Simon Pagenaud was poised to earn a fourth-place finish in the Pocono INDYCAR 400 when lapped traffic halted his progress with less than five laps left, causing him to slip to sixth place for the checkered flag.
Pagenaud started the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car in eighth position and ran with the front-runners for the entire race.
“It turned out to be a fuel consumption race and we ran up front for most of the day going as high as third,” Pagenaud said. “I’m happy to have a solid finish but I’m also very disappointed because Pippa Mann was in the middle of the race track five laps before the end and she completely parked me in Turn 1.”
With Pagenaud blockaded by Mann, Will Power and Josef Newgarden were able to drive by the No. 77 car.
“I think our car was good enough to finish fourth which is frustrating because we’re trying to win this championship,” Pagenaud said. “You can also look at it from the perspective that the HP car had a sixth-place finish when many of the championship contenders finished behind us though, so we’ll take it.”
Pagenaud leaves the Pocono INDYCAR 400 seventh in the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship with a total of 269 points.
Rookie Tristan Vautier, driving the No. 55 Coastal.com/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, got off to a strong start in the Pocono INDYCAR 400 and jumped from 10th to seventh in the first few laps.
Near the end of his first fuel stint however, he experienced radio issues and could not hear his team calling for him to pit.
“We had a radio issue at the end of our first stint,” Vautier said. “Padding came loose in my cockpit and unplugged my radio so that I couldn’t hear my team talking to me. I ended up running out of fuel so I rolled back into the pits.”
Vautier’s bad fortune continued as he coasted down pit lane.
“As I was coasting to my pit box I had an issue trying to put the car on a manual gearbox because I was rolling the car on the clutch into the pit box and couldn’t downshift,” he said. “I ended up spinning in pit lane, which cost us even more time and lost us two laps.”
The No. 55 crew taped the rookie’s radio back in and sent him on his way, but he was never able to earn his laps back on his way to a 19th-place finish.
“We just weren’t able to put everything together today which is disappointing because the Coastal.com car could have earned a great finish today,” Vautier said. “The team was awesome all weekend and they gave me the car I needed to do well, but we’ll be back next week in Toronto with another good car.”
Scott Dixon won the Pocono INDYCAR 400, and was joined on the podium by his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti. The all Honda-powered podium was Honda’s 200th victory in Indy car competition.
“For Honda to get a 1-2-3 finish here is huge,” said Pagenaud. “They’ve done a great job with calibrating the engines to make them perform well here in Pocono. Their engineers have been working so hard and it’s great to see them rewarded.”
Pagenaud and Vautier return to action for the IZOD IndyCar Series’ second double-header race weekend July 13 and 14 at the Honda Indy Toronto. For the latest team updates, follow @SPMIndyCar on Twitter.