History was made at the World’s Greatest Race Course today, as Simon Pagenaud won the first ever IndyCar road course race at the historic venue. It was an extremely exciting race, filled with drama and intrigue. It was the third career win for the Frenchman, who held off Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves in the closing laps. As good as all of that was, there were two scary incidents that could have ended much worse than they did. In the end though, it was Pagenaud who etched his name into the record books as the first ever winner of this race.
The first of two “hold your breath” moments came at the start of the race, during the standing start. Pole sitter, Sebastien Saavedra had an electrical issue on his machine, which left him as a sitting duck in front of 24 other eager race cars. After narrowly avoiding disaster with the first few rows, it finally happened. He was struck by Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin, destroying the rear of his car. I was standing on pit lane when it happened, and managed to capture it on video, which you can see here. Luckily, all of the drivers involved in the incident were able to walk away.
The second tense moment came later in the race, when James Hinchcliffe was struck in the head by flying debris going down Hulman Blvd. I was in Turn 7 at the time, and saw him veer off course seemingly under his own power. He appeared to be shaken when he exited his car, and was taken away on a stretcher. James was discharged from Methodist hospital after a CT scan of his head and neck. He was diagnosed with a concussion, and will need to be medically cleared before he can get back in the car. Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins tomorrow, and EJ Viso will be filling in for Hinchcliffe until he is cleared to drive again. Viso finished 18th in last year’s 500, driving for the Andretti team.
The race was nearly won by veteran Orio Servia, who came up just a few laps short on fuel. The good news is that he and the team appear to be on the verge of landing a sponsor for the remainder of the 2014 season. His teammate Graham Rahal didn’t have much luck either, after getting run over on a restart. He stated afterwords that they needed to work with the officials to adjust the restart zone because drivers were having a hard time seeing in front of them because of the larger rear wings.
The real winner today was the speedway. The fans piled into the track to witness today’s event, and I haven’t heard from anyone that didn’t have a good time. The weather was perfect, the facility upgrades were top notch, and we should all thank Doug Boles and his people at IMS and IndyCar for having the courage and determination to pull this thing off.
The championship standings got much tighter after today’s race. Will Power is still on top, but he leads Hunter-Reay by just one point, and his lead over third place Pagenaud is only six points. Practice for the Indy 500 begins tomorrow, and qualifying will take place next weekend for the 98th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
You can watch the highlights from today’s race below, courtesy of IndyCar.