INDIANAPOLIS — All the talk about Simon Pagenaud entering the Month of May was his slow start to the season and that he’d be out of his ride at Team Penske if things didn’t turn around. After sweeping the Month of May, he’s now the points leader.
On the final restart of the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 with 13 laps to go, Pagenaud pounced on race leader Alexander Rossi to take the lead heading into Turn 1. Rossi replied in kind the following lap, and Pagenaud took it and held it for the next seven laps. Coming to three to go, Rossi drafted and passed him on the front stretch to retake the lead. On the backstretch with two to go, Pagenaud followed suit, took it from Rossi for good, snaked his way down the backstretch on the final lap to break Rossi’s draft and score his fourth career victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s been such an intense race. I believe we led the most laps of the race. The car was just on rails. The yellows came out perfectly. The stars are aligned. Man, wow, I’m seeing myself on TV with this. It’s pretty amazing. It’s a dream come true, a lifetime of trying to achieve this. So I’m just speechless. It’s just incredible.”
It’s his 12th career NTT IndyCar Series victory in 127 career starts. He led a race high of 116 laps.
2016 race winner Rossi finished runner-up and earned his 14th career podium in 56 career starts.
In the end, the difference was “horsepower.”
“That’s unfortunately the way it is,” he said. “(Pagenaud) did a great job. Obviously, he was on pole and led the most laps, but I think we had the superior car. We just didn’t have enough there at the end.”
2017 race winner Takuma Sato, who was at one point a lap down, rounded out the podium (10th of his career).
“My race, one stage it looked really tough,” Sato said. “We got some little issues after the first pit stop, so we had to come back, and then I think it got a lap down in 31st place.
“But I think we had to do head down the job and recalculate. Our team did a great job to stretch the field and then get back to the pack. I think it took more than 100 laps. But I think it was brilliant, and after the restart, it was very exciting. Pato, P6, P5, P4 and finally got P3, and then I got everything I had. Obviously I have on board Alex, but we were just flying all over the place with the temperature, and it was a great battle. It is a little bit of a pity that we couldn’t challenge for the win, but we got third under some very difficult circumstances, I think.”
Josef Newgarden and defending race winner Will Power rounded out the top five.
Ed Carpenter, Santino Ferrucci, 2014 race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2013 race winner Tony Kanaan and Conor Daly rounded out the top 10.
Simon Pagenaud led the field to green shortly before 1 p.m. Pagenaud led the first 32 laps before making his first stop of the day on Lap 33. Four different drivers took over the race lead before it cycled back to Pagenaud.
This pattern of lead changes during green flag pit cycles continued until Lap 151, when Newgarden slingshot past Pagenaud entering Turn 3 to make the first on track pass for the lead of the race. He held serve until he pitted with 29 laps to go. During this pit cycle, a five-car wreck brought out the fourth caution of the race and set up the run to the finish.
What else happened
Colton Herta brought out the first caution of the race on Lap 6 when his car stalled on the access road in Turn 4.
Kyle Kaiser brought out the second caution on Lap 73 when he got loose, overcorrected and hit the wall in Turn 4.
Marcus Ericsson brought out the third caution on Lap 138 when he spun on entry and hit the inside pit wall.
Who had a good day
Santino Ferrucci earned his career best finish of seventh.
Who had a bad day
Scott Dixon, who entered the race second in points, was caught up in the five-car wreck with 22 laps to go and suffered front wing damage.
Nuts and bolts
The race lasted two hours, 50 minutes and 39 seconds, at an average speed of 175.794 mph. There were 29 lead changes among 10 different drivers and four cautions for 29 laps.
Pagenaud leaves with a one point lead over Newgarden.
IndyCar returns to action on Saturday on the streets of Belle Isle in Detroit, as part of the two-race weekend double-header Detroit Grand Prix.