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DETROIT — About an hour after Simon Pagenaud earned his first career IndyCar victory, he sat at the podium by himself and asked a rhetorical question.
“Did I take the right spot?” the French driver asked, grinning.
Sunday afternoon, that spot was no longer unfamiliar territory for Pagenaud.
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Pagenaud won the second of two races this weekend at the Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix, completing a 70-lap race that included six cautions in the first 36 laps.
“The race was pretty eventful,” said Pagenaud, who overtook James Jakes for the lead with 12 laps left. “But I was in full attack mode the whole race. My goal was to go to the front and not look behind.”
Pagenaud earned the win a day after he finished sixth in the first race of the weekend, though he encountered difficulties with his Honda on Saturday. On Sunday, Pagenaud continued the race on the 2.35-mile road course after his car sustained damage to its front wing.
“The HP team worked so hard in making things up,” said Pagenaud, who drives for Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports. “[Saturday] was difficult. When I jumped in the car for the warm-up [Sunday], it was much better, much improved. They made some big changes for the race and the car was just incredible.”
Behind Pagenaud, Jakes and Mike Conway engaged in a spirited chase for second on the final two laps as Jakes held off several passing attempts by Conway, who won the first half of the weekend’s doubleheader.
“I used up my last push-to-pass maybe a bit too early,” said Conway, referring to a turbocharger boost button that helps a driver overtake another driver. “I pushed all the way to the end. I didn’t quite have enough for James at the end.”
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Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan led the field halfway through the race, but 22 of the first 36 laps were driven under caution and a 10-car pileup on the 28th lap eventually set up a driver re-order.
Sebastien Bourdais made contact with Will Power at Turn 1 and triggered the pileup, which drew the ire of Power. Power had to be restrained by race officials as he walked off the track and threw his gloves at Bourdais’ car as it passed him. Power, who finished 20th and completed 53 laps, also had choice words for Bourdais on the ABC broadcast.
IndyCar officials penalized Bourdais for avoidable contact, and Bourdais took exception to the punishment.
“I hardly touched Will Power at that restart and was penalized,” said Bourdais, who finished 11th. “This is just not right because my team works so hard and we deserve so much better than this.”
As a result, the pileup allowed for more movement on the road course, paring the field to 17 drivers on the 34th lap.
On the 58th lap, Pagenaud became the race’s final leader, taking over when Jakes pitted for four tires and fuel. In the final 10 laps, Pagenaud stretched his lead to more than five and a half seconds over Jakes before crossing the finish line.
“Those last two laps, I was quite emotional in the car,” Pagenaud said. “It was difficult to stay focused. I kept saying, ‘keep pushing, keep pushing, don’t lift.’ And it worked out. When I crossed the finish line, it was a pretty sweet moment.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.