Then the final laps happened. As Pagenaud passed Sato for second on lap 80 into turn 1, he was closing down on Power still at the consistent 0.8 to 1.2 seconds per lap. They encountered Katherine Legge and EJ Viso ahead of them and would have to make it through. Viso got out of the way for Power, but hit a bad spot on the track through the fountain complex before he could do likewise for Pagenaud, and that sealed the win for Power.
“We'd saved enough fuel to be able to push for the last two laps, so I felt we were pretty safe,” Power said. “The only thing was the couple of backmarkers there on the last. Whoever was in front of (Viso) and him almost got together in the hairpin. So when I got a run, it was a very slow run. I'm not sure his team informed him the leaders were coming.”
Pagenaud made sure to leave Viso out of the crosshairs. “Well, I really thought I would have a go when EJ was there, but I thought EJ did a good job,” he said. “He did his best to get out of the way in the right place. There's not much else he could have done, really.”
Behind them, there was two portions of chaos. The first was the Hunter-Reay/Sato dust-up at turn 6, when Hunter-Reay attempted a somewhat opportunistic maneuver up the inside, and collected Sato. Hunter-Reay received a 30-second time penalty added on, but that only dropped him to sixth from third. Sato was sidelined and classified eighth.
“I was told he was saving fuel, and he broke early going in,” Hunter-Reay said. “I figured he'd give me some room. I guess it was my fault. We ran such a great race and to end that way is a shame. Anytime I come to Long Beach and don't win, it's a big disappointment.”
Sato took the result in stride although it meant he still hasn't seen the checkered flag in three races. He led twice for 16 laps, second only to Pagenaud's 26 laps led.
“We haven't finished yet, but the race was awesome with great excitement,” Sato said. “We had good calls from the team, and we worked hard for the strategy. When Ryan caught me up, he wasn't in deep enough, so we touched.”
There was more drama to come at the final hairpin, as Castroneves collided with Rubens Barrichello. That turned the hairpin into a parking lot and Castroneves, originally 10th, was also given a 30-second time penalty netting him an unlucky 13th place result. Barrichello still ended ninth ahead of the Dale Coyne Racing teammates Wilson and James Jakes. Jakes ran in the top five throughout the race but had a late off and a late pit stop that negated his progress.
Rather quietly, and on different strategies, both Kanaan (19th on the grid) and Hildebrand (20th) overcame their grid penalties and scored top-five results. As both had shown promise but not achieved a result in the first two races, this was very much needed for both.
Franchitti's day ended 15th with late mechanical issues, but he was rarely in the top five despite starting from pole.
“We were on a two-stop strategy obviously and thought that would be the way the race played out,” he said. “We had a mechanical issue at the end and that was it. We didn't have the car handling quite right, but we were still staying close to the front. We had four over-boost penalties on one restart, and Briscoe came across and damaged the front wing. After that we lost time making a wing change and to top it all had a mechanical failure.”
Power has now surged to a 24-point lead in the standings ahead of Castroneves at 103, and Pagenaud, the top Honda runner at 100. Dixon and Hinchcliffe complete the top five in points; Franchitti is currently 13th and some 74 points behind Power already.
The series resumes in two weeks on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Results - 85 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Will Power Penske DW12-Chevy
2. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt DW12-Honda + 0.8675s
3. James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevy + 13.2719s
4. Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevy + 18.1951s
5. JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevy + 22.9947s
6. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevy + 42.5631
7. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevy + 1m40.1271s
8. Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda + 1 lap
9. Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
10. Justin Wilson Coyne DW12-Honda + 1 lap
11. James Jakes Coyne DW12-Honda + 1 lap
12. EJ Viso KV DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
13. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevy + 1 lap
14. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevy + 2 laps
15. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda + 3 laps
16. Oriol Servia Dreyer & Reinbold DW12-Lotus + 3 laps
17. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon DW12-Lotus + 3 laps
18. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda + 5 laps
19. Katherine Legge Dragon DW12-Lotus + 5 laps
Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus 74 laps
Alex Tagliani BHA DW12-Lotus 46 laps
Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda 41 laps
Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda 27 laps
Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda 23 laps
Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevy 22 laps
Josef Newgarden Fisher DW12-Honda 0 laps