2016 Toyota Grand Prix

2016 Toyota Grand Prix

April 17, 2016

The 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach started the March of 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske to his ultimate title-winning ascent, as the Frenchman celebrated his 11th season racing in the United States with the first of five season-long victories on the streets of Long Beach.

Held as customary on the 1.968-mile city street course that abuts the Pacific Ocean, the race may have had four leaders and six lead changes, but it belonged to only two drivers, both of them celebrating Team Penske’s 50th year: pole sitter Helio Castroneves, who led 47 of the race’s 80 laps and Pagenaud, who took over after the second round of pit stops to lead to the close in an all-green-flag romp.

Although Pagenaud received a warning from race control for an improper blend after his lap 55 pit stop, there was no penalty and he took the lead a lap later, holding it to the close and setting a margin of victory at 0.3032 over a closing 2015 champ (and 2015 Long Beach winner) Scott Dixon. Castroneves finished third and Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth, giving Team Penske three of the top four results. The top four finishes went to eventual manufacturer’s champ Chevrolet; 2013 Long Beach winner Takuma Sato was fifth for Honda and A.J. Foyt Racing.

Eventual championship runner-up Will Power was, at that time, still recovering from the inner ear infection that forced him to sit out the first race of the season in St Petersburg, but the Australian, the series’ 2014 champion, still finished seventh for Team Penske

The race gave Pagenaud a points lead he wouldn’t relinquish through the season finale at Sonoma Raceway five months later.

By Anne Proffit