It wasn’t the big one at Indianapolis, but it was the first one — the first Grand Prix of Indianapolis for Indy-style cars.
And a car enterered by Lake Las Vegas resident Sam Schmidt won it.
Simon Pagenaud of France, driving the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda, had just enough fuel to hold off Ryan Hunter-Reay by .8906 of a second Saturday to win the inaugural race held on the refurbished Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
“Huge,” Schmidt said as Pagenaud’s car coasted around the 2.4-mile circuit after running out of fuel on the victory lap. “Simon’s on a mission this year for sure. We’re just clicking them off. We got a little mojo going the right way, a little momentum.
“Indy’s special. This has got to be our 11th or 12 win at this place with our Indy Lights wins. Got 1-2 this morning with that race. And now this. Just really disappointed Mikhail (Aleshin, Schmidt’s second full-time driver) couldn’t race because he had a darn fast car.”
Aleshin was involved in a spectacular crash at the start when pole sitter Sebastian Saavedra’s car stalled on the grid. Cars driven by Carlos Munoz and Aleshin slammed into Saavedra’s motionless car, sending a shower of car parts into the air.
None of the drivers was injured.
Pagenaud and the Schmidt team, which finished third in the IndyCar championship last season, are considered a threat to win the May 25 Indianapolis 500. Practice for that race starts on Sunday.
“My heart’s about ready to climb out of my skin,” Schmidt said.
The car that NASCAR stalwart Kurt Busch of Las Vegas will attempt to qualify for the Indy 500, driven by Franck Montagny Saturday, was involved in a crash.
Busch, bidding to drive in the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, was expected to drive the No. 26 Andretti Autosport car in Sunday’s Indy 500 practice before it was collected in a mid-race crash involving Martin Plowman.