Pagenaud scores his first win for Team Penske

Simon Pagenaud's pit strategy, pace – and luck – proved formidable enough to beat Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon to the checkered flag and clinch the 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Pagenaud scores his first win for Team Penske

The #22 Penske driver had a lucky escape from censure after he put all four wheels over the blend line as he exited the pits on his crucial final stop. That move meant he just held off the earlier-stopping #9 Ganassi machine to hold on to the lead, but Race Control let it go with a warning. 

Over the remaining 26 laps, Dixon could not quite get on terms with Pagenaud, and only backmarkers allowed the winning margin to close to 0.3sec. 

Behind the lead pair, Castroneves and Montoya were third and fourth for Penske, 2013 Long Beach winner Takuma Sato was fifth and highest-placed Honda, while Tony Kanaan and Will Power were sixth and seventh for Ganassi and Penske, respectively.

Story of the race

Following a clean start with the leading drivers holding position, Pagenaud dived inside Dixon at Turn 1 on Lap 2, Power passed teammate Montoya for fifth, while Ryan Hunter-Reay took Josef Newgarden for ninth.

At the start of lap 4, Pagenaud was pressuring Castroneves for the lead, while Dixon had fallen back by a second.

Hinchcliffe was holding onto Montoya, just 0.4sec behind him, while holding off 2013 Long Beach winner Takuma Sato.

On lap 5, Charlie Kimball pitted his #83 Chip Ganassi Racing-Chevrolet for a set of red alternate tires, and four laps later Jack Hawksworth was doing the same in the AJ Foyt Racing-Honda, and Max Chilton emulated them on Lap 12.

Lap 9 saw Conor Daly’s Dale Coyne Racing-Honda trying to hold Sebastien Bourdais’ KVSH Racing-Chevrolet into Turn 1.

By Lap 10, Castroneves had a 1.4sec over Pagenaud who was a similar distance ahead of Dixon. Kanaan was still trying to pass his teammate, while Power held back, one second behind Kanaan, with Montoya a further 0.6 adrift.

Hunter-Reay was falling off the pace of Sato by lap 12, and 10th placed Newgarden was was looking antsy right behind him, as the #28 car’s slower pace was backing him into Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport-Honda, Daly, Bourdais and Graham Rahal (RLLR-Honda).

Finally, Newgarden and Bourdais broke the deadlock and pitted early, on lap 21, as did Mikhail Aleshin in the second Schmidt Peterson Motorsport-Honda. Hunter-Reay pitted on lap 23, emerging right ahead of Bourdais.

By lap 25, Power was 2sec adrift of Kanaan, but still 0.8 ahead of Montoya when he pitted. But a strong inlap and outlap and a clean-pit stop meant he emerged ahead of the #10 Ganassi car which pitted two laps later. That left Kanaan to hold off Montoya who had pitted a lap after Power and a lap before TK.

Castroneves, Pagenaud and Kanaan pitted on lap 27, Dixon on lap 28, and that was enough to jump the defending race winner ahead of Pagenaud, who now also had to watch his mirrors as Power bore down on him.

Hinchcliffe was the big loser in the pit stop shuffles dropping from 7th to ninth, while Sato and Newgarden moved into seventh and eighth places. Behind Hinch, Rahal and Sebastien Bourdais ran 10th and 11th, ahead of Daly but Hunter-Reay had fallen into anonymity, tumbling down the order after his pit stop. He would make his second stop as early as Lap 40.

With Dixon holding off Pagenaud, Castroneves was able to pull away to the tune of 2.5sec, and resumed the lead when Kimball pulled in for his second stop.

By lap 33, Dixon had trimmed the deficit to Castroneves to under two seconds, and by lap 36 it was down to 1.3sec, and there it stayed for 10 laps. In fact, given that there had been no full-course yellows, it was impressive – although a by-product of fuel saving - that by half distance the top nine cars were covered by just 10sec.

But on lap 47, Dixon was inching closer to Castroneves, while Montoya was also beginning to size up Kanaan.

On lap 48, Rahal made his second stop after falling some 2sec behind Hinchcliffe, but all eyes were on the front as Dixon pulled right up on Castroneves as they hit traffic, and then pitted on lap 51 to switch from blacks to fresh reds.

On lap 52, Castroneves and Power followed suit, leaving Pagenaud to take the lead, while Dixon’s scorching out lap ensured he jumped Castroneves. Meanwhile Power had a refuelling hose issue that led to a slow stop, and saw him jumped by Montoya, Kanaan, and Sato after their pit stops.

Pagenaud emerged from his Lap 54 pitstop ahead of Dixon ahead after some great laps in front but his exit from the pits went under review as he drove over the blend line with all four wheels. However, Race Control let him off with a warning.

News of that reinvigorated Dixon’s efforts to pass the #22 Penske, as Castroneves fell 4 seconds behind by lap 65, leading Montoya, Kanaan, Sato, Power and Hinchcliffe.

This order remained until lap 67, when Sato passed Kanaan for fifth place.

With 10 to go, Pagenaud had a 0.8sec margin over Dixon, and the pair of them were over 7sec clear of Castroneves, while at the bottom of the Top 10, Bourdais moved past Rahal for ninth and Newgarden followed suit two laps later to take 10th.

On lap 75, Sato was on Montoya’s rear wing, looking for the pass, but JPM hugged the inside line into Turn 1.

Backmarkers in the final lap allowed Dixon to close back onto the tail of Pagenaud, but the Frenchman did everything right to open his win account with Team Penske and score the fifth victory of his IndyCar career.

IndyCar 2016 - Long Beach - Results

1 FranceSimon Pagenaud   Penske (C) 1h33:54.4835
2 Nouvelle-ZélandeScott Dixon   Ganassi (C) +0.3032
3 BrésilHelio Castroneves   Penske (C) +10.8376
4 ColombieJuan Pablo Montoya   Penske (C) +12.2162
5 JaponTakuma Sato   Foyt (H) +12.2918
6 BrésilTony Kanaan   Ganassi (C) +17.6267
7 AustralieWill Power   Penske (C) +18.7449
8 CanadaJames Hinchcliffe   Schmidt (H)  +19.0362
9 FranceSébastien Bourdais   KVSH (C) +22.9147
10 États-UnisJosef Newgarden   Carpenter (C) +23.6654
11 États-UnisCharlie Kimball   Ganassi (C) +24.2179
12 ColombieCarlos Muñoz   Andretti (H) +40.1250
13 États-UnisConor Daly   Coyne (H) +47.1809
14 Royaume-UniMax Chilton   Ganassi (C)  +53.9106
15 États-UnisGraham Rahal   Rahal (H) +56.9082
16 RussieMikhail Aleshin   Schmidt (H) +1:01.2966
17 ItalieLuca Filippi   Coyne (H)  +1:08.0543
18 États-UnisRyan Hunter-Reay   Andretti (H) +1:30.3302
19 États-UnisMarco Andretti   Andretti (H) +1 lap
20 États-UnisAlexander Rossi   Andretti Herta (H) +1 lap
21 Royaume-UniJack Hawksworth   Foyt (H) +3 laps
Rahal fastest in Long Beach warm-up

Previous article

Rahal fastest in Long Beach warm-up

Next article

IndyCar explains no-call on Pagenaud's pit exit  

IndyCar explains no-call on Pagenaud's pit exit  
Load comments
Preview: Why IndyCar in 2021 is too close to call Prime

Preview: Why IndyCar in 2021 is too close to call

The fight for supremacy in the NTT IndyCar Series will be as intense as ever. David Malsher-Lopez is your guide to the main contenders and six intriguing sub-plots.

Apr 15, 2021
Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight? Prime

Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight?

With Patricio O'Ward and Felix Rosenqvist leading its line-up, 2021 could be the year Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet joins the IndyCar elite, writes David Malsher-Lopez.

Feb 21, 2021
Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team Prime

Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team

Over 37 seasons, Dale Coyne has run no fewer than 80 Indy car drivers – including himself! Ahead of his first season running Romain Grosjean, we asked Coyne to pick the best 10 drivers ever to compete for him. By David Malsher-Lopez.

Feb 10, 2021
Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed Prime

Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed

Last Friday, Marco Andretti announced he is withdrawing from fulltime IndyCar racing. David Malsher-Lopez explains how this third-gen racer was a puzzle in the car, but a straight shooter off-track.

Jan 19, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

Dec 28, 2020
Is the mighty McLaren M16 the greatest ever Indy car? Prime

Is the mighty McLaren M16 the greatest ever Indy car?

When founder Bruce McLaren died in June 1970, his team could have folded. Instead, his loyal band rallied to produce a string of winners - including an Indy car game-changer that won three Indy 500s in six years.

Dec 23, 2020
How Newgarden delivered his best season, yet still lost Prime

How Newgarden delivered his best season, yet still lost

Josef Newgarden was our pick as top IndyCar driver of 2020 but his finest season-long run of performances failed to yield the championship. David Malsher-Lopez explains why.

Dec 18, 2020
2020 IndyCar Review and Top 10 drivers of the year Prime

2020 IndyCar Review and Top 10 drivers of the year

David Malsher-Lopez explains how the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series was unlike any other, and why it featured familiar and unfamiliar faces competing for glory.

Nov 27, 2020