Pagenaud Completes Weekend Of Upsets

Simon Pagenaud drove to his first IZOD IndyCar Series victory Sunday at Belle Isle Park in Detroit. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Simon Pagenaud drove to his first IZOD IndyCar Series victory Sunday at Belle Isle Park in Detroit. (Al Steinberg Photo)

DETROIT – The Honda Revenge Tour gained more ground on Sunday as Simon Pagenaud of France scored his first career IndyCar Series victory in Sunday’s Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit Race 2 at Belle Isle in Detroit.

Pagenaud gave team owner Sam Schmidt his first career victory as a team owner as Honda drivers swept the top five.

Pagenaud defeated Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s James Jakes by 5.627 seconds. Mike Conway, who won Saturday’s Race 1 in dominant fashion, was third for Dale Coyne Racing followed by Target/Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.

Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport was the highest finishing Chevrolet driver in sixth place.

It was the second year in a row that Honda has come into Chevrolet’s hometown and swept the race. Last year, Dixon won in a Honda.

Pagenaud finished second last year in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and was jubilant with his first career victory.

“There were a lot of things going on in the cockpit the last two laps,” Pagenaud said. “It was unbelievable. Honda was amazing with the power they gave me. It was an amazing race. My engineers worked into the night to develop the car after Saturday’s race and it was incredible during today’s race.

“I was on attack mode throughout the entire race. We jumped positions in every restart. We damaged the front wing in the one crash but my team quickly changed the wing. From that moment on we decided to just go for it and we were in the lead with such a fast car. Once in the lead we could do qualifying laps after qualifying laps. Those moments in the gym paid off today. The last two laps were very difficult. I just turned 29 and started racing when I was eight and my goal was either Formula One or IndyCar. My parents pushed as hard as they could to make it happen and this is 21 years of work to make this moment happen. Those last two laps were quite emotional on the car. It was difficult to stay focused. It was a pretty sweet moment.”

Jakes second-place finish was the highest of his career and the second time this season Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has finished that high. Graham Rahal was second in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April.

Jakes was also involved in the pivotal crash in the race but was able to use that to his advantage.

“There was quite a big wreck in Turn 1 and I lost my front wing and had to come in and pit and I had injured my wrist and I was worried about that,” Jakes said. “We had to pit and by doing that it allowed the track to open up and I was able to push the car to the lead. We were able to save some push to passes for the last lap and that kept us in second place.”

Conway scored his second podium finish in two days time and the driver who has said he will never drive on ovals ever again obviously has the ability to perform on the street and road courses of the IZOD IndyCar Series. He led 78 laps over the two races.