FORT WORTH, Texas, Saturday, June 9, 2012 – Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud fell in love Saturday night in Texas.
The IZOD IndyCar Series rookie had his first date with Texas Motor Speedway, and he is now smitten with racing on the high banks in Fort Worth.
Driving the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, Pagenaud finished sixth after starting ninth in the Firestone 550.
“Man, I actually enjoyed it, though I didn’t think I would that much,” said Pagenaud as he sat on the wall of his pit box with a Texas-sized grin. “But once I got the hang of it, I had a really, really good race car. It was blindingly fast. It was fun.”
Pagenaud had such a good race car, he made two passes during the race around the outside of the car he was overtaking. It’s not a common pass in oval racing, especially entering Turn 1 of Texas Motor Speedway.
“I love the high side when it works,” said Pagenaud. “It’s cool. I was very comfortable in Turn 1. But, we had to tune the car to do it because I didn’t have the grip to run high early in the race.”
The sixth-place finish didn’t come easy for the Frenchman. Twice, he went down a lap to the leaders and he also was issued a drive-through penalty after hitting his own right-rear tire entering the pits during his first stop.
“Unfortunately, I made a big mistake in the pits early, which cost us a lot,” said Pagenaud. “Otherwise, maybe, we could fight for the win. The car was that good. But, I’m catching on. I learned a lot tonight. I made some good passes. Hats off to the guys. We didn’t start the weekend off that good, but they gave me a really, really, really fast car which allowed me to race well.”
Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson won the Firestone 550 by 1.5942 seconds over Ganassi Racing’s Graham Rahal. Wilson made the winning pass when Rahal brushed the wall in Turn 4 on lap 226 of the 228-lap race.
Wilson led two times for a total of 11 laps. The Firestone 550 is Wilson’s seventh Indy car career win, and his first oval win. It is just the second win for Dale Coyne Racing.
Rahal’s second-place finish was his best finish of 2012. His previous best finish at Texas was ninth in 2011.
Penske Racing’s Ryan Briscoe finished third, which is his best finish of 2012. Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe finished fourth while Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand rounded out the top five.
The race was slowed by four caution flags for a total of 32 yellow-flag laps. One accident was a single-car crash by Scott Dixon, who won last week in Detroit. Despite making heavy contact with the Turn 4 SAFER Barrier, Dixon climbed from his car.
With an eighth-place finish, Will Power maintains his lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship with 256 points. Dixon is second with 222, while James Hinchcliffe is third with 208. Helio Castroneves is fourth with 203, while Pagenaud is fifth with 199.
So far in 2012, there have been 838 laps of racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Pagenaud has completed the most laps of all drivers this year. He and the HP team have completed 837 of the 838 possible laps of competition to date.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the 225-lap Milwaukee IndyFest race at State Fair Park in Milwaukee, Wis.
DATE: June 9, 2012
EVENT: Firestone 550
SERIES: IZOD IndyCar Series
LOCATION: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile, tri-oval)
START/FINISH: 9th/6th (Running, Completed 228 of 228 laps)
WINNER: Justin Wilson of Dale Coyne Racing