Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Westside

May 12, 2014

Pagenaud takes wild Indy Grand Prix

INDIANAPOLIS — While the crowd at Saturday’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis was a fraction of that at an Indy 500, attendees saw an eventful race from the opening second.

The first IndyCar Series event of the new-look month of May began with starting-line carnage, and ended with Simon Pagenaud taking the checkered flag.

Pagenaud assumed the lead with four laps left. In having just enough gas to cross the finish line, the 29-year-old held off Ryan Hunter-Reay and a charging Helio Castroneves, who finished second and third, respectively.

"I’m very proud to be the second Frenchman to win in Indianapolis, and the first to win the Indianapolis Grand Prix," said Pagenaud, who started on the outside of Row 2. "The fuel saving was amazing, and nerve-wracking. I was worried about (Hunter-Reay) coming back, and I didn't know what Helio was doing."

The beginning of the race was one of the craziest in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history. Pole-sitter Sebastian Saavedra’s No. 17 car stalled during the standing start, and was nicked by Carlos Munoz before getting smashed into by Mikhail Aleshin. The debris also took out the car of Mike Conway, who returned 17 laps in, and a small piece hit the elbow of ceremonial flag-waver and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who was okay.

Saavedra was distraught following the mess that was his first-ever series pole.

"To not even get the chance because of an electrical thing or something, it pisses me off," Saavedra said.

The remaining cars rolled through eight yellow-flag laps while the sizable debris field was cleaned up. When the green flag dropped, intense jockeying for position commenced, as was the case on every restart.

Just before the halfway point, 2008 Indy 500 champ Scott Dixon, who was running fourth, put his car into the gravel, ruining his chances of victory.

Jack Hawksworth dominated the first half of the race, leading 30 of 42 laps. The next-closest was Hunter-Reay with 10.

Two yellows slowed action shortly after the midway point, including one after Martin Plowman got airborne and ended up in the grass.

Hunter-Reay took the lead when choosing not to pit during the first yellow, but was passed by Justin Wilson just before another flag on lap 52, which was caused by Graham Rahal hitting the wall on the frontstretch.

Rahal put the blame on Juan Pablo Montoya for bumping him.

"I don’t know what he was doing a lap down, but he just ruined our day," Rahal said of Montoya, who was black-flagged for the incident.

Castroneves took the lead with 25 laps left, and needed a yellow to stretch fuel to avoid pitting one last time. He didn’t get it, and Sebastian Bourdais and Oriol Servia led before also having to pit, which opened it up for Pagenaud, who moved in front to stay on lap 78.

After the event, IMS President J. Douglas Boles couldn't have been more pleased with the total outcome.

"After over eight months of hard work and dedication of the entire Indianapolis Motor Speedway staff, we are thrilled with the reception of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis by the fans and drivers alike," Boles said. "Our goal was to create a new buzz and excitement at the beginning of May as we build anticipation for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, and we believe that today’s race accomplished that goal."

Follow Westside Flyer sports writer Brent Glasgow on Twitter @ BGlasgow37.

 

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