TORONTO – It was Bastille Day on Sunday and Simon Pagenaud of France celebrated it with his first victory in the Honda Indy Toronto.
Pagenaud’s weekend was reminiscent of his dominant Month of May, when the Team Penske driver won the IndyCar Grand Prix, the Indy 500 pole and the 103rd Indianapolis 500.
This weekend on the streets of Toronto, Pagenaud was the fastest in every practice session, won the pole on Saturday and easily won the 85-lap race on Sunday, leading for 80 laps.
He defeated Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing in a race that finished under yellow after Pagenaud’s teammate, Will Power, stuffed his No. 12 Chevrolet into the turn eight tire barrier.
“What a great weekend really,” Pagenaud said afterwards. “We were really hooked up the whole weekend with a fantastic race car. Then it’s Bastille Day in France. Being able to win for France, after winning Indianapolis, it’s been a special year. I’m very proud to fly the French flag here in a cousin country, which is Canada. I’m really excited and proud.
“I guess the French guy is leading the Tour de France today on the bike. I felt like I had to do the same. Super proud.”
Pagenaud’s near-perfect weekend also shows a resurgence in the NTT IndyCar Series points championship. It was his third win of the season, but his first since his spectacular Month of May in Indianapolis.
Pagenaud moved up to third in the standings and is now 39 points behind championship leader and teammate Josef Newgarden.
“What a great day for the team, great stops, great strategy and you had to hold off one of the best guys in the business behind you in Scott Dixon,” team owner Roger Penske said in Victory Lane.
Dixon’s second place finish has him fourth in points, but he is 86 points behind Newgarden with six races left.
“I think it was just really hard to get close to cars today,” Dixon said. “You could kind of get to them, but even the pace I thought on our last set of Blacks, we caught an eight-second gap in literally five or six laps. The pace was really good.
“Then once we just got to Simon, we couldn’t do anything. He did a good job of holding the pace up a little bit in (turns) six and eight. We had some lap traffic with (Ryan) Hunter-Reay. We got a good run out of (turns) 11 and one.”
Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport finished third in a Honda and is now just four points behind Newgarden heading into Saturday night’s race at Iowa Speedway.
He finished one position ahead of Newgarden, who clings to the championship lead that he has held for 10 of the 11 rounds in the championship.
“We didn’t have the pace of the two guys in front,” Rossi said. “About seven or eight laps to go, I closed down on them pretty quick because of lapped cars, but I caught the same ones they had to deal with.
“From that point it was pretty much maintaining third and bringing the car home.”
There were just two caution periods for three laps. The first came when five cars created a parking lot in turn eight and the last came on the final lap when Power ended up in the tire barrier.
Since winning the 103rd Indianapolis 500, Pagenaud had some major commitments that came with winning the world’s biggest race.
Those concluded at the end of June when he took part in a sculpting session with Borg-Warner Trophy sculptor William Behrends in Tryon, N.C. on June 26, followed by a quick trip to France that weekend.
Once Pagenaud returned to the track at Toronto, he noted the time for celebration was over; it was time to focus on the championship.
“That’s a good point,” Pagenaud said. “I think that was definitely a closure to go to France and realize the impact of the biggest race in the world. I had no idea the impact it was going to have in France. It was quite incredible.
“We’re actually going back in August for a media tour with IndyCar to celebrate with the media there and fans in my hometown as well, which I’m really excited about. (The) Borg-Warner (Trophy) is going to be there. Those are good moments, too.
“I’m definitely switched to championship mode now even though I’m a happy person.”
1. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
3. (4) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
4. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
5. (3) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 85, Running
6. (14) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
7. (16) Colton Herta, Honda, 85, Running
8. (8) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
9. (12) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
10. (7) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
11. (17) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 85, Running
12. (6) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 84, Running
13. (18) Zach Veach, Honda, 84, Running
14. (13) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 84, Running
15. (9) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running
16. (11) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 84, Running
17. (22) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 84, Running
18. (15) Will Power, Chevrolet, 83, Contact
19. (19) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 83, Running
20. (20) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 81, Running
21. (21) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 79, Running
22. (10) Takuma Sato, Honda, 67, Mechanical