Toronto, Sunday, July 8, 2012 – Go big, or go home!
Though that wasn’t the phrase used in the Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports pre-race strategy, ‘Go big, or go home’ accurately reflected the team’s mindset all through the Honda Indy Toronto weekend. Their strategy wasn’t built for another top-five finish, it was built around winning and nothing else.
Go big, or go home!
“We went into the race knowing that we needed to start winning races to win the championship,” said Sam Schmidt Motorsports General Manager Rob Edwards. “So our strategy today was not to finish anywhere but first. Historically, there are five to six cautions at Toronto, and we were half that today. It hurt our strategy. We needed five more laps of caution to have a chance to win.”
After starting eighth in the 85-lap Honda Indy Toronto race, Pagenaud was in the lead by lap 26 as a result of his skillful driving and the go-for-broke pit strategy of Edwards and engineers Ben Bretzman and Nick Snyder.
Once in the lead, the Frenchman pushed the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Dallara/Honda/Firestone car to a three-second lead over eventual race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Pagenaud led the next 22 laps until his second and last-scheduled pit stop.
When the rest of the field recycled through their respective pit stops by lap 57, Pagenaud was running third behind Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan.
On lap 65, Pagenaud passed Kanaan but was also passed by Charlie Kimball at the same time.
With Kimball easily pulling away, it appeared Pagenaud was headed for his third podium finish in 2012. However, a rapidly charging Josef Newgarden sealed the fate of the HP team for good.
During an attempted pass by Newgarden on Pagenaud in Turn 3 on Lap 80, the two rookies made contact that forced the No. 67 car to overshoot the corner and stall. Pagenaud was able to continue, but was issued a drive-through penalty by IZOD IndyCar Series officials for his role in the contact with Newgarden.
Under the caution period for Newgarden’s stalled car, Pagenaud was forced to pit to take on enough fuel to get to the finish. On the restart, he was collected in a four-car accident but was able to continue.
Despite the late-race accident, the additional fuel stop and penalty, Pagenaud finished the race on the lead lap and in 12th-place.
“I don’t know whether to be happy or mad,” said Pagenaud. “The HP car was pretty awesome during the race. We led and controlled the race for a little while. The team did an awesome job. It just didn’t go our way on the strategy.
“We tried to go for the win with a little bit of strategy,” he added. “It just about worked out. Unfortunately, we did not have enough fuel to go to the end, so we had to pit.”
For his part in the contact with Newgarden, which set in motion the string of events impacting his finish, Pagenaud was confident he did not do anything for which he should have been penalized.
“I have no doubt on what I did because I think I respected the rule, which is to keep your line,” said Pagenaud. “I kept my line, but Newgarden went into a hole where there was no space. If I didn’t move back, he was never going to stop. I had to move back to make sure he wasn’t going to take me out. So, I don’t see why I got penalized. But again, I need to see the replay. Sometimes, from the inside of the car, it looks a little different. But from my standpoint, I really don’t understand the penalty.”
By winning the Honda Indy Toronto, Andretti Autosport’s Hunter-Reay claimed his third consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series race. It is also his eighth career win, but first on the streets of Toronto.
Ganassi Racing’s Kimball finished second, his career-best result in IndyCar racing. His previous best was eighth. Mike Conway finished third for AJ Foyt Racing, and KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Oriol Servia rounded out the top five.
The race was slowed by three caution flags for a total of only eight yellow-flag laps.
With his win, Hunter-Reay jumped into the lead of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship with 335. Penske Racing’s Will Power dropped to second with 301. Another Penske Racing driver, Helio Castroneves, is third with 289, while Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe round out the top five with 281 and 268 respectively.
Pagenaud sits seventh with 264 points with five races remaining.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Edmonton Indy at the Edmonton City Centre Airport on July 22.
DATE: July 8, 2012
EVENT: Honda Indy Toronto
SERIES: IZOD IndyCar Series
LOCATION: Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario (1.755-mile, 11-turn, street course)
START/FINISH: 8th/12th (Running, Completed 85 of 85 laps)
WINNER: Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport