Simon Pagenaud’s last race of the year didn’t go according to plan – a late-race engine issue thwarted a great comeback after an early race tire issue – but the driver of the No. 77 HP Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda ended the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series third in the points standings, an incredible effort.
Pagenaud, in his second full season in IndyCar after a partial 2011 and a solitary Champ Car campaign in 2007, produced the second straight top-five championship finish for Sam Schmidt’s squad. He was fifth last year and secured the SUNOCO Rookie-of-the-Year honors – an achievement matched by teammate Tristan Vautier this year – while in 2013, Pagenaud got his first two victories at Detroit Race 2 and Baltimore as part of a second half surge this year.
“We’ve been able to show that we can be strong on each type of track now,” Pagenaud said in a team release. “It’s only our second year but we came home third in the championship, which is seriously cool. I’m so proud of the guys and the HP team for what we’ve accomplished this year.”
As for the race itself, Pagenaud was forced to pit on Lap 5 with his tire pressures too high, so he changed all four. That put him a lap down and sent him into an early hole. However, he recovered admirably throughout the rest of the night, getting back on the lead lap and making it into the top five before the late-race engine issue with just 33 laps remaining. Pagenaud was classified 13th.
“The first few laps were difficult because we had an issue with our tires,” Pagenaud said. “Luckily we were able to recover from that. We had an incredible race car, and I couldn’t believe how strong it was in traffic. We drove our way back from one lap down to eighth, and then we even ran as high as fourth.”
Pagenaud’s former teammate at Team Australia in that 2007 Champ Car season, Will Power, leapt to fourth in the final standings with his third win in the last five races. One-time points leader Marco Andretti, who finished seventh, secured fifth in the championship and was best of the four Andretti Autosport cars.
The rest of the top 10: Justin Wilson, defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti. Wilson’s sixth is the best for Dale Coyne Racing since Bruno Junqueira was seventh in that 2007 Champ Car campaign, and ninth for Kimball is a career-best.
More on all their seasons will come in the following days and weeks.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.