Pagenaud unsure if he could’ve held Kimball back in final laps

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Simon Pagenaud said that issues with lapped traffic – particularly, Andretti Autosport’s E.J. Viso – didn’t help him as he tried to hang on to the lead in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. However, he also admitted that he wasn’t sure if he could keep race winner Charlie Kimball behind him in the closing laps.

Pagenaud made his final stop with 18 laps remaining and came out of pit road as the race leader ahead of Kimball. But the Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports driver found himself dicing briefly with Viso going into “The Keyhole” at Turn 2 as Kimball closed in.

Dealing with cold tires, Pagenaud was caught on the backstretch of the 2.26-mile circuit and Kimball made a bold pass on the inside going into Turn 4 for the lead. He would not give it up and cruised to his inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series win.

“I knew it was going to be close, but our ‘friend’ Viso, again, was in the middle of the racetrack and racing the leader, so that didn’t help,” said Pagenaud. “It is what it is. It’s racing. But it’s frustrating when there’s no need for it really.

“If it wasn’t for Viso, I think I could have kept my lead for at least [a little] longer. But Charlie was really strong, anyways. I don’t know if I could have kept him behind.”

But Pagenaud was still pleased with his first podium finish since winning Race 2 of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit weekend back in June at Belle Isle Park.

Like Kimball, he opted to go with a three-stop strategy, beginning his race from eighth position on the primary “black” Firestones and then going to the alternate “reds” on his first stop at Lap 25. He would stick with the “reds” for the remainder of the 90-lap race.

“We knew we had a very consistent car, but the goal was to come back to the leaders at the end of the first stint, and then put on the new set of [reds] – we knew the car would be good on those tires,” Pagenaud explained.

“And then my race was basically to go really, really fast on the second stint to try to jump the guys in front, because it’s really difficult to pass on the racetrack. The goal was to try to pass as many cars as possible doing that strategy, and we did.”

Pagenaud led twice in the race for a total of 14 laps.