Indy driver Simon Pagenaud is known for his ability as a rally car driver.
On Sunday, there was no need to rally in the other sense, as the Frenchman representing Team Penske took first place with ease at the Honda Indy Toronto, leading for 81 of the 85 laps.
Scott Dixon, of Chip Ganassi Racing, finished in second, while Alexander Rossi, of Andretti Autosport, rounded out the podium in third.
The lone Canadian in the race, James Hinchcliffe, finished with a sixth-place finish after qualifying in 14th.
This victory is Pagenaud’s third of the season, but his first on on the streets of Toronto. Standing at the top of the podium was especially important for the native of Montmorillon, France.
“We’ve been so fast here so many years, on the verge of winning so many times,” said Pagenaud. “That’s another closure. It’s nice to be able to tick that box, say we’ve done it. For me, it’s one of the best street courses because it’s so dicey.
“I really enjoy that. I felt like I had to win it at some point, so I’m glad it’s done. Now I can focus on the rest.”
Pagenaud asserted his dominance all weekend long, consistently piloting one of the fastest cars on the track, including his pole performance at qualifying with a 58.42-second lap, the fastest of the entire weekend.
With 15 laps to go in the Sunday race, Pagenaud felt some pressure from Dixon, who closed the gap to less than a second behind before being nipped at the line.
“I was confident all weekend; I never had a doubt. We were only focused on ourselves. I never really looked at who was behind,” said Pagenaud.
Once the last set of tires were warmed up for Dixon, he felt the competitive speed of his vehicle.
“We caught an eight-second gap in literally five or six laps,” said Dixon. “The pace was really good. Then once we just got to Simon, we couldn’t do anything.
“He did a good job of holding the pace up a little bit in (Turns) 6 and 8.”
The Honda Indy circuit is a 2.88-kilometer, 11-turn street course, located in the heart of Ontario’s capital, wrapping around BMO field before featuring a long straightaway on Toronto’s Lake Shore Blvd.
Pagenaud navigated it in serpentine-like fashion, with no real hiccups along the way.
The same could not be said for teammate Will Power, a two-time winner of the event. He had a rough qualifying and was unable to post a speed in the top-12 for the first time at any event since 2015.
On the very first lap, drama ensued as Power attempted to take an inside line on Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), but was unsuccessful, clipping Rahal, and triggering a six-car incident.
No action was taken after a review by marshalls.
The nail in the coffin for Power was a crash on the final lap, taking the Australian out of the race once and for all.
The only other driver to retire was Takuma Sato, the former Indy 500 winner, and Formula 1 driver. Driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, his day came to a disappointing end as a technical issue led to his car catching fire on the 62nd lap.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) July 14, 2019
Sato made headlines earlier in the weekend when he and Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing, had a dispute that led to a scuffle, following Saturday’s practice.
With the victory, Pagenaud comes within 39 points of series leader and Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden. Pagenaud will look to keep up the momentum in the six remaining races.
“I’ve been fighting for championships almost every year. Never count me out. That’s all I can say.”