Desert Diamond Phoenix Grand Prix 2016: Heavy Contact With The Turn 2….By Chuck Null

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Updated: April 5, 2016

From the opening minutes of practice when Takuma Sato (#14) and shortly after that James Hinchcliffe (#5) made heavy contact with the turn 2 wall this Diamond in the Desert 1 mile oval was going to give us an exciting weekend for IndyCar’s return to PIR. This was even further driven home when the 2nd attempt at qualifying ended with Carlos Munoz becoming the 3rd Honda to strike the turn 2 wall.

As Helio Castroneves lead the field to the green the fear of a single line procession went out the window when the field went 2 and 3 wide racing with Ryan Hunter-Reay picking up 5 posts before completing the first lap. Helio lead for the first 39 laps until his right front tire picked up some debris (see pic in gallery) forcing him to the pits and with the 20 second laps times put the #3 car down two laps. Juan Pablo Montoya moved into the lead where he was in control of the race until his #2 car suffered the same tire failure as his team mate. This gave the lead to Dixon (#9) the reigning IndyCar Champ who did a great job moving thru traffic and holding off his teammate Tony Kanaan and Penske driver Will Power (#12)  It was during the last pit stop (see pic in gallery) that the race was decided.  Power made a mistake coming in and hit the new left front tire in the pit box. Team Target did a great job getting Scott out first but it was awesome pit work by Simon Pagenaud’s (#22) team that put him in 2nd place. Simon closed in on Dixon but knew a 2nd place finish on the day was not risking in the closing laps. The race ended under caution as Rossi (#98) brushed the outside wall. This is Team Target’s first win at PIR.  Pagenaud’s solid run has put him in the Championships lead as the series heads to Long Beach next.

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Photos By: Chuck Null / Sports Life magazine