Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach’s 33rd IndyCar Series race by 0.3032 of a second over Scott Dixon of New Zealand, the closest finish in race history.
Pagenaud took the lead from Charlie Kimball of Camarillo on the 56th lap on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit surrounding the Long Beach Convention Center Sunday and led for the remainder of the 80-lap race.
Pagenaud’s average speed of 100.592 mph was the fastest in race history.
“This is my favorite street course,” said Pagenaud, who was a two-time winner in sports car races on the Long Beach course, but had never won an IndyCar race on it before today.
“To win here, especially in IndyCar, given the level of competition, is amazing. The PPG car is good luck on me. Every time I’m in that car, I’m on the podium.”
Pagenaud had finished second in both of 2016’s previous IndyCar Series races.
Dixon closed in heading into the Turn 11 hairpin on the final lap, but was unable to make a pass on the Shoreline Drive front straight.
There were no caution flags, the first time that happened in Long Beach since 1989 and the first time in an IndyCar Series race since the 2013 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
“It was fun for me as a driver because it was pure racing,” .Pagenaud said. “It was about doing a perfect out lap, being on the limit every lap.”
Pagenaud started third in the 21-car field, and took his first lead on the 52nd lap when Brazilian Helio Castroneves made a pit stop.
Pagenaud made his final pit stop on the 55th lap, with Kimball taking the lead. Pagenaud regained the lead when Kimball made a pit stop.
IndyCar race stewards warned Pagenaud for improper lane usage exiting the pits.
Dixon was disappointed Pagenaud didn’t receive a more severe penalty.
“It appeared Simon turned a little early and crossed the (pit exit) line that you’re not meant to cross,” said Dixon, who won the race last year. “It is what it is, so second place today.”
After the race, IndyCar released a statement clarifying the warning that race stewards issued Pagenaud.
“Simon Pagenaud’s actions during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach were deemed an infraction per Rule 22.214.171.124. Lane Usage of the IndyCar Penalty Guidelines: Failing to follow designated procedures entering or exiting the pit area, including the proper use of the acceleration and deceleration lanes.
“The penalty for this infraction ranges from a warning (minimum), putting the driver to the back of the field (mid) and drive-through or stop and go/hold (maximum). IndyCar race stewards determined his actions were not deemed severe enough to warrant a harsher penalty than the warning that was issued.”
Castroneves was third after starting from the pole for the second consecutive year. He led 47 of the first 51 laps.
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth in a field consisting of drivers from 11 nations — seven from the U.S., two each from Brazil, Colombia, England and France, and one each from Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and Russia.
—City News Service
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