LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Penalty? What penalty?
Will Power, who started the 38th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in Row 6 because of a penalty assessed ton all 11 Chevrolet-powered cars for unapproved engine changes, overcame the deficit by stretching 18.5 gallons of E85 the last 31 laps on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit. All the while being chased down by Simon Pagenaud.
Click it: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach box score
"We really didn’t think it was possible to win from 12th place because it was a two-stop race, but never say never," said Power, who two weeks earlier charged from qualifying ninth to win on the 2.38-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course. "Once again, good strategy with (strategist) Tim (Cindric), Dave (Faustino), my engineer, and all the boys we overcame a 10-spot penalty.
"It was just amazing that Simon did three stops and I did two stops, like two different strategies. Obviously he could run hard the whole time and not save fuel, and I saved fuel and did the best lap time I could. And the result was very similar. There was hardly any time between us as we crossed the finish line.
"It's just always a surprise in IndyCar, I think. You can never predict. You can never assume going into a race. You just have to be smart as it plays out."
It was Team Penske's first Indy car victory at Long Beach since 2001 (Helio Castroneves), while Power won the Champ Car finale on the course in 2008 with KV Racing Technology. It also was the third consecutive victory for Team Penske (Helio Castroneves won the opener at St. Petersburg).
Pagenaud, who pitted the No. 77 Honda-powered car for the final time on Lap 70 of 85, finished 0.8675 of a second back. Over the final three laps, he ran lap times 1.5-2 seconds quicker than Power (1:10.4941 to 1:12.0333 for instance on Lap 84).
“It was fantastic,” said Pagenaud, whose previous career-best finish was fourth (Mont Tremblant, Toronto and Edmonton in Champ Car). “The car was great from the beginning. The guys, they did a great job running. We’re a one-car team operation, we don’t have as much data as Penske or Ganassi, but I’m glad we’re giving them a good run for their money.
“One more lap, man …”
Pagenaud, who led laps for the first time since 2007 in Belgium, also gave Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports its highest finish since Jaques Lazier at Nashville in 2001 (as Sam Schmidt Motorsports). Seven different teams were represented in the top 10.
James Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 27 GoDaddy.com car for Andretti Autosport, finished third as teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay incurred a 30-second penalty on the final lap for avoidable contact with the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car. Sato, seeking his first IZOD IndyCar Series podium, finished eighth. Hunter-Reay checked in sixth.
Tony Kanaan, who started 19th, finished a season-best fourth and JR Hildebrand was fifth -- his best since placing fourth at Iowa last June. Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, who earned the pole but started 11th because of the engine change-out penalty, finished seventh. Rubens Barrichello (ninth) posted his second consecutive top 10, and Justin Wilson (10th) earned his second.
“Today coming from the back was a tough race but a good break for us,” said Kanaan, who finished 25th and 21st in the first two races. “I mean, we didn’t finish two races in a row so it was nice to finish this one. I’m very happy. I’m happy for the guys. Now let’s go to Brazil – one of my favorite races.”