Photo: Bret Kelley
Simon Pagenaud (#22 Team Penske, Chevy) came into the Grand Prix of Alabama with the season points lead, 14 up on Scott Dixon (#9 Ganassi Racing, Chevy) and 28 up on teammate Juan Pablo Montoya (#2). Pagenuad scored a narrow victory over Dixon at the previous event in Long Beach.
Pagenaud started this race at Barber Motorsports Park on pole with Will Power (#12 Penske, Chevy) next door and Josef Newgarden (#21 Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevy) and Dixon at 3-4. Graham Rahal (#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) was the fastest Honda on the grid at P6, with Sebastien Bourdais (#11 KVSH Racing) lining up fifth. Montoya, as the slowest qualifier, started last of 21 cars.
Collisions at the back of the pack caused the yellow to fly before the start was complete. Dixon and Bourdais collided in Turn 5 on the restart, spinning the Kiwi and dropping him to the back of the pack. Pagenaud, Newgarden, and Power were the Top 3 at the end of the first lap. Bourdais was given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.
Pagenaud’s lead stretched beyond 2 sec during Lap 11 (of 90) and 3.45 sec by Lap 17. Power pitted from third two laps later and Newgarden from second the following lap. Pagenaud came in from the lead during Lap 21, leaving Rahal the leader on track.
Power followed Pagenaud in second after the pit cycle, with Newgarden in third. Pagenaud held a 3-sec lead during Lap 29. Rahal passed Newgarden for third during Lap 39. Newgarden pitted two laps later. Power followed during Lap 42. Rahal and Pagenaud both pitted during Lap 44.
Pagenaud led Power and Rahal at the halfway point. Power made his final stop from second with 25 laps to go. Rahal and Pagenaud came in one lap later. Rahal passed Power in the pit cycle and ran almost 4 sec behind Pagenaud with 22 laps left and a lapped Conor Daly between the two. Daly let Rahal past with 17 laps remaining.
Rahal had cut the lead to 2.8 sec with 13 laps to go. Rahal made contact with Pagenaud while trying to pass for the lead with 9 laps left. He took the lead, followed by Pagenaud and Power. Pagenaud tried to retake the lead with 9 remaining. Rahal suffered front-wing damage. Pagenaud took the spot a few attempts later.
Newgarden passed Power for third at the start of the final lap. Pagenaud took the win, Rahal held on for second, with Newgarden taking third. Power finished fourth and Montoya worked his way through the field to P5. It was Rahal’s second-straight runner-up finish at Barber.