BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Simon Pagenaud once again won after getting a favorable ruling from race officials. This time, the runner-up didn’t protest the no-call.
Pagenaud led most of the way and overcame late contact with Graham Rahal to win the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday for his second straight IndyCar victory.
The Frenchman lost the lead briefly after contact with Rahal on the road course. Team Penske’s Pagenaud appeared to inch over in an attempt to block Rahal, who made contact with his right rear with eight laps to go. Pagenaud, who also won last week at Long Beach, went into the grass before working his way back to the front.
Race stewards reviewed the incident and didn’t impose a penalty. Pagenaud said he was a little steamed after that dustup. “I said, yeah, ‘I’m going to get that one back no matter what,’” he said.
But he demurred when asked if IndyCar should have made a call one way or the other.
“I felt like I was being pushed,” Pagenaud said. “I don’t want to sound like — I’ve obviously had enough of that. It was just a great race, and it was a great battle.”
Last week, Scott Dixon believed Pagenaud should have been penalized for crossing a blend line as he returned to the track following a pit stop. IndyCar only issued a warning.
Rahal called this move “a really solid block” but felt there’s no doubt it was intentional.
“I’m glad it was a no-call because for sure it’s a racing incident,” he said. “But you would never turn in where he turned in. He was purposefully trying to cut me off there.”
So why didn’t he want to see a penalty that would perhaps have helped Honda to its first victory of the year?
“I didn’t want to see his day completely ruined by a call like that,” Rahal said.
Another pivotal late-race moment came when Rahal was attempting to work past Pagenaud outside on Turn 15. Rahal clipped Jack Hawksworth, who was a lap down, and his left front wing fell onto the track. He managed to recover and hold off defending champion Josef Newgarden to finish second.
But Rahal, also second last year, couldn’t challenge Pagenaud again. Pagenaud won by 13.7476 seconds after starting on the pole and leading 84 of the 90 laps.
Rahal had managed to stay in contention despite already driving with a damaged right wing thanks to a part failure near lap 30. He did lead six laps after Honda drivers had only managed 18 up front in the first three races.
It’s the fourth time a Team Penske driver has won at the Alabama road course. Two-time winner Will Power was fourth and 2010 champion Helio Castroneves was seventh.
It’s also the track where Pagenaud made his IndyCar debut in 2011, jump-starting his career with a Top 10 finish. His mother, Sylvie, was at the track to witness his win.
WHO’S HOT: Pagenaud has two wins and two runners-up finishes in four races, pushing his points lead to 48 points over Dixon.
WHO’S NOT: Sebastien Bourdais finished 16th, 11 spots worse than where he started.
MONTOYA’S MOVE: Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya started at the rear of the 21-driver field and moved up 10 spots in the first 10 laps. He kept making his way even further toward the front and finished fifth.
DIXON’S DAY: Dixon was turned sideways early by Bourdais, who received a drive-through penalty. Dixon wound up 10th, his first time failing to manage a podium finish at Barber Motorsports. He had been second four times. Bourdais said he got boxed in battling for position with Rahal.
HARD DAY AT OFFICE: After a yellow caution at the start, the drivers didn’t get much of a break during the 90-lap race. Rahal said it was the most physical race he’s been in, and added: “guaranteed, that’s harder than running a marathon.”
UP NEXT: Grand Prix of Indianapolis, May 14. Will Power won last year’s race.