”
In five races this season, Pagenaud has three wins and two runner-up finishes. He is the first driver to win three straight since defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon did at Pocono Raceway and the streets of Toronto doubleheader on his way to the title in 2013.
It was Pagenaud’s seventh career Indy car win and his second triumph in the three-year history of the ALGPI, having captured the inaugural event in 2014. It also helped him extend his points lead to 76 over Dixon.
“The domination we are having is incredible,” Pagenaud said. “You just don’t see this happen.”
It also delivered the 181st Indy car win for Team Penske, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Teammate Castroneves was satisfied to finish second on this day in the No. 3 hum by Verizon Chevy.
“Great teamwork, never give up," Castroneves said. "The hum by Verizon boys, everybody was really in sync. We never gave up because we knew we had issues and knew we didn’t have the fastest car, but we had the heart, man. We had the passion. We put it out there and had a little bit of luck, obviously, but it all blends together.”
Pagenaud now has his sights set on winning again in two weeks, with a worldwide stage watching the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
“It would be huge,” Pagenaud said. “I’m happy about the beginning of my season and contending for the championship. But I have to keep my head down, the crown jewel (the 500) is coming. It would be the completion of my career. I would be complete personally, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to do it again.”
James Hinchcliffe had his best run of the season, starting and finishing third in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Not only was it Hinchcliffe’s first top-five of the season, it was his third straight top-10 finish of 2016.
Hinchcliffe said he would donate his winnings to the Canadian Red Cross to help those impacted by the massive wildfire in and around Fort McMurray, Alberta, in his native Canada.
Graham Rahal came from 24th starting position to finish fourth in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda, while Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball was fifth in the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet.
Even though he fell back in the latter part of the race, Conor Daly still had a great run, leading 14 laps and finishing sixth in the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda.
Next up for the Verizon IndyCar Series is the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis on May 29. Practice begins Monday on the 2.5-mile IMS oval, with qualifying May 21-22.