LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) Simon Pagenaud raced to his first victory for Team Penske by holding off Scott Dixon in the caution-free Grand Prix of Long Beach.
It was a controversial win, though, as Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing team believed Pagenaud should have been penalized for crossing a blend line as he returned to the track following a pit stop. The Dixon camp interpreted the rule as a clear violation, but IndyCar only gave Pagenaud a warning.
”They told us with the steward system this year there would be no warnings,” Ganassi team manager Mike Hull said during the race. ”What we were told in the driver meeting that if anyone did that, there would be a penalty. They didn’t tell us what the penalty was, but he shouldn’t be leading the race.”
Dixon wanted to see a clearer replay of Pagenaud’s move, but also disagreed on him being issued a warning.
”There’s meant to be no warnings, so I don’t know what that’s all about,” said Dixon, winner of last year’s race. ”From what I am told, he was definitely over with all four tires, which is a drive through or some sort of penalty to give the spot back. Apparently (Pagenaud) got a warning for that opposed to getting a penalty
Team owner Ganassi was a bit more pragmatic about the ruling, even though it prevented his team from winning its second consecutive race. Dixon won this month at Phoenix. Ganassi said he’d probably have a conversation with IndyCar, which this year is using three stewards in race control to officiate.
”It was obviously a close call, and it’s certainly a chance to look for an opportunity to see how we can improve questionable calls,” Ganassi said. ”The video shows one thing, I don’t know what the stewards used to make their decision. They’ve got a new group of stewards up in the booth and they are trying to do the best job they can, and I applaud what they are trying to do. It’s not an easy job.”
Pagenaud, meanwhile, didn’t think he did anything wrong, although video did indeed show his wheels over the yellow blend line as he came off pit road.
”It was an inch on the race track there, so I’m good,” said Pagenaud. ”The left sides on the right side of the dots, which it is, so I’m good.”
When told IndyCar had issued him a warning, the Frenchman said: ”I don’t care.”
Indeed, it didn’t matter to him in victory lane for the first time since he joined the Penske group last year. He failed to win a race in 2015, his worst season in IndyCar.
But he’s off to a strong start to 2015 with a pair of second-place finishes to start the season and put him atop the points standings headed into Long Beach. He said on the first day of track activity that he knew his first win for Penske was coming, and he was correct.
He was also pleased to have earned his win by holding off Dixon, the reigning series champion.
”When you have Scott Dixon behind you, you always need to push it. You push it as hard as you can,” Pagenaud said. ”He was really, really pushing.”
Dixon was second, while Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya finished third and fourth in a sweep for Chevrolet. The manufacturer has won all three races this season and the Honda camp has been complaining that they are at a disadvantage.
Takuma Sato was the highest-finishing Honda driver in fifth.
Dixon teammate Tony Kanaan was sixth and Penske driver Will Power seventh.
James Hinchcliffe was eighth, but the only other Honda driver inside the top 11.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 10)