LONG BEACH, Calif., Sunday, April 15, 2012 – Through pre-season testing and the first two races of the IZOD IndyCar Series season, Simon Pagenaud has been playfully telling Team Penske’s Will Power, “I’m coming for you.”
The pair, former Team Australia teammates in Champ Car, often do the two-finger “I’m Watching You” gesture at one another.
After Sunday’s 38th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Pagenaud can openly, and confidently, tell Power, “I’m coming for you.”
Driving the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, Pagenaud made a stirring charge from fourth to second place in the closing moments of the 85-lap race on the Streets of Long Beach, Calif. He was definitely “coming for” Power.
The Frenchman was on a three-pit strategy under the guidance of Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ General Manager and Race Strategist Rob Edwards. While leading the race and with a 16-second margin over Power, Pagenaud pitted for his final stop on lap 70 for fresh Firestone tires and a splash of fuel.
He left the pits in fourth place behind the cars of Power, Takuma Sato and Rubens Barrichello in that order and who were all on two-stop strategies. Pagenaud was also more than 10 seconds behind Power on the track.
In short order, Pagenaud passed the former F1 star Barrichello on lap 73 and set his sights on Sato, who was five seconds ahead. By lap 79, Pagenaud hunted down Sato and made the pass into second place.
With six laps to the finish and six seconds behind Power, the Long Beach crowd witnessed a classic pursuit around the 1.968-mile street course. At the end, Power beat Pagenaud to the line by just .8675 seconds for a dramatic finish.
“It seems like it was a pretty cool race to watch, so I’m glad for the fans,” said Pagenaud. “I’m glad to be back in Long Beach. It’s a place where I’ve been pretty lucky in the past with two wins in sports cars, so I love coming back here. The Schmidt/Hamilton racing team is just fantastic at the moment. We’re a one-car team operation, and we don’t have as much data as Penske or Ganassi, but I’m glad we’re giving them a run for their money. One more lap, man, I would have tried (to pass Power) I tell you!”
By winning Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Power continued Team Penske’s dominance of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season. Team Penske has won all three races so far this season, and Power went back-to-back with his win today and at Barber Motorsports Park two weeks ago.
It was Power’s 17th career Indy car win and his second at Long Beach.
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay followed Pagenaud across the line in third place, but he was penalized for late-race contact and moved back to sixth position. The penalty moved his teammate, James Hinchcliffe, up to third place. Rounding out the top five were KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan and Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand.
There were nine lead changes among seven drivers. Pagenaud led twice for a total of 26 laps, 10 more than any other driver.
Three caution periods allowed the yellow flag to wave for 12 laps.
On the strength of his back-to-back wins, Power leaves Long Beach with a 24-point lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship over his teammate Helio Castroneves (127-103). Pagenaud is third with 100 points. Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is fourth with 96 points, while James Hinchcliffe is fifth with 95 points.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Sao Paolo Indy 300 in Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 29.