SONOMA, Calif. (Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012) – The official IZOD IndyCar Series box score shows Simon Pagenaud starting ninth and finishing seventh in Sunday’s GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. What the box score doesn’t show is everything the Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports driver endured to finish the 85-lap race on the lead lap and clinch the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year award.
“It was a pretty eventful race for the HP team,” said Pagenaud. “It seems like I was always behind the car that got spun. We had contact early on when cars got together in front of us, but we were able to finish that first stint in good shape, even with damage to the front wing.”
The nose of the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car was heavily damaged during a melee on the first lap involving Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves just in front of Pagenaud. IndyCar officials penalized Castroneves for the incident.
“The guys in the pit changed the nose like lightning-quick,” Pagenaud said. “They were awesome. After that, we had a strong race car on the Firestone red tires. At the end, I was hoping to get a top-four position, but we got boxed in behind (Alex) Tagliani, who had a broken wing, on that last restart. Those things happen on restarts. It was a crazy race for us.”
Despite the numerous on-track incidents, Pagenaud’s day was bolstered by a seventh-place finish that moved him into the top five in the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship. And, he achieved one of his pre-season goals.
“We got the Rookie of the Year award, and that’s pretty cool,” said Pagenaud. “It was one of our goals for the year, so we can put a check in that box. We are also now in fifth in the championship, so we are very proud of those accomplishments by the team.”
Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe won the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma by .4408 seconds over his teammate Will Power. The win is Briscoe’s first of the season and seventh of his IndyCar career. His last victory was at Texas in 2010.
Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti, KV Racing’s Rubens Barrichello and another Ganassi Racing driver, Graham Rahal, rounded out the top five.
There were six lead changes among three drivers, with Power leading the most laps with 57.
With his second-place finish, Power extended his lead in the championship over Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, 422-386. Hunter-Reay finished 18th and one lap down.
Castroneves is third in the championship with 381 points, while Dixon and Pagenaud round out the top five with 368 and 337 points, respectively.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT on Sunday, Sept. 2.