Simon Pagenaud Sweeps The Month of May With Indianapolis 500 Win
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Simon Pagenaud is the first frenchman since Gaston Chevrolet in 1920 to win the Indianapolis 500.
Starting from the pole position, Pagenaud led 116 of the race's 200 laps, beating out Alexander Rossi in the homestretch by 0.208 seconds; the seventh closest finish in Indy 500 history. It's also the 18th Indy 500 victory for Team Penske.
"It's hard to believe right now," Pagenaud said in victory lane. "I'm speechless. The yellows came out perfectly. The stars aligned. It's pretty amazing."
Pagenaud is also the first driver to start from the pole and win the race in ten years. 2017 winner Takuma Sato mounted a late race charge to finished 3rd.
"At one point it looked really tough. We had some issues on the second pace lap and got down early. I think we were a lap down at one point," Sato said. "But we did a good job of stretching the fuel and got back in it at the end."
Pagenaud's teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power rounded out the top five finishers.
The race went off without any rain drops getting in the way in spite of the high risk of thunderstorms that had been advertised in the days leading up to race day.
Pagenaud led the field to the green flag and stayed out front through the first two rounds of green flag pit stops.
In that time, rookie driver Colton Herta, considered a dark horse by many, exited the race early with with a gear box issue. Several laps later Kyle Kaiser would be the first crash, spinning out after getting high in the marbles of Turn 1 on Lap 73.
At that point, Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing had been stretching his fuel and had worked his way towards the top five. An untimely caution for Marcus Ericsson, who spun in the pits, foiled Dixon's run as he had not pitted before the caution flag waved.
This opened the door for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi who worked his way to the front and was locked in a back and forth battle with Pagenaud, Newgarden, and Ed Carpenter.
Rossi was the leader by Lap 180 came about and the race was stopped for a wreck between Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais, Zach Veach, Felix Rosenqvist, and Charlie Kimball.
The last 15 laps were a slug fest with Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud exchanging the lead four times. It was a Turn 3 pass by Pagenaud around the outside of Rossi that sealed the deal for the frenchman.
Pagenaud held off Rossi in the end to get the win and the subsequent sip of milk.
"There's not much to say," said a dejected Rossi after the race. "That last yellow really hurt us. We were doing do good on fuel milage. We also didn't have the straight line speed to compete with that 22-car."
"We adjusted the car well during the race," Pagenaud said. "I realized early I could run second when I wanted and I could pass people when I wanted. Rossi was a bit of a concern. I let him by to save fuel near the end. It was a lot of planning and it worked out."
Santino Ferrucci was the highest finishing rookie at 7th place after having started 23rd. Ed Carpenter finished 6th after starting on the front row. Marco Andretti finished five laps down as a result of handling issues from early in the race.
With Pagenaud's win, he is the second Team Penske driver in a row to sweep both the IndyCar Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 in the same month of May.
His teammate Will Power swept both races in 2018.
"Simon arrived here this month and he never left until today," said Roger Penske. "What he did this month is incredible. We won as a team today. The success here is amazing, but you can't do it without the best people. That's what makes the difference."
Team Penske has now won the last five races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Will Power's wins in 2018, NASCAR's Brickyard 400 by Brad Kesolowoski the same year, and Pagenaud's sweep this year.
He won the Grand Prix.
He won the pole.
— Rob Connett (@RobConnett1) May 26, 2019
(PHOTO: Doug Matthews/IndyCar)