Simon Pagenaud held off a hard-charging Graham Rahal during the final laps of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama to take his second win in a row and the sixth of his Verizon IndyCar Series career.
After the pace laps, the green flag waved and immediately went yellow after contact between Jack Hawksworth, Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin. It was officially considered a non-start and the field was brought back around. The initial restart attempt was called off when the cars were judged to be out of order. Hawksworth, Munoz and Aleshin were sent to the rear of the field.
The race went green officially for the first time on Lap 3 with Simon Pagenaud jumping out to the early lead followed by Will Power.
Scott Dixon was spun in Turn 5 by Sebastien Bourdais with Bourdais sustaining enough damage that a pit stop was required. Bourdais received a drive through penalty from Race Control for causing the incident after coming out of the pits in 21st position.
Josef Newgarden made a pass around Will Power to move up to the second position with Power, Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan completing the top five on Lap 4.
The first round of green flag pit stops commenced with Rahal and Munoz staying out the longest. Leader Pagenaud stopped on Lap 20, handing the race lead to Graham Rahal for one lap until both he and Munoz stopped on Lap 22. After pit stops, Pagenaud cycled back to the lead. Power, Newgarden, Rahal and Kanaan completed the top five.
By Lap 26, Pagenaud’s lead was 3.5 seconds over Power in second. An incident between Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti was under review for potential blocking but Race Control took no action.
By Lap 33, the front four had opened up a gap of 11 seconds to Kanaan in fifth with Hinchcliffe applying pressure in an attempt to join the top five.
Various tire strategies came into play during the second round of pit stops, with some drivers staying on Firestone primary tires due to less degradation on long stints. Leader Pagenaud went with primaries on his second stop while second-place Power put on Firestone alternates.
After pit stops, Pagenaud regained the lead with Power, Rahal, Newgarden and Hinchcliffe completing the top five. Pagenaud’s lead over Power was 1.1 seconds after the completion of Lap 49.
On Lap 55, Pagenaud’s progress was slowed by Conor Daly, the last car on the lead lap in 20th position. Daly’s slower pace backed up the leaders, with Power able to close in on Pagenaud, cutting his lead to less than a second while Rahal was able to close in on Power.
The final round of pit stops began with 26 laps to go. Hinchcliffe was the first of the lead group to stop with Power and Newgarden coming in on the next lap. Pagenaud pitted from the lead on Lap 66 and retained first position after the rest of the field cycled through.
Pagenaud held a lead of 4.6 seconds over Rahal on Lap 68 with Power down to third after a slow stop. Newgarden and Montoya completed the top five.
Traffic once again played a part in the race with Rahal able to cut Pagenaud’s lead to less than three seconds on Lap 77. One lap later, the lead was down to less than a second.
Rahal attempted a pass on Pagenaud on Lap 82 that resulted in contact between the two with Rahal taking the lead. The incident was reviewed by Race Control but no action was taken. The two continued to battle for the lead with Rahal missing most of his front wing when Pagenaud finally made a pass for the lead on Lap 86.
By the time Pagenaud took the white flag, he had a lead of 10 seconds over Rahal. The Team Penske driver crossed the finish line 13.747 seconds ahead of Rahal in second. Newgarden ended the 90-lap race 2.056 seconds behind Rahal in third. Power and Montoya completed the top five.
Pagenaud leaves Barber Motorsports Park with a 48-point lead over Dixon in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings. Montoya is third with 136 points.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is the next stop for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis will take place on May 14 with coverage beginning on ABC at 3:30 p.m. EDT.