AVONDALE, Arizona – In his eighth Indy car season and 105th race, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud found victory lane on an oval.
By taking the checkered flag in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix Raceway, Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) scored his 10th career Indy car win and the 189th in the illustrious history of Team Penske. Pagenaud’s teammate Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) followed the Frenchman across the line by 9.1028 seconds, with Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) rounding out the podium.
“Those were the longest 50 laps of my life,” said Pagenaud of his final stint, in which he led after assuming the lead on Lap 137 of 250. “I have a button on my wheel that tells me how many laps were left. I kept pressing it. It was stressful.
“The car was phenomenal. It was an incredible day for the Menards Chevrolet. It’s been a fun day. This is incredible. This is my best win. You need to be so strategic to win on an oval and today was the perfect day. I couldn’t be any happier.”
DESERT DIAMOND WEST VALLEY PHOENIX GRAND PRIX: Box score
With the win, Pagenaud jumps into the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead after four of 17 races. He and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (No. 9 NTT Data Honda), who finished fifth in Saturday’s race and is now second in the title hunt, are the only two drivers to finish in the top five in each of the first four races.
Pagenaud’s win notched a pair of additional milestones for Team Penske. It was the team’s 450th race win in any motorsports form and the team’s 100th Indy car win on an oval.
For Hildebrand, it was his first top-three finish since he was second in the 2011 Indy 500 and his sixth career top-five.
“I was definitely anxious to make good on the speed that we had here in preseason testing,” said Hildebrand, who returned this weekend after missing the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama with a broken hand. “Team has a great short oval package. I know that from doing some testing last year.
“Excited to get the result for the team, for sure. The car was bitchin’. I mean, I think at the end of the race we had obviously one of the top three, but I think we might have had the best car on the track.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series now turns the page to the month of May in Indianapolis. The INDYCAR Grand Prix is next up, the fourth Indy car race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. May 13 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Then it’s on to the 101st Indianapolis 500 on May 28, airing on at 11 a.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.