Pagenaud Wins Wild Shoot Out At Indianapolis

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 26 2019
Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske was one happy pole-winner at Indy last Sunday. This Sunday, he was one happy race winner. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

If you’re driving an Indy car for Roger Penske, you had better be leading laps and winning races in that car. Simon Pagenaud had not been the last year and a half and that led to speculation that the Frenchman’s time at IndyCar’s most iconic race team was on the wane.

Then came May.

Pagenaud started the month by winning the Indianapolis Grand Prix on the infield road course, followed that by winning the pole for the Indianapolis 500 and then on Sunday, he got his first victory in open-wheel racing’s biggest event.

“What a job Simon’s done this month,” Penske said.

In getting the win, Pagenaud led well over half the laps and then emerged from a late-race dog fight with Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport.

They exchanged the lead several times over the final 13 laps. The gap at the finish line was .2 seconds.

“Horsepower,” Rossi said when asked the difference between first and second places.

The victory was Pagenaud’s first in the 500. It was the 18th by a Penske car at Indy.

“It’s hard to believe right now,” he said in Victory Circle. “It’s been such an intense race. The car was just on a rail. Dream come true.”

Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing finished third. Fourth was Penske’s Josef Newgarden while teammate Will Power rounded out the top five.

Pagenaud dominated the first 150 laps of the 200-lap race. He was not passed on the track until teammate Newgarden blew past on Lap 151.

But Pagenaud refused to surrender. He stayed on the gearbox of Newgarden’s Chevy and when the cars began their final green flag stops with just over 25 laps to go, Pagenaud emerged with the lead.

On Lap 177, Rossi moved passed Pagenaud for the lead on the track. But just as he did, a big wreck that began when Graham Rahal and Sebastien Bourdain touched wheels, occurred. That led to an 18-minute red flag.

On the restart with 13 laps to go, Pagenaud grabbed the lead but quickly surrendered it to Rossi. With 12 to go, Pagenaud moved back to the front. With three to go, Rossi moved back to the lead. A lap later Pagenaud made the winning pass.

Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves came up short in his bid to join A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr. as a four-time winner. After a run-in with James Davison in the pits early in the race, he was issued a drive-through penalty and fell off the lead lap. The Brazilian finished 18th.

Rookie phenom Colton Herta of Harding Steinbrenner Racing became the first true contender to slide out of contention and just five laps in. Horta, 19, qualified fifth fastest but his Honda headed to the pits stuck in fifth gear.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 26 2019
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