The incident occurred on Lap 55 as Pagenaud pitted for the final time. Hurrying to return to the track in front of race leader Scott Dixon, Pagenaud crossed the continuous yellow blend line heading to Turn 1 with his right front tire. Drivers had been told to keep both right-side tires clear of the line until the line ended.
In an offseason move to provide transparency, IndyCar released the options officials have to levy penalties, and improperly crossing that line has three, the minimum being a warning.
Yes, IndyCar was consistent with that ruling, giving Carlos Munoz a similar warning. But here’s the difference: Munoz had a 12th-place car.
IndyCar’s statement on the call:
Simon Pagenaud’s actions during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach were deemed an infraction per Rule 188.8.131.52. “Lane Usage” of the INDYCAR Penalty Guidelines: Failing to follow designated procedures entering or exiting the pit area, including the proper use of the acceleration and deceleration lanes. The penalty for this infraction ranges from a warning (minimum), putting the driver to the back of the field (mid) and drive-through or stop and go/hold (maximum). INDYCAR race stewards determined his actions were not severe enough to warrant a harsher penalty than the warning that was issued.
And earlier in the race, the officiating team was similarly lenient with series rookie Max Chilton, who cut the corner in Turn 5 three times before drawing a warning.
So what does it say? The three officials – Dan Davis, Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis – were being compassionate. Unfortunately for Dixon, it cost him a race win.
“It shouldn’t be a judgment call; it’s a rule,” Dixon said.
Dixon was especially frosted by IndyCar issuing a warning.
“I thought (IndyCar) outlawed warnings,” he said. “This is the problem we had in the offseason with people getting warnings all the time, especially when you’re using it to your advantage when it’s the last pit stop sequence or anything like that.
“If you’re just going to get a warning, every time you’re going to (commit the violation). That’s why it was so deeply discussed in the offseason and why there were about 40 or 50 warning zones in the rulebook removed.
“I don’t even know why we discussed the pit lane exit if we’re not going to stick to the rules. Everybody else abided by them.”
The topic was so tense that Pagenaud’s teammate, Helio Castroneves, backed out of the discussion, saying he didn’t “remember” what IndyCar said in the drivers meeting. Castroneves later said he only would take questions about the race, not Pagenaud’s incident, and he clearly was agitated.