SPEEDWAY — Fuel strategy turned out to be the determining factor in bringing Simon Pagenaud a victory in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Pagenaud ran the final 28 laps without pitting and conserved just enough fuel to put his name in the record books at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He had enough fuel to take the victory lap around the road course. Ryan Hunter-Reay used the same fuel strategy to finish second with Helio Castroneves closing on the two leaders.
“This is a huge win for us,” team owner Sam Schmidt said after the win. “Simon is on a mission this year. We have things going the right way.”
Pagenaud said winning the inaugural race is “pretty cool.”
“Being here looking at the (IMS) pagoda is amazing,” he said. “I was saving fuel, but I was worried about Helio (Castroneves) and I didn’t know what (Ryan) Hunter-Reay was doing.”
The lead changed several times over the final 20 laps as one driver after another was forced to stop for fuel.
Oriel Servia driving for Rahal/Letterman Racing moved to the top of the charts after starting 22nd in the field as Helio Castroneves and Sebastien Bourdais pitted with 11 laps remaining.
Servia pitted with four laps remaining, giving the lead to Simon Pagenaud, driving for Schmidt/Peterson Racing.
Castroneves hoped that the three cars in front of him would have to pit or slow to conserve fuel and made a late race charge.
Roger Penske, race strategist for Castroneves, said the team was going to roll the dice, but when the caution flag didn’t wave for the final 22 laps the team decided to pit.
The Grand Prix of Indianapolis started with a bang with the caution flag waving before the field made it to the first turn.
Pole sitter Sebastian Saavedra’s car didn’t leave the grid and was hit by Carlos Munoz and then Mikhail Aleshin on the front straight. None of the drivers were injured in the crash.