By: Spencer Neff
May 13, 2021
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend. On Saturday, the GMR Grand Prix on the road course begins the month of May.
As we begin the eighth pre-Indianapolis 500 race on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course, IndyCar1909 takes a look back at the 2016 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, which became a defining race for one of the series’ biggest stars.
Pagenaud dominates for third straight victory
Domination in the VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES had become more than familiar to Roger Penske and the Team Penske outfit. By 2016, it would come from their newest driver though.
After going winless during his first season with the team in 2015, Simon Pagenaud came into the month of May with two straight wins.
Coupled with Juan Pablo Montoya’s season-opening win at St.Petersburg, the team won three of the first four races. With the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, keeping that string of success going would be pivotal for the team.
Pagenaud continued his hot streak by claiming the pole for the third race at the IMS Road Course, with a best lap of 127.832 miles per hour. The 2014 race winner earned his first pole at the track and third of the season.
For the third straight year, the opening of the 82-lap race was marred by a multi-car accident. On the front straightaway, Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan made contact, sending Kanaan into KV Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais.
With Kanaan and Bourdais unable to continue on their own, the caution flag was thrown. Although Kanaan was unable to continue, Bourdais fell several laps behind but was able muster 20 circuits from his Dallara-Chevrolet before ultimately falling out of the race in 24th.
Pagenaud continued to lead up front through the race’s first stint, with outside pole sitter Charlie Kimball of Chip Ganassi Racing and Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing took turns at the front during the initial sequence of pit stops.
After the cycle end, Pagenaud continued to lead. On Lap 38, Bourdais stalled outside of Turn 2, prompting the second caution of the afternoon. During the yellow flag, Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand stalled on the back straightaway as well.
Pagenaud’s teammate Helio Castroneves was among the drivers to use the yellow to his advantage, as the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner took hold of the race lead on Lap 41 after stopping while the race was under green.
On the Lap 46 restart, Dale Coyne Racing’s Conor Daly took over the lead of the race from Castroneves and remained up front for 14 laps, the longest stretch of anyone outside of Pagenaud.
During the las pit stop sequence, Castroneves jumped back in front for two more laps. Ultimately, Pagenaud retook the lead on Lap 62 and went unchallenged from there.
In finishing 4.475 seconds ahead of his teammate, Pagenaud earned the widest margin of victory in the race’s brief history. Team Penske earned their fourth win of the season, second 1-2 finish of 2016 and Pagenaud scored three consecutive victories. After starting third, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe claimed the last step on the podium.
In winning the race, Pagenaud extended his points lead over Dixon to 76. Following a runner-up finish to Montoya in the season opener, he led the points standings the rest of the season. At the season finale in Sonoma, he won from the pole, securing a 127-point championship margin over WIll Power.
To date, the Penske teammates have won all but two races on the IMS Road Course. A week following his third-place finish, Hinchcliffe thrilled the IndyCar community by winning the pole for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, just over a year after a near-fatal practice crash at the speedway.
During the Grand Prix, Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Rookie Alexander Rossi set fastest lap of the race (1m09.5535-126.240 mph). It would be a precursor for a career-changing month. Using precise fuel strategy with Car Co-Owner Bryan Herta, Rossi won the 100th Indianapolis 500.
Header Image By Mike Harding/INDYCAR