Pagenaud scores first Penske win with pit exit drama in the LBC

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – What had been a fairly cut-and-dried, largely uneventful Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach turned eventful on the final pit stop sequence, and ended with a controversial winner.

Simon Pagenaud finally secured his first win for Team Penske, but after receiving an Official Warning from INDYCAR following his pit exit and blend after his last pit stop on Lap 54.

Pagenaud crossed over the blend line and exited just ahead of Scott Dixon, but received the warning for “Lane Usage” per INDYCAR’s Penalty Guidelines sheet.

The Rule assessed is 7.10.1.1, which reads: “Failing to follow designated procedures entering or exiting the pit area, including the proper use of the acceleration and deceleration lanes.”

The Minimum Penalty is a Warning, a Mid-Penalty reverts a driver to the Back of the Field and a Maximum Penalty of Drive through, Stop and Go/Hold.

Another rule that theoretically could have been in play, but was not in this case, was Rule 7.1.3.5.

It falls under the Rule 7.1.3 Yellow Condition subset in the Rulebook; on the Penalty Guidelines sheet, it appears as an on-track penalty. However, as this was a Lane Usage violation and not a Blend Line violation, that Rule is not applicable.

This Rule exists in the INDYCAR Rulebook; the penalty assessed here was from the INDYCAR Penalty Guidelines sheet.

Nearly an hour following the completion of the race, IndyCar officials released the following statement:

Simon Pagenaud’s actions during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach were deemed an infraction per Rule 7.10.1.1. “Lane Usage” of the INDYCAR Penalty Guidelines: Failing to follow designated procedures entering or exiting the pit area, including the proper use of the acceleration and deceleration lanes. The penalty for this infraction ranges from a warning (minimum), putting the driver to the back of the field (mid) and drive-through or stop and go/hold (maximum). INDYCAR race stewards determined his actions were not severe enough to warrant a harsher penalty than the warning that was issued.”

Polesitter Helio Castroneves was third, in the first caution-free race in INDYCAR since Mid-Ohio in 2013, and fourth at Long Beach in its history.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Takuma Sato completed the top five, with Sato pressing Montoya throughout the race but unable to pass. Still, it was a good run from the driver of the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda, who led the Honda contingent.

Tony Kanaan, Will Power, James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais and Josef Newgarden completed the top 10 on a day which saw limited passing.

Pagenaud extends his points lead as a result.

Results are below:

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”