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Author: Mark W. Theisen
May 14th 2016 -      INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA May 14, 2013:   2016 was billed as “Historic” in the annals of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and one ominous record was broken today, well before the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, when the green flag for the third running of the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis was taken with an ambient air temperature of 49 degrees, the coolest start ever for a race at the Speedway in the month of May.

     The cool weather, however, did not deter the hottest driver in Verizon IndyCar racing this year as Simon Pagenaud led early and then terrific put work put him back in front and he cruised to his third straight series win and will carry that huge momentum in to the running of the 100th Indy 500 in just two weeks.

     For Pagenaud it is his third straight series win and he has finished first or second in all five 2016 IndyCar races and has built a 76 point lead over Scott Dixon, a huge advantage at this point of the season.

     Starting from the pole, Pagenaud led the 25 cars into the first turn when the cars behind him began breaking and stacking up.  Dixon slowed and bobbled as his teammate Tony Kanaan moved to avoid him not seeing Sebastien Bourdais and the pair made contact send Kanaan out of the race and Bourdais into the pits for repairs.

      This put the race under caution and the two drivers who were penalized after yesterday’s qualifications with cars being underweight, Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden, who had to start last due to the infraction, choose to make early pit stops in an attempt to run longer before the rest of the field had to make their initial stops and gain track position in this manner.

     Green flag racing then actually began on lap 5 with Pagenaud leading James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball into the first turn.  With each lap the methodical Pagenaud began to creep away from his pursuers and had built a 3.9839 second lead over Kimball by the time he made his first pit stop on lap 22 surrendering the lead to Kimball.

     Kimball lead one lap before pitting on lap 23 with the lead going to Rahal, on his alternate strategy, who in turn led just one lap to try and capitalize on their strategy and when he made his stop the following lap the lead went back to Pagenaud.

     Pagenaud then led the next 15 laps before the second caution of the race came out when Bourdais, who had returned to the race after repairs, went off the course in the second turn at about the same juncture that JR Hildebrand came to a stop on the track.

     Just prior to the caution Helio Castroneves, Conor Daly and Will Power had made green flag pit stops so when the caution came out it was a huge boon for them. 

     Pit lane was closed for three laps so when the pits were opened it became a key point in the race.  Hinchcliffe’s 6.5 second stop won the race off pit road followed by Pagenaud, Kimball, Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay but trailing Castroneves and Daly when the green flag came back out on lap 46. Power was a lap down due to going off course earlier in the race thus the caution did not really assist him in his battle back up the field.

      On the restart Castroneves led the field into the first turn only to be passed Daly for the lead in a bold move to the outside.  That pass would be the only one of eight lead changes in the race that happened under green flag racing.

     Daly then led the next 14 laps, one short of a career best 15 laps led at St. Petersburg earlier this year and only the third time in his brief IndyCar career that he has led a lap.

     Driving for Dale Coyne Racing, who have won IndyCar’s races via strategy, bode well for Coyne but his team was just not quick enough when it came to the final pit stop.

     Daly’s crew brought him in on lap 60 followed by Rahal and Kimball on the next lap.  When Castroneves pitted on lap 62 it gave the lead to Pagenaud and when he came in on lap 63 his Team Penske executed the fastest pit stop of the race and he came out just behind another Team Penske driver, Juan Pablo Montoya and when he stopped on lap 64 Pagenaud was back in front and never headed the rest of the way to continue his impressive streak.

      Daly could never recover his momentum and slid to 6th at the finish tying his career best finish.

     Castroneves finished second for his season best performance to give Penske, who won for the 181 time in Indy Car racing today, a one two podium finish.  Hinchcliffe, who was severely injured a year ago in this race, finished third with Rahal taking fourth.

     Kimball completed the top five followed by Daly, Dixon, Montoya, Hunter-Reay and rookie Alexander Rossi.

      While Chevrolet powered cars finished one and two, Honda powered cars tied Chevrolet with five cars in the top ten, their best “team” finish in a season that has been dominated by Chevrolet and Penske all the way.

     “The car was fantastic one again,” said Pagenaud.  “The balance was perfect all race.  When we were in the lead we were cruising, doing what we could do to save tires.  It was difficult on cold tires so you could make up some ground on the pit stop sequence.  My race strategist picked up on this and we used it to our advantage the rest of the race.  What a day!  It is incredible to win three in a row with the competition that we have in the series.”

     The last time a driver won three in a row in IndyCar was when Scott Dixon did it in 2013.

     “We never gave up,” said Castroneves, who acknowledged that they knew they did not have the fastest car today. “Great Teamwork, never give up everybody was really in sync.  Sure I would like to have won but this builds momentum for the Indianapolis 500 and that is what it all about.”

     “Great result,” beamed Hinchcliffe.  “We had a great car, we were way quicker than Helio (Castroneves) but just didn’t have enough to get by him.  Considering we missed the whole first practice this weekend and still managed to put the car in the second row is a huge credit to everyone at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Honda.  We are certainly pointed in the right direction.”

     Pagenaud acknowledged the significance of his accomplishment given the competitive environment in the series at this point.  “Split seconds separate all of us”, said Pagenaud.  “We are doing everything as a team now but we cannot rest, they are all chasing us.”

     The Indianapolis Motor Speedway staff will now reconfigure the famed facility back into a two and one half mile oval and practice on the oval will begin tomorrow with the rookies going through the orientation program that must be completed before they can qualify for the 500.

     Pato O’Ward made it two in a row on the 2.439 miles road course when he won Saturday’s round in the Pro Mazda Grand Prix by leading all 29 laps enroute to a 4.756 win over Aaron Telitz of Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

     O’Ward has now gone 58 laps at Indianapolis without being passed.  Telitz, however was able to finish close than yesterday’s runner-up, Will Owen, who finished third today.

     After finishing 7th on Friday, Telitz, who is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and Team Pelfrey made changes to their car that improved its handling characteristics and allowed to make significant improvement over yesterday’s race.

     Telitz, who aspires to race in the Verizon IndyCar series at some point, spent the previous two years racing in the USF2000 Championship series and won race last year which propelled him to a third place finish in that series.

     Jamin Nico and Garett Grist rounded out the top five in the Pro Mazda race.

     Race number two today was the second round of Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix and Peter Thompson led all 15 laps to win the event after finishing second yesterday.  Victor Franzoni moved from third to second today with Luke Gabin finishing third.

      Yesterday’s USF2000 winner, Anthony Martin finished fourth with Jordan Lloyd completing the top five.  Parker edged Franzoni by just 0.7114 seconds as the race was interrupted by one caution on the first lap when 3 cars made contact entering the first turn off the front straightaway.

     The final preliminary race was the second round of the Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix and for the first time in the previous five support races there was a pass for the lead as yesterday’s winner, Ed Jones, who lead the first two laps of the race was passed by Dean Stoneman on lap 3 and Stoneman went on to record the win over Urrutia Santiago, who also finished second yesterday.  The margin of victory for Stoneman was 0.8659.  Kyle Kasier finished third followed by Jones and Felix Serralles.

     Considering the adverse weather conditions today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all three support races came off very well.