Typically peaceful wine country was turned on its head in the Go Pro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway today when the IZOD IndyCar Series ripped through its quiet rolling hills. Simon Pagenaud fought to the front of the field for a fifth-place finish, while Tristan Vautier overcame contact on multiple occasions to finish 12th.
Pagenaud and the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car rolled off the starting grid 10th. Seven caution periods slowed the race pace, creating plenty of opportunity for Pagenaud to pass cars on restarts.
After climbing as high as fourth, Pagenaud fought for third position with Dario Franchitti when the hard-charging car of Marco Andretti forced him to settle for fifth.
“I’m very happy with today’s result considering this was a weekend where we really struggled to find speed,” Pagenaud said. “Today we saw the HP car keep up with the leaders. I took my chances on restarts because I knew that was my best opportunity to make up ground.”
The 85-lap race was a solid championship points day for the No. 77 car as Pagenaud finished ahead of all but one car that leads him in the championship hunt. He heads into the next IZOD IndyCar Series race with 380 points, 99 points behind championship leader Helio Castroneves.
“It’s awesome to have a great points day too because this is crunch time for the championship,” Pagenaud said. “The HP team was also great in the pits today so thanks to them for always having my back!”
IZOD IndyCar Series rookie Tristan Vautier started the Go Pro Grand Prix from 14th, and negotiated heavy action on numerous restarts in the race.
“What a crazy day,” Vautier said. “I can’t tell you how many times I got hit on restarts. It was fun though.”
The 24-year-old Frenchman drove the No. 55 Angie’s List Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car to a 12th-place finish.
“We had a lot of issues throughout the race so finishing 12th wasn’t bad considering how many points during the race it looked like we were in big trouble. We had a bit of a fuel pick-up issue that we had to deal with that cost us some ground toward the end of the race.”
Near the end of his next to last stint, Vautier stayed out for a long period of time on his Firestone Red tires and lost several positions as the tires wore off.
“That probably cost us a pretty easy top-10 finish,” Vautier said. “It’s a bit of a shame but overall it was a good day and I’m very happy to have a solid finish for the Angie’s List car. We’ll be back next weekend in Baltimore ready to attack again and build on what we started today.”
Will Power of Team Penske won the Go Pro Grand Prix, which was his first win of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series Season. He was joined on Sonoma Raceway’s podium by Justin Wilson of Dale Coyne Racing and Dario Franchitti of Ganassi Racing.
Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier will be back in action next weekend for the Grand Prix of Baltimore on Sept. 1. To stay current with the team and drivers as they prepare for the next round of competition, follow @SPMIndyCar on Twitter.