IndyCar's Pagenaud wins Long Beach
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Simon Pagenaud finally got his first win for Team Penske. Scott Dixon isn't sure Pagenaud should have been in victory lane.
Pagenaud picked up a controversial win Sunday, with Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing team believing Pagenaud should have been penalized for crossing a blend line as he returned to the track following a pit stop. The Dixon camp interpreted the rule as a clear violation, but IndyCar only gave Pagenaud a warning.
The lack of penalty irked Dixon for two reasons.
''We have two drivers' meetings a weekend, and it was clearly stated ... by all means, any time you could not put more than two wheels over the line, and that was my understanding,'' Dixon said.
The reigning IndyCar champion also was irked that Pagenaud got off with a warning.
''I thought we had outlawed warnings,'' he said. ''This was the problem we had in the offseason, with people getting warnings all the time, especially when you're using it to your advantage when it's the last pit stop sequence or anything like that. If you're just going to get a warning every time you're going to do it, that's why this was discussed so deeply in the offseason, and why there was about 40 or 50 warning zones in the rule book removed.
''I don't even know why we discussed the pit lane exit if we're not going to stick to rules. Everybody else abided by it.''
IndyCar issued a statement that Pagenaud did indeed cross the blend line, but ''the penalty for this infraction ranges from a warning (minimum), putting the driver to the back of the field (mid) and drive-through or stop and go/hold (maximum). IndyCar race stewards determined his actions were not severe enough to warrant a harsher penalty than the warning that was issued.''
Pagenaud, meanwhile, didn't think he did anything wrong, although video did indeed show his wheels over the yellow blend line as he came off pit road.
''It was an inch on the race track there, so I'm good,'' said Pagenaud. ''The left sides on the right side of the dots, which it is, so I'm good.''
When told IndyCar had issued him a warning, the Frenchman said: ''I don't care.''
Indeed, it didn't matter to him in victory lane for the first time since he joined the Penske group last year. He failed to win a race in 2015, his worst season in IndyCar.
But he's off to a strong start to 2015 with a pair of second-place finishes to start the season and put him atop the points standings headed into Long Beach. He said on the first day of track activity that he knew his first win for Penske was coming, and he was correct.
He was also pleased to have earned his win by holding off Dixon, the reigning series champion.
''When you have Scott Dixon behind you, you always need to push it. You push it as hard as you can,'' Pagenaud said. ''He was really, really pushing.''
Dixon admitted he was angry over the final 15 laps as he chased Pagenaud.
''I was pretty mad once I got out of the car,'' he said. ''I was even a little mad at Simon after the race, but it's not his fault. You've got to try to take advantage whenever you can, but he doesn't make the rules or put the rules forward. Huge credit obviously to Simon. I can't be mad at him, so I'll direct my anger some other direction.''
Dixon was second, while Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya finished third and fourth in a sweep for Chevrolet. The manufacturer has won all three races this season and the Honda camp has been complaining that they are at a disadvantage.
Takuma Sato was the highest-finishing Honda driver in fifth.
Dixon teammate Tony Kanaan was sixth and Penske driver Will Power seventh.
James Hinchcliffe was eighth, but the only other Honda driver inside the top 11.
SPEAKING HER MIND: Dixon's wife, Emma, was not pleased with IndyCar's lack of action on Pagenaud and showed her displeasure on Twitter. ''Penske cheating again. Jokers!! Same (expletive) different year shame on you (hash)IndyCar (hash)warning,'' she posted. That prompted a reply from NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick's wife, DeLana. ''I don't know you. I've never met you, but I think we could be friends... (hash)nofilter (hash)speakyourmind,'' Harvick wrote.
STILL SEARCHING: Castroneves started from the pole and led 47 of the first 52 laps. But he gave up the lead to Pagenaud when he pitted and never contended again. Castroneves has not won since his 2014 victory at Belle Isle.
''We were leading a lot of laps but in the end, a little bit of a strategy there, we got traffic, and we decided to come in,'' he said. ''At the end of the day, congrats to Simon, the first win for him and Team Penske, so at least I'm glad that one of the Team Penske teams ended up getting this victory.''
FAST RACE: With no cautions, the race sailed along at a rapid pace. It was the first caution-free race for IndyCar since 2013, and first at Long Beach since 1989. Kanaan suggested extending the 80-lap race in the future for entertainment purposes.
''No caution makes for a boring race and the fans deserve better,'' said Kanaan.
UP NEXT: The Grand Prix of Alabama next Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, where Josef Newgarden scored his first career victory last season.