Simon Pagenaud prevailed in a caution-free race dominated early by polesitter Helio Castroneves, taking the lead after a pit stop with a questionable exit and hanging on to win and solidify his points lead.

The first few laps after the green flag were clean with only Marco Andretti experiencing problems on track due to a suspected stuck throttle. Simon Pagenaud made an aggressive pass on Scott Dixon, assuming second position and aiming for leader Helio Castroneves. Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Will Power completed the top five.

Charlie Kimball was the first driver to go on an alternate strategy, pitting early to change from Firestone primary tires to alternates. Jack Hawksworth also made an early stop as Castroneves continued to lead with a 1.5-second gap over Pagenaud on Lap 12.

Max Chilton went off strategy on Lap 13 as the top five remained consistent with Pagenaud, Dixon, Kanaan and Power lined up behind leader Castroneves.

Scott Dixon stayed out a lap longer than the rest of the leaders when green flag pit stops were underway and led before giving it up to Kimball who was off strategy. After Kimball’s second stop, Castroneves regained the lead followed by Dixon, Pagenaud, Power and Kanaan.

Castroneves initially maintained a lead of over two seconds on Dixon but the Chip Ganassi Racing driver was able to cut it to 1.4 seconds by Lap 36. Chilton was warned of cutting the curbing on Turn 5.

On Lap 45, Dixon continued to work on closing up to leader Castroneves, cutting the gap to less than one second. Dixon was the first of the leaders to pit on Lap 51 for sticker alternate tires. Castroneves was next on Lap 53, handing the lead to Pagenaud. On the following lap, Pagenaud came in for his final stop and was able to exit ahead of Dixon, though questions abounded as to whether he committed a penalty on his reentry to the track.

With 19 laps to go, Pagenaud’s lead was was confirmed when he received a warning – but not a penalty – for improper pit exit. Without a penalty for the leader, Dixon amped up his aggressiveness, closing the gap between he and Pagenaud to 0.6 seconds by Lap 65.

Takuma Sato passed Kanaan for fifth on Lap 67, joining the top five for the first time. Pagenaud remained out front followed by Dixon, Castroneves, and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Once in the lead, Pagenaud cruised to the victory with Dixon unable to close the gap enough to attempt a successful pass of the Verizon IndyCar Series points leader.

Pagenaud crossed the finish line with a 0.3032-second lead over Dixon. Castroneves, Montoya, Sato and Kanaan completed the top six.

The series will take to the track next at Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 24. The race will air 3:00 p.m. EDT on NBCSN.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here