BALTIMORE — Simon Pagenaud kept his cool while practically everyone around him lost theirs’.
And while Pagenaud scored the second victory of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season and the second of his career, Sunday’s Grand Prix of Baltimore will be remembered for the second incident in a row involving Team Penske’s Will Power and Target/Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon.
The intensity level between these two teams has risen from hot after last week at Sonoma to nuclear after the latest incident involving these two drivers at Baltimore.
Dixon’s shot at the championship took a huge hit on a day when it looked like he would make a big gain on points leader Helio Castroneves, who damaged his car on lap one and had to have the front nose on his car replaced dropping him to last place.
Fast-forward to lap 53 and Dixon fourth is behind third-place Power with Sebastien Bourdais the leader as the field charged through the Chicane for the restart. Dixon went to the right in an attempt to pass Power but the Team Penske driver did not realize Dixon had made a move because he also darted to the right in an attempt to pass Bourdais for the lead.
The two cars made contact sending both into the wall and tempers soaring in the Dixon’s pit area that was right next to Power’s.
It was the second straight week these two teams have been involved in controversy. Last week in the GoPro Indy Grand Prix at Sonoma, when Dixon ran into Penske crewmember Travis Law who carried a rear tire into the path of Dixon’s Dallara/Honda, which resulted in a penalty that knocked Dixon from the lead to 19th. He would go on to finish 15th but took a hit in the points coming into the weekend trailing Castroneves for 39.
The contact with Power knocked Dixon out of the race after IndyCar officials would not allow Dixon’s team to repair the car because it was not towed back to the pit area while Power sat in his car and his crew was able to work on it and get him back on track.
While all this was happening steely stares were coming from Dixon’s pit area.
Technical director Kevin Blanch relayed that information to a Ganassi crew member that Dixon’s car was out of the race. The crewmember responded, “Why do the rules only apply to us?”
Dixon would go on to finish 19th while Power finished 18th. Castroneves overcame all of his obstacles, including the irony of running over his own crew member on the second pit stop of race that ironically resulted in a similar penalty that Dixon incurred last Sunday. Castroneves would finish ninth.
After the race one of Dixon’s crew members tried to confront Power over the situation.
“We’re done,” the crew member said. “I promise you that. That’s BS.”
Power responded by saying, “I know what it looks like but why would I want to put myself in the wall? I don’t even know what happened.”
For the second straight week, Castroneves actually gained points because of Dixon’s ill fate. Castroneves now leads Dixon by 49 points with three races remaining.
Dixon left pit lane while the race was still in progress – frustrated by the turn of events that had taken place.
“It was chaotic,” Dixon said. “It was sort of one thing after another. The strategy was a little tough today with so many cautions and people off sequence. The tires are really hard and the restarts were slippery. On the second or third restart Graham Rahal hit me from behind. That spun us out, but I kept the car going and we were able to continue on. Next restart, I got a run on Will and went to the inside and he just smashed me straight into the wall. There can’t be any kind of excuse for that. So I don’t know what’s going to happen. The 15 car (Rahal) definitely deserves a drive through as well.
“I had a good run on the 12 (Power), used an overtake, and it looks like he saw me try to go to the right and pass him and he just slammed me into the fence.”
When asked if it looked like a blatant block, Dixon responded:
“That’s what it was to me.”
“It’s tough to swallow,” Dixon continued. “Two weeks in a row, it’s been a pretty rough deal for us. Obviously we’ll try to bounce back. With three races to go, and depending on what they do to the 3 car (Castroneves) in terms of points – they said before the race today if there’s any contact between team cars, they’ll be taking points from the other guy – so we’ll have to see how that plays out.”
Dixon admits his hopes of finding an opportunity for the championship are fading by circumstances that appear to be beyond his control.
“It just seems a bit ridiculous,” Dixon said. “It seems like everything we do, we get penalized for it and nothing happens to those cars. I know Derrick is trying to do the best he can. Beaux (Barfield, Race Director) I don’t even know what planet that guy is on.”
Dixon’s teammate, Dario Franchitti, had been an early dropout after his Dallara/Honda suffered a mechanical problem. But Franchitti had a strong opinion on what happened to Dixon.
“At what point do some rules apply?” Franchitti asked. “He just took him out and what’s going to happen? Nothing!”
Mike Hull is the managing director of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and for the second race in a row was left to explain another incident between the same two teams.
“I think it was pretty obvious what happened,” Hull said. “Those two guys were racing hard, and I firmly believe Will knew he was there – particularly with what we heard Cindric tell Will on the radio. He coached him through what the answer should be. So we feel that he knew Scott was there.
“There’s a lot at stake for us; there’s a lot at stake for Penske Racing. First of all, I expect more out of Penske Racing than that. And secondly, I expect more out of IndyCar than what we saw today. I haven’t really spoken to the consistency or the inconsistency. I’m appreciative of the fact that Derrick is now there and he’s tirelessly working to make it better. I think what Derrick drove with the pit boxes this weekend is an indication that he’s working hard for us. It isn’t happening on our clock, currently, but I think it’s happening. I would hope this week that IndyCar would do something as a reaction to what happened today here in Baltimore. The bottom line is street racing is really great stuff, and we need to see a good race all the way through to the end.”