BALTIMORE (Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012) — Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud climbed atop another IZOD IndyCar Series podium Sunday when he finished third in the second running of the Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Pagenaud, from France, has now finished on the podium four times and has a total of six top-five finishes in his rookie IZOD IndyCar Series season.
Those impressive numbers will sound good to Pagenaud in a few days, but he was clearly frustrated climbing from the HP car. He felt like the Grand Prix of Baltimore was his race to win.
“I’m happy to take third, and we’re knocking on the door,” said Pagenaud, “but I could have won today. We had a small mistake in the pits, and that cost us the lead. Sometimes it’s that way. It’s frustrating, but I just have to keep telling myself that it’s my first year.”
The 75-lap race around the 13-turn, 2.04-mile street circuit that sits in the shadows of Camden Yards stadium in downtown Baltimore was definitely a race Pagenaud could have won.
He and the HP team were reacting well to the ever-changing weather conditions that saw teams start on dry tires, switch to rain tires and then go back to dry tires. Through all of that, Pagenaud was putting on a driving clinic that was punctuated by a restart on lap 37 that saw him go from sixth to first before reaching Turn 1.
“It (the restart) was a little bit of a sports car trick there,” said Pagenaud. “I saw where they were starting and it was consistently at the same point, so I used the push to pass at the right time, and I had really good traction. It was perfect with my gears, so I had a big jump and man, I got to Turn 1 and I thought ‘Okay, I’m P1, I think.”
Once in the lead, Pagenaud was controlling the race and pace, which was blistering. He set the fastest lap by a leader on lap 49 and began pulling away from Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay. It looked like nothing was going to keep Pagenaud and SHM from their first IndyCar win.
Unfortunately, a slow pit stop on lap 50 allowed Hunter-Reay to pass Pagenaud, and was essentially the winning pass.
“It was a shame we got passed by Hunter-Reay on the stop there,” said Pagenaud, “but anyway, on the last restart we got too much (rubber) pickup from the tires and I couldn’t get rid of it.”
Pagenaud settled for a third-place spot on the podium with winner Hunter-Reay and second-place finisher Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe.
Hunter-Reay won the Grand Prix of Baltimore by 1.4391 seconds over Briscoe, who won last week’s race in Sonoma. The win is Hunter-Reay’s fourth this season, which is the most for one driver. It is also his ninth career IndyCar victory.
Following Pagenaud were Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and KV Racing’s Rubens Barrichello to round out the top five.
There were 12 lead changes among seven drivers, with Team Penske’s Will Power leading the most laps with 22.
With his sixth-place finish, Power maintains his lead in the championship over Hunter-Reay, 453-436, with one race remaining.
Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves is third in the championship with 401 points, while Dixon and Pagenaud round out the top five with 400 and 372 points, respectively.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the season-ending MAV TV 500 IndyCar World Championship on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012.
DATE: Sunday, Sept. 2 2012
EVENT: Grand Prix of Baltimore
SERIES: IZOD IndyCar Series
LOCATION: Baltimore (2.04-mile, 13-turn street course)
START/FINISH: 9th/3rd (Running, Completed 75 of 75 laps)
WINNER: Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport