Simon Pagenaud, the Frenchman who thought he had a winning car in the first race of the Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader, finally picked up a victory in Sunday's second race.
The victory, the second of the season for Pagenaud, allowed him to significantly cut into Will Power's lead in the championship standings. Pagenaud came to Houston down 91 points to Power, but cut it to 59 following his victory.
Although he spent all last week training in California to prepare for the heat and humidity in Houston, he felt the effects of temperatures that soared into the 90s after he climbed from his car.
“I'm sorry, guys, I might be a little faint,” he said in Victory Lane. “It was really hot. Really hot. There's exhaustion from heat. I mean, there is no air under the visor.”
It was redemption for Pagenaud, who started from the pole Saturday but had his race ruined when he first spun, then was collected in Scott Dixon's crash. He finished 16th in the first race.
“I was so disappointed Saturday because we had such a fast car this weekend,” he said.”
The rest of the podium was packed with newcomers as IndyCar celebrated four rookies on this topsy-turvy weekend.
On Saturday, rookie Carlos Huertas got his first victory and led a Colombian sweep of the rain-soaked podium with Juan Pablo Montoya and rookie Carlos Munoz.
Sunday, under an oppressive sun, Pagenaud led his rookie teammate Mikhail Aleshin to his first podium and a 1-2 finish for team owner Sam Schmidt. Aleshin, the first Russian driver in IndyCar history, battled a tire problem to make it to the finish.
Jack Hawksworth, another rookie, drove from last to third for his first career podium. It capped a breakthrough weekend for the British driver, who finished a career-best sixth Saturday.
Matt Hagen wins at Route 66 NHRA Nationals
Matt Hagan won the Route 66 NHRA Nationals on Sunday to end an 11-event victory drought, beating Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in the Funny Car final.
Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car season champion, had a pass of 4.098 seconds at 310.48 mph in his Dodge Charger for his 11th career victory and first since the since the season-ending race in Pomona last year.
“We've been working at it this year,” said Hagan, a three-time winner in Joliet. “It's been a very humbling year for us. Last year we came out and won five races and you kind of think you are going to set the world on fire the following year.”
Antron Brown won in Top Fuel, Vincent Nobile topped the Pro Stock field, and Hector Arana Jr. won in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Brown raced to his fourth victory of the season, beating Brittany Force with a 3.814 at 317.34. He has four wins at Route 66 Raceway, two in Top Fuel and two in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Nobile drove his Chevy Camaro to a 6.655 at 208.01 to edge KB Racing teammate Jason Line. Arana beat father and teammate Hector Arana with a 6.925 at 193.93 on a Buell.