Simon Pagenaud and the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprises Chevrolet team dropped the hammer this past weekend in a convincing victory at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, securing the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship while highlighting Team Penske’s 50th anniversary season.
“It’s unbelievable,” Pagenaud said. “What a race! So much emotion right now to be honest it’s hard to find the words. My whole career has been about this, about today and getting to this point, getting to this level… It’s such a great feeling.” (Read more here.)
It was all Pagenaud, all day, as the Frenchman led 76 of 85 laps for his fifth win of the season and his first Verizon IndyCar Series title, permanently etching his name in the history books as a champion. His win marked Team Penske’s 14th Indy car championship and the organization’s 187th victory in an Indy car competition— the most of any team in history.
“Obviously when you join a team like Team Penske, they deliver the best cars,” Pagenaud said. “They provide you the best equipment out there. As a driver, it’s your job to do the best job possible. When you’re (competing) against Power, Castroneves and Montoya, these guys are the benchmark. It’s about getting the most out of yourself because obviously we all have the same cars.” (Read more here.)
Heading into the race, Pagenaud held a 44-point advantage over teammate Will Power, the only other driver eligible for the 2016 title. Power ran second to Pagenaud for much of the race until a clutch malfunction slowed his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet on lap 36, knocking the Australian driver eight laps off pace while repairs were completed. Power finished 20th, earning him second place in the championship, 124 points behind Pagenaud. Other Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, finished the race seventh, which allowed him to secure third place in the championship.
The results gave Team Penske its second 1 -2 -3 championship finish, the first coming in 1994 with Al Unser Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy. Pagenaud is the ninth Penske driver to be crowned champion and the second in three years (Power took the title in 2014). Team Penske’s landmark 50th anniversary season featured an impressive 10 wins, 11 poles and 22 podiums in 16 races in 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series competition. The team continues its pursuit of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with both Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano competing in the Chase this fall.