An ugly, crash-filled IndyCar race last Sunday on a crude, bumpy street circuit in downtown Baltimore was won by Frenchman Simon Pagenaud. It was Pagenaud’s second win of the year but Simon admitted that luck was on his side as almost everyone in the field crashed or collided with another car or two.
“That was a wild day, wasn’t it?” Pagenaud said. “In racing you’ve got to have some luck and I had some today, to be honest. I thought it was over at one point but I always keep pushing. You never know what will happen. There was an opportunity and I grabbed it.”
Pagenaud’s win pushed him into third in IndyCar’s point standings. “My car was fantastic,” Simon added. “I had some problems with (tyre) pick-up in the middle of the race and I was lucky that we didn’t get collected on any of the restarts. But phew! I pushed hard on the last restart and I guess it’s great for the championship.”
Near the end of the race Pagenaud collided with his friend Sebastien Bourdais as the latter tried to take the lead around the outside. “I got wide in the last corner,” Pagenaud explained. “There was a lot of pick-up and I exited the corner sideways. I never thought he was going to come that way so I took the usual line and he was there. I didn’t mean to pinch him. I’m sorry about that, but it is what it is, I guess.”
Commented Bourdais: “I’ll let people judge it but I have my own opinion. I think it’s pretty clear what happened. We’re friends but there are no friends on the racetrack. I learned that the hard way today.”
After qualifying fifth Josef Newgarden drove a good race to beat Bourdais into second place. It was Newgarden’s first IndyCar podium. “I wanted to give Simon a run for his money,” Newgarden remarked. “I think we had the pace but we had no brakes left. I tried to cool them off and almost threw the car into the wall in turn one when the pedal went to the floor. But second is a great result for our team. We needed this.”
The race may have ruined the championship hopes of Scott Dixon who was knocked into the wall by Will Power on a restart with 22 laps to go after one of many full course yellows. Dixon was annoyed that IndyCar refused to bring his car back to the pits for repairs.
“It clearly states [in the rules] that they’ll bring the car back to the pits unless there’s 10 laps to go,” Dixon remarked. “We’re fighting for every point and there’s a little bit of suspension damage, which is something we can repair. So I have no idea why they won’t bring the car back to the pits. It’s just another example of [race director] Beaux [Barfield] making it up as he goes every time. There’s just no consistency. Rahal took me out and didn’t get a penalty and then Power put me in the wall. Man, it’s been a rough couple of weeks.
“I’m upset about Power,” Dixon added. “I don’t know what he was thinking. I was clearly alongside and he just turned straight into me. When you’re pulling in that direction you’re going to see a car there in your mirror. I’ll talk to Will later. I don’t want to say something that I’m going to regret.”
Power said he didn’t see Dixon and apologised for his mistake. “I got a run on Bourdais and I was looking at his back,” Power commented. “I pulled out to pass him and then I was in the wall. I thought I must’ve lost it on cold tyres or a bump. I didn’t know what happened. I had no clue Scott was there and I feel terrible for him.
“I was going to go up the inside and Dixon obviously had the same run on me. I had such a good run on Bourdais I didn’t think to look in my mirror. I just feel bad for Dixon. It’s just a bad thing to have happened. All I can say is I’m so sorry for Scott. It absolutely wasn’t intentional. I didn’t know he was there.”
Power said he believes IndyCar should not have double file restarts on street circuits. “I think they’ve got to change the rules on these double file restarts,” he said. “I don’t think we should have double file restarts on street courses. I think they should be done away with on street courses. It just doesn’t work on these tracks. It makes for yellow after yellow after yellow and I don’t think people want to watch racing under the yellow.”
Also out of luck in Baltimore was defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay who fell to the back early in the race when his engine stalled. After making good progress through the field Hunter-Reay’s race came to an end when a battery failure left him stranded on the track. The DNF put an end to Ryan’s hopes of retaining his championship.
As a result of the Power-Dixon collision Hélio Castroneves extended his championship lead over Dixon to 49 points. Castroneves finished ninth after yet another mediocre performance which included a stop and go penalty for hitting one of his crewmen during a mid-race pitstop.
A very messy race indeed, emphasizing the point that IndyCar needs to dramatically improve its poor standards for street circuits. There are seven street circuits on the calendar and all of them are extremely rough and poorly presented. It’s time for IndyCar to raise its game.
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