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Jul 01, 2014 - 06:15 AM
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Wild Houston Weekend Ends with Pagenaud Victory
Posted by: BGerhart on Jul 01, 2014 - 06:08 AM
Feature Articles
Wild Houston Weekend Ends with Pagenaud Victory

By Brad Gerhart

Up until nearly lap 50 of 90 at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand prix of Houston Verizon pole winner, Helio Castroneves held onto the top spot. However, on lap 49 it all (literally) came to a crashing end for Castroneves.

First, yesterday's pole winner, Simon Pagenaud made the pass to claim the lead and a brief moment later Sebastien Bourdais and Castroneves went for the same real estate, which resulted in severe damage to Castroneves. The Brazilian quickly went from first to 21st, just like that. And during an on air interview Castroneves showed his frustrations on Bourdais. "I had no idea he was there," he said. "Drivers like that, do not use common sense....He finished my race."

Now one can argue either way who really was at fault for the "racing incident," Bourdais himself, did not take any fault for the contact (and rightfully so). “I moved to the right, and when I got a wheel a little bit over, then he decided to take that line as well. That is a real shame because that destroyed a chance for us to win,” Bourdais said.


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The contact damaged the front wing of Bourdais and although the four-time Champ Car champion pitted under yellow, his KVSH Racing team reluctantly did not change the wing and let the veteran go the distance with a wounded wing. He lost several positions, but raced his way back into the top-five with a real gutsy fourth place finish.

By lap 61 Pagenaud had an extensive lead of over 11 seconds, before he made his final pit stop on lap 64. With 15 to go the field bunched up again as Takuma Sato found the wall and a 10 lap chaotic shootout began when the green flag finally waved. Although another yellow never came out in the closing laps of the race, contact could be scene at nearly every corner of the track as drivers refused to give each other a single inch and attempted daring moves on both the inside and outside of turns. Juan Pablo Montoya tried dearly for his second podium finish of the weekend (he was second yesterday), but he could not get around rookie Jack Hawksworth and Charlie Kimball snuck by Montoya to claim fourth place.

Pagenaud has quickly put up four career victories on relatively small IndyCar teams in three seasons and although the likes of Andretti, Penske and Ganassi clearly have a surplus of cash to spend when compared to Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing, Pagenaud still likes his championship chances. “I think the advantage of this team is the communication. Everybody is very open minded, very close and it's easy to go from one layer to another to address the problem, and I think that's the advantage of this team. It's very much a race team that gets down to business when it needs to,” Pagenaud said.

Exhaustion could be seen on nearly every single driver when they exited the cockpit and removed their helmets. The bumpy parking lot circuit and the near 100F Houston heat really took its toll on everyone in the field, not to mention back-to-back races. Championship point’s leader, Will Power looked absolutely drained as he sat on the concrete shortly after the race, hair soaked and trying to rehydrate himself with water.

As was the case on Saturday, two rookie drivers stood on the podium (Saturday won his first IndyCar race and Carlos Munoz came third) with Russian Mikhail Aleshin and Brit Jack Hawksworth in second and third.

Kimball summed up the race quite nicely with his NBCSN post-race comments, it was "wheel to wheel and then some," said the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

After two double header weekends of street/road racing, the Verizon IndyCar series now heads northeast to the triangle oval of Pocono where last year Ganassi claimed all three podium spots. Although Will Power had a rough weekend (finished 14th and 11th), his 39 point lead over Castroneves is still intact, however, Ryan Hunter-Reay moved within 41 points of Power and after Pagenaud's second win of the season he's down 59 to the Australian.

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