It was another physical day in the Verizon IndyCar Series with hot temperatures, a bumpy track, and on track contact making it tough on the 23 drivers but it was Simon Pagnaud who pulled away over the final nine laps to win Race 2 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston presented by the Great Houston Honda Dealers on Sunday.
For Pagenaud it was his second win of the 2014 season and the fourth of his career. His Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports teammate and rookie Mikhail Aleshin finished second for his career best and also rookie Jack Hawksworth turned in a career best to get on the podium in third place for Bryan Herta Autosport.
The doubleheader weekend was very friendly to rookies. On Saturday Race 1 was won by Carlos Huertas and Carlos Munoz finished on the podium in third. Sunday did not go as well for those two as Huertas had an issue on his car and pulled off after only three of the 90 laps. He finished 23rd. Munoz was running in the top 10 when he hit the wall and ended his race with a 22nd place finish.
Helio Castroneves started Race 2 from the pole with Simon Pagenaud in second place. Unlike on Saturday, Race 2 started with a rolling start instead of a standing start. Mike Conway made contact on lap 1 and pitted to change the nose on his car on the first lap. Lap 3 saw Huertas pull his Dale Coyne Racing car off with an issue. Sebastian Saavedra also had an early issue and lost five laps. He finished in 17th.
Up front Castroneves and Pagenaud distanced themselves comfortably from the rest of the fight behind them. By lap 17 points leader Will Power had driven from 18th to tenth. On lap 20 Castroneves had a 2.1 second lead on Pagenaud. Mikhail Aleshin was third, Graham Rahal fourth, and Justin Wilson fifth.
Scott Dixon had an issue after his first pit stop and lost 12 laps. He would finish in 18th.
On lap 31 Castroneves and Pagenaud both pitted as the final cars to do so. Castroneves was able to hold the lead ahead of Pagenaud. Will Power had sprung up to third with Sebastien Bourdais fourth, and Luca Filippi fifth. Graham Rahal pitted with an issue on lap 32 and lost three laps. He would finish 16th.
By lap 37 Pagenaud and Power had both caught Castroneves in the lead and were pressuring him. Carlos Munoz hit the wall off Turn 10 when his car got loose and he did heavy damage and would stop on the track which brought out the first caution on lap 42 for his stranded car.
The race would restart on lap 48 and Pagenaud took the fight to Castroneves as well as Bourdais to Power. On lap 49 Pagenaud slipped past Castroneves with a nice move in Turn 4 and then into Turn 6 Bourdais had a run to the outside of Castronenes. When the Team Penske driver moved across the track to block Bourdais it turned him into the outside wall hard. The second caution flew and Castroneves was done. He finished 21st. Bourdais continued but had damage to his left-front wing piece.
The race would restart on lap 55 with Pagenaud in the lead, Bourdais second, Power third, Juan Pablo Montoya fourth, and Charlie Kimball fifth. Montoya was able to pass his teammate Power to take third and then he would get past Bourdais for second. On lap 59 Marco Andretti passed Bourdais for third as his car struggled with the damage.
Montoya would pit from second on lap 60 for his final stop of the race. Josef Newgarden then had an issue with his right-front tire coming off on lap 62 and stopped on track. He finished 20th. Drivers dove to pit road before the caution was thrown including the leader Pagenaud. The caution did come out on lap 63 for the third time.
For the lap 67 restart Pagenaud was in the lead ahead of his teammate Aleshin. Justin Wilson was third, Jack Hawksworth fourth, Will Power fifth, Marco Andretti sixth, and Juan Pablo Montoya seventh. On that first lap Andretti got into Wilson in Turn 6 and shoved him into the tire barrier to bring out the fourth caution. Wilson would lose a lap and finish in 12th.
The race restarted on lap 73 and on that restart James Hinchcliffe spun. He would keep going but finished in the 14th spot a lap down.
A big battle was on for fourth behind Pagenaud, Aleshin, and Power who had pulled away. Jack Hawksworth was making his car wide and on lap 74 Montoya made contact with him. Then on lap 75 Montoya got cut off by Hawksworth and Charlie Kimball slipped past for fifth. Also on lap 75 Takuma Sato clipped the curb hard and ended up losing control of his AJ Foyt Racing car and slammed the wall hard. That ended his race with a 19th place finish. His accident brought out the fifth caution.
The race would restart on lap 82 with nine laps to go. Pagenaud would set sail and pull away from his teammate Aleshin. The rookie also would open a huge gap on Will Power in third. The race was on behind them though for fourth where Hawksworth again made his car wide. Montoya got by Kimball for fifth on lap 83 but on lap 84 Kimball got back past Montoya when Hawksworth again made it hard on Montoya to pass. Then Hawksworth's car got better and he pulled away from Kimball. Montoya meanwhile used up his car and began to fade.
On lap 99 Luca Filippi crashed into the tires but Simon Pagenaud had already taken the white flag. Also Will Power had a right-rear suspension issue develop on his Team Penske car and limped home. INDYCAR did not throw a caution and let everyone race back to the checkered flag. This was no issue for Pagenaud as he cruised to the win. Aleshin took second and Hawksworth earned his first podium in third after fighting hard to keep the fourth position earlier.
Charlie Kimball finished fourth, Sebastien Bourdais fifth, Ryan Hunter-Reay sixth, Juan Pablo Montoya seventh, Ryan Briscoe eighth, Marco Andretti ninth, and Tony Kanaan tenth. Will Power ended as the last lead lap car in 11th. Mike Conway was 13th and Luca Filippi 15th both one lap down.
After 10 of the 18 races in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season Will Power holds a 39 point lead over his teammate Helio Castroneves. Ryan Hunter-Reay is in third and 41 points back. Simon Pagenaud is 59 points back in fourth. Juan Pablo Montoya is fifth, Marco Andretti sixth, Carlos Munoz seventh, Sebastien Bourdais eighth, Scott Dixon ninth, and James Hinchcliffe tenth.
The next race on the schedule is Sunday, July 6th for the Pocono INDYCAR 500 at Pocono Raceway. The race will carry double points.Tags: Bryan Herta Autosport, Carlos Huertas, Carlos Munoz, Charlie Kimball, Helio Castroneves, IndyCar Series, Jack Hawksworth, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mikhail Aleshin, Motorsports, Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports, Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, Will Power