LOS ANGELES: France’s Simon Pagenaud won the IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday (Monday in Manila), surviving a gritty battle with Graham Rahal for his second straight victory in the series.
The Penske driver, who also won last weekend’s Grand Prix of Long Beach, has finished on the podium in all four races so far this season, with runner-up finishes in each of the first two races.
He started from pole and led all but six of the 90 laps on the 2.3-mile (3.7-kilometer) course at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham — but his win in one hour, 48 minutes and 42.3334 seconds, or 13.747 seconds ahead of Rahal, was anything but cut and dried.
Pagenaud led Rahal with nine laps remaining when Rahal drove right approaching a corner. Pagenaud cut across him and they made contact, Pagenaud ending up in a sand trap as Rahal got past.
It looked as if that had decided it, after the officiating team deemed no penalty would be issued.
But Rahal suffered front wing damage and couldn’t maintain his pace.
Pagenaud was soon racing right next to him again. When they came upon Briton Jack Hawksworth, the back-marker tried to move out of the way but couldn’t. Rahal hit him, further damaging his front wing.
Pagenaud seized his chance to regain the lead, with Rahal just managing to hold off a charging Josef Newgarden, who finished third.
Australian Will Power was fourth with Colombia’s Juan Pablo Montoya storming from the last starting spot to finish fifth.
New Zealand’s Scott Dixon, who came into the race 15 points behind series leader Pagenaud, was hit from behind on the second lap by France’s Sebastien Bourdais. Dixon spun and dropped to last, eventually working his way back up to a 10th-place finish.