Honda Racing–Pagenaud Prevails in “Battle of Baltimore”

In an incident-filled 75-lap battle on the downtown streets of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Simon Pagenaud came through the carnage to score his second IZOD IndyCar Series win of 2013 in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Baltimore, aboard his Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda Dallara.  The win, Honda’s eighth of the season, ties it with rival Chevrolet for Manufacturers’ Championship honors with only three races remaining.  Josef Newgarden drove an inspired race to finish second for Honda and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a career-best for the sophomore Indy car driver.

After starting third, Pagenaud produced a strong run in the opening laps, running in formation with early leaders Will Power and Scott Dixon.  But, in what would become a pattern for the event, the caution flag waved for the first time after just 12 laps, as car-to-car contact and crashes became the order of the day, which resulted in 25 laps of the 75-lap distance being run under caution.  The early yellows resulted in several different pit strategies being employed, with the Schmidt team being one of the few to “split” itscars, running a standard schedule for Pagenaud while trying an off-sequence pit strategy for teammate Tristan Vautier.

As the race neared its mid-point, it appeared to be a contest between Power and Dixon among the drivers on a normal two-stop strategy, and Sebastien Bourdais and Vautier among those running an “alternate strategy”.  Honda drivers delayed or eliminated by contact included Vautier, Charlie Kimball – who was forced to a full stop on track several times by crashes directly in front of him – and Dixon, whose Target Chip Gansssi Racing Honda was hit by Power while attempting to pass on Lap 52.

As the cautions continued, all without injury to the drivers involved, the strategies converged to set up a 10-lap sprint to the finish among the survivors.  When the field took the green flag for the final time on Lap 65, Pagenaud stalked leader Marco Andretti for several laps, then made his move under braking for the hairpin on Lap 69 to claim a lead he would not surrender.

Once in front, Pagenaud held off several passing attempts by first Bourdais, then Newgarden, who had moved into second on Lap 70.  Fading brakes then ended Newgarden’s challenge, and Pagenaud stretched his advantage to just over four seconds at the checkers.