INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) – Simon Pagenaud steered clear of trouble on the track and in the pits, then out-duelled Alexander Rossi in a final lap shootout to win the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and give team owner Roger Penske a second consecutive victory in the “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
May 26, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indycar driver Simon Pagenaud (22) celebrates winning the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The win might have saved the charismatic Frenchman’s job with rumors circulating up and down pit lane that Pagenaud’s seat with powerhouse Team Penske was in jeopardy.
It would be hard, however, to find any fault in Pagenaud’s performance in the month of May as the 35-year-old son of a grocery shop owner from Montmorillon recorded the Brickyard double following his victory at the Indianapolis Grand Prix two weeks earlier.
Pagenaud’s clinically cool display was in stark contrast to a fired-up Rossi, who used a bit of road rage and pit stop frustration to fuel his last-laps challenge.
An exasperated Rossi was left pounding his steering wheel as his pit crew wrestled to engage an uncooperative fuel hose that dropped him from first to 12th, then vented his anger on Oriol Servia, shaking his fist at the Spaniard as they raced down the front straight at 230 mph when Servia would not give way despite being a lap down.
A five-car pile up with 23 laps to run, triggered when Graham Rahal and Sebastien Bourdais came together, brought out a red flag that set up a mad dash to the finish with Pagenaud and Rossi swapping the lead over the final laps.
It was a dominant performance by Pagenaud, who started from pole and led for 116 of the 200 laps, then held his nerve when he needed it most by fighting off two former 500 winners in Rossi and Japan’s Takuma Sato, who completed the podium.
While Pagenaud cruised, two of his Penske Team stablemates, defending champion Will Power and three-time winner Helio Castroneves, both had bumpy days.
Castroneves’s quest for a record-equalling fourth Indy 500 win suffered an early setback when the Brazilian was slapped with a drive thru penalty after running into Australian James Davison during the first pit stops. He finished 18th.
Power also had problems in the pits, bumping one of his crew and triggering a penalty that sent the Australian to the back of the field before battling back for fifth place.
Jordan King also added to the mayhem when he knocked over a crew member who was transferred to hospital with a leg injury.
In the buildup to the race the spotlight had been focused on Mario Andretti as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) celebrated the 50th anniversary of the racing great’s one and only Indy 500 victory, presenting him with a baby Borg-Warner trophy.
Once again Mario would be the only Andretti to get his hands on a trophy as grandson Marco finished 26th as the Andretti curse continued for another year.
Mario’s victory was suppose to be just the first of many at the famed Brickyard but a half-century later it stands alone.
Mario would never again reach Victory Lane and chug from the winner’s quart of milk. Neither would his sons Michael or Jeff. Nor has his nephew John or Marco.
Reporting by Steve Keating; editing by Toby Davis and Tony Lawrence