Simon Pagenaud outduels Rossi to win the Indy 500

7 Mins read
Credit: James Black / Courtesy of IndyCar

Simon Pagenaud has taken victory in the 2019 Indianapolis 500 after an intense late-race duel with Alexander Rossi. Pagenaud in the #22 Team Penske Chevrolet started the race on pole position and had to manage fuel issues and a charging pack behind him to take his first win in the famous race.

Pagenaud would end up leading over half of the two-hundred lap race distance after starting from pole position, but the race would be far from easy for the Frenchman. Having led all but the laps during pit-cycles for much of the race, Simon was in a much worse off position than those around him when it came to fuel mileage; with the race-leader burning much more fuel than those behind him in the slipstream.

What made matters worse for Pagenaud was the massive disadvantage in fuel mileage that the Chevrolet-powered cars had compared to their Honda-powered rivals. The likes of Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon were able to go almost ten laps longer on fuel at various stages of the race. After the final pit-stops, Pagenaud was continuing to lead, but he was right on the limit of making it to the end of the race and would need at least one caution period to be sure of making the chequered flag.

Thankfully for Simon, his wish was granted with just over twenty laps to go. Pagenaud had just lost the lead to Rossi on lap 177 when a big wreck was triggered behind by Graham Rahal and Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais appeared to squeeze Rahal to the inside of the circuit on the run into turn three, sending the pair up into the outside wall. A number of drivers would wreck whilst trying to avoid Rahal and Bourdais, with Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach also being eliminated from the race, whilst Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball sustained damage.

The wreck would trigger a caution which would later turn into a red flag whilst the track was cleared of debris. With a number of cautions laps before and after the red flag, Pagenaud was now safe to go until the end of the race on fuel and would restart the race with thirteen laps to go with only Rossi ahead of him.

The thirteen-lap shootout for the win was an all-out duel between Pagenaud and Rossi. Pagenaud got a great restart and swooped around the outside of Rossi to take the lead into turn one. The following lap, Rossi would re-take the lead in the same way, with Pagenaud once again retaking the lead after another lap.

Credit: Doug Matthews / Courtesy of IndyCar

Pagenaud and Rossi maintained their positions for the next handful of laps, but with three laps remaining, Rossi would re-engage Pagenaud in the battle for the win. The Andretti Autosport driver again drove around the outside of Pagenaud into turn one and managed to open up a lead of half a second. Pagenaud was still in the slipstream range of Rossi, however, and would use a massive tow to take the lead back on the penultimate lap into turn three.

Three-tenths would separate the pair as they started their final lap of the race. Rossi was not close enough to make a move into turn one on the final lap. He closed-up and had a look around the outside of turn three, but he was not quite able to get side-by-side for the lead. That would leave just the run out of turn four to the chequered flag for Rossi to try and take the win, but he was too far back to make it a photo-finish.

As the chequered flag flew, Simon Pagenaud would cross the famous yard of bricks to take the win in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Just two-tenths of a second would separate Pagenaud from Rossi at the race’s end, capping off a thrilling finish to the race.

Pagenaud was ecstatic as he crossed the line to take his first win in the famous race. The result caps off what was a sensational month of May for the Frenchman, who emulated his team-mate Will Power‘s accomplishment last year by winning both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indy 500 in the same year.

Simon entered the season having endured a tough 2018 season that saw him fail to win a race. He came under a lot of criticism at times as he failed to match his team-mates. Now, after winning on the road course and the speedway at Indianapolis, those criticisms are dead in the water.

Rossi would understandably be dejected after falling short of claiming his second Indy 500 victory. Nevertheless, for the second year in a row, Alexander put on a show at the Brickyard, pulling off multiple daredevil moves throughout the race. The Californian admitted that he had been driving angry towards the end of the race after he felt as though he was unfairly blocked by lapped drivers such as Oriol Servia. His race was made harder by two slow pit-stops due to a faulty fuel rig. All-in-all, second-place was still a good haul of points for Rossi, who will sit third in the standings heading into the next two races at Detroit.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

A late-threat for the victory came from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Takuma Sato in the closing laps. The Japanese driver came from the back of the field after an early setback to take third-place by the end of the race; a stunning comeback from the 2017 Indy 500 winner.

The top four drivers all finished within a second of one another. Penske’s Josef Newgarden took fourth place, just ahead of the third Penske Chevrolet of defending Indy 500 winner, Will Power. Neither driver quite had what it took to challenge for the lead in the closing stages of the race, but both were quick to congratulate their team-mate, Pagenaud, after the race.

Ed Carpenter‘s search for his elusive Indy 500 victory will go on into another year. Despite starting second, the race seemed to get away from Carpenter as the laps ticked away. He would cross the line to take sixth-place.

Just behind Ed would be seventh-placed, Santino Ferrucci, who drove a fantastic race to finish as the highest-placed rookie driver. Santino pulled off a number of impressive moves throughout the race, the most impressive of which including his pass around the outside of Tony Kanaan in the pit-exit lane and his incredible avoidance of the lap-177 wreck when he drove his #19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda across the grass on the inside of the track to get through the chaos unscathed.

A brace of Indy 500 winners would finish in eighth and ninth. Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay would take eighth ahead of A.J. Foyt Enterprises‘ Tony Kanaan. Rounding out the top ten would be Andretti’s Conor Daly, who ran as high up as fourth place in his one scheduled race of the season. He will be hoping to use his strong race performance to negotiate his way back onto the NTT IndyCar Series grid as soon as possible.

Finishing just outside of the top ten would be James Hinchcliffe, who put on an impressive show despite having had to earn his way onto the grid in last weekend’s Last-Row qualifying session. James Davison put on another decent showing, with the Indy-only driver taking his #33 Honda to twelfth place, just ahead of the remaining two Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets of Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot; who fell from top five qualifying spots to thirteenth and fourteenth respectively.

Credit: Matt Fraver / Courtesy of IndyCar

Another impressive drive came from Clauson-Marshall Racing‘s Pippa Mann. The British driver took the team to sixteenth place in their first IndyCar event, with Pippa finishing just ahead of reigning series champion Scott Dixon in seventeenth and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in eighteenth. Helio’s hopes of taking a fourth-win were derailed early on when he ran into the back of Davison in the pit-lane. Castroneves was awarded a drive-through penalty and would ultimately finish the race one lap down on the leaders.

Further back, Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s Marcus Ericsson was driving inside the top ten in the early stages of his first Indy 500 start. However, the Swedish driver locked-up and spun whilst coming onto pit-road and would hit the pit-wall head-on. He would end up finishing the race two laps down in twenty-third place.

The ‘Andretti curse’ would rear its ugly head into Marco Andretti‘s race early on. The #98 Andretti-Herta driver was off the pace for much of the race, seemingly with car issues, and would finish the race five-laps down as the last driver running at the chequered flag in twenty-sixth place.

The final seven drivers on the results table would all fail to finish the race. Graham Rahal, Felix Rosenqvist, Zach Veach and Sebastien Bourdais were all eliminated in the wreck on lap-177 and would take positions twenty-seven to thirty.

Juncos Racing‘s Kyle Kaiser took the headlines a week ago by eliminating McLaren Racing and Fernando Alonso from the field in the Last-Row shootout qualifying session. The headlines were less positive for the American this time around, with Kaiser spinning into the wall on the exit of turn three. He would be classified in thirty-first place.

DragonSpeed‘s Ben Hanley would be forced into retirement after suffering a driveshaft failure in his #81 Chevrolet. He would be classified in twenty-second, with the unfortunate thirty-third and last-placed driver being Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta.

Colton only completed a handful of laps before retiring at the end of lap five. The rookie reported after climbing from the car that gearbox issues had forced him to pull over to the side of the circuit. Since taking his historic win at the Circuit of the Americas back in March, Colton has been unable to finish a race. He will be hoping that his luck turns around as soon as possible to get his season back on track.

Simon Pagenaud has now etched his name into the history books by winning the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. The Frenchman won’t have long to revel in his accomplishment, however, as the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series will continue in less than a week’s time. Pagenaud will head into next weekend’s Grand Prix of Detroit as the new championship-leader, just one point ahead of team-mate Josef Newgarden.

The drivers will have not one, but two races to take part in at the Grand Prix of Detroit at the Belle Isle Street Circuit. Race one will take place on Saturday, June 1, with the second race following on Sunday, June 2.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 – Race results:

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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