Simon Pagenaud survived a full array of differing pit strategies, back pain and a battle with teammate and championship rival Will Power to earn a victory in Sunday’s Honda 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The win is the Frenchman’s fourth of 2016, and the sixth of Pagenaud’s six-year career.
Starting on the pole, Pagenaud took off to lead the opening stint of the race. However, after a full range of different pit strategies the Frenchman was forced to drive his way through the field to get in position to compete for the victory.
Differing strategies throughout the race led to multiple leaders including Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mikhail Aleshin and Conor Daly. However, in the end it came down to Pagenaud and Power over a final 28-lap stint.
Running behind Daly, who was five laps short after staying out during the race’s final caution, Pagenaud used an aggressive move to make his way past Power on the 2.4-mile Mid-Ohio’s final corner. From there, it was smooth sailing.
Daly led for much of the race’s final stint, but was forced to surrender the lead to Pagenaud when he pitted with six laps remaining. The IndyCar points leader then drove off to a 4.1620-second victory over Power.
“That was a race! Wasn’t that fun? It was awesome,” Pagenaud said. “I had a great battle with Will (Power) there at the end. I knew that was my chance. So, on that restart, it was time to go. It was a pretty interesting lap and it was fun driving like that. It reminded me of my sports car days around Mid-Ohio. That’s racing. It was fair and clean and it was hard racing and I’m just glad I won, really.”
Joining the Team Penske duo on the podium was Carlos Munoz. The result was Munoz’s first podium since the Indianapolis 500 in May, and the Columbian’s first podium on a road course since his May 2015 win at Belle Isle.
Graham Rahal finished fourth on his home track, with James Hinchcliffe rounding out the top five. Daly, Spencer Pigot, Charlie Kimball, Takuma Sato and Josef Newgarden completed the top 10.
Many championship hopefuls saw their title dreams suffer a major setback at Mid-Ohio. Tony Kanaan struggled throughout the day en-route to a 12th-place result. Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon each found issue early in the event – Dixon getting the worst of the collision between the two and Castroneves struggling after making two trips off-course. Castroneves would finish 15th, with Dixon limping home in 22nd.
The caution flag fell twice during the 90-lap race, once for Dixon and again on lap 60 for a crashed Jack Hawksworth. Sebastien Bourdais stalled in one of the road course’s gravel traps with three laps remaining, but was far enough off-course than the stewards elected to keep the race green.
The IndyCar paddock all return to action on Aug. 21, when the field heads to Pocono Raceway.
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