Simon Pagenaud wins his first Indy 500 after tight, tense three-car battle
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Simon Pagenaud has won this morning's scintillating Indy 500, after a fierce race punctuated by an exciting 13-lap run to the chequered flag. He led home the hungry pairing of Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato, claiming Penske Racing's 18th Indy 500 crown in he process.
It's a particularly sweet result for the Frenchman. The former championship winner's career has been in question over the last few seasons following a results drought. But, this month, he won the Indy Grand Prix (contended on the Indianapolis road course) and then took pole position for today's race before ultimately winning it. Pagenaud now jumps from fourth in the IndyCar Series standings to first.
Further back, Scott Dixon limped to 17th after bad luck — underlined by a poorly timed safety car and then a cameo in the race's final crash — ended his shot of a top five, or better.
Photo / Getty Images
Three things punctuated the opening phase of the race; lap-leading dominance from Pagenaud, pit-lane errors, and plenty of chopping and changing for second place and back. From the green flag, the racing was thick and fast for the minor placings — underlined by the number of quality drivers starting down the field.
In the pits, several cars encountered drama. Helio Castroneves getting a penalty for spinning James Davison, defending winner Will Power missing his marks, and Jordan King striking a few members of his pit-crew were among the low-lights.
All the while, Dixon had been making steady progress through the field. A few passes in the chaotic opening laps were complemented by the Kiwi's well-known fuel-saving abilities in the pit-stops. It saw him play himself onto the cusp of the top five with the last 50 laps in sight, having started the race down in 18th place.
But, the race's third safety car spoiled Dixon's run somewhat. The timing of the caution period (issued for a spun car on pit lane) dropped Dixon down to 10th place, which became 11th when the race restarted and everyone got going.
At the front Pagenaud, having led over 100 laps, surrendered the lead to Penske teammate Josef Newgarden. Behind them Ed Carpenter, Alexander Rossi (recovering from a poor pit-stop), and a stunning Conor Daly made up the top five with 40 laps to go.
Pagenaud momentarily took the lead back on lap 168, before peeling off to make his last pit-stop. Rossi, Dixon, and eventually the rest all piled in over the subsequent laps. Pagenaud retained the spot at the front, but had to save fuel (or scoop a lucky yellow flag) to make it to the finish.
And, mere seconds after losing the lead to Rossi, that yellow would come. A multi-car crash involving a raft of potential contenders unfolded in turn three. Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais, Felix Rosenqvist, Charlie Kimball, and Zach Veach were all involved. It initially looked like Dixon had avoided all of it, but it emerged later that he had taken minor nose damage.
The crash carved a chunk out of the top 10, and prompted a red flag in the process. Spencer Pigot led having not stopped, with Rossi, Pagenaud, Carpenter, Newgarden, and Takuma Sato filled the top six. Dixon was seventh, with question marks over the health of his car. As the race transferred from red to yellow, Dixon pitted for repairs — dropping to 13th and out of race-winning territory.
After 18 minutes of stoppage, the race restarted with only 13 laps go to. And immediately, Pagenaud stole first from Rossi and behind Newgarden and Sato passed Carpenter. By turn one, Rossi had taken first back again. It was an exciting sequence of racing, with anyone in the top six breakaway still a chance to win.
A tense few laps followed; Pagenaud fiercely defending the inside line on the front straight as Sato closed in on the battle for first. That method transferred to the back straight too, and it made things difficult for Rossi. With three laps to go, Rossi took the lead back at turn one, only for Pagenaud to take it back once again at turn three leading onto the final lap.
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The last lap was a three-way stage; Pagenaud, Rossi, and Sato separated by less than tenths. It looked like Rossi had a run, but once again Pagenaud was awake to all of the Andretti Autosports driver's potential moves. And one last block at the final corner was all it took in the end, Pagenaud winning by two tenths over Rossi, Sato, Newgarden, and Power in fifth. Carpenter, impressive rookie Santino Ferrucci, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, and Daly rounded out the top 10.
Behind, Dixon faded following the restart from 13th to 17th and last on the lead lap. The result extends Dixon's Indy 500 hoodoo, which has only included two podium finishes since he won the iconic event in 2005.
The IndyCar Series now travels to Michigan for the double-header Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, on June 1–2.
Results; 2019 Indy 500
1. Simon Pagenaud
2. Alexander Rossi
3. Takuma Sato
4. Josef Newgarden
5. Will Power
6. Ed Carpenter
7. Santino Ferrucci
8. Ryan Hunter-Reay
9. Tony Kanaan
10. Conor Daly
11. James Hinchcliffe
12. James Davison
13. Ed Jones
14. Spencer Pigot
15. Matheus Leist
16. Pippa Mann
17. Scott Dixon
18. Helio Castroneves
19. Sage Karam
20. J.R Hildebrand
21. Jack Harvey
22. Oriol Servia
23. Marcus Ericsson
23. Jordan King
24. Charlie Kimball
25. Marco Andretti
DNF. Graham Rahal
DNF. Felix Rosenqvist
DNF. Zach Veach
DNF. Sebastien Bourndais
DNF. Kyle Kaiser
DNF. Ben Hanley
DNF. Colton Herta