By: Tanner Watkins
May 26, 2019 | 4:30 PM
Earlier in the month, Simon Pagenaud was asked if winning the INDYCAR Grand Prix as well as the Indianapolis 500 pole was enough to save his job with Team Penske. After winning the 103rd Indianapolis 500 today, Pagenaud will certainly be safe for the foreseeable future.
Following a lengthy red flag period that didn’t see the green flag fly until just over 10 laps to go, Pagenaud and 2016 winner Alexander Rossi fought incredibly hard with multiple lead changes in the closing laps.
A pass on the backstretch on Lap 199 served as the defining moment in the race as Rossi forced Pagenaud to the outside and the Team Penske driver’s Chevrolet power pushed him to the lead. On the final lap of the race, Rossi had a significant run down the backstretch but Pagenaud defended aggressively – swerving to the left, then to the right, then to the left again.
Rossi gave it a good run towards the final straightaway but eventually came up 0.2086 seconds short of his second Indianapolis 500 victory.
“It’s hard to believe right now,” said Pagenaud in victory lane after the race. “It’s been such an intense race. I believe we led most of the race. The car was just on rails. The yellows came out perfectly… the stars aligned. Man, wow! I’m seeing myself on TV with this… It’s pretty amazing.”
In the end, Pagenaud led 116 laps en route to victory – nearly five times the amount of the second-closest lap leader in Rossi, who had 22 laps led. Following the double-points triumph for Pagenaud, the No. 22 Chevrolet now leads the NTT IndyCar Series standings.
For Rossi, the difference was simple: Pagenaud’s Chevrolet was simply quicker than the No. 27 machine.
“Horsepower,” Rossi said of the gap between he and the No. 22 Chevrolet. “That’s unfortunately the way it is. (Pagenaud’s crew) 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.”
Mounting a valiant charge in the race’s final stages was Takuma Sato, our winner at the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Sato lived up to the “No attack, No chance,” moniker and pushed all the way to third in an eventual podium finish for this year’s race.
Team Penske placed three cars within the first five positions today, placing Josef Newgarden fourth after the Tennessee native led 21 laps, and defending winner Will Power was fifth following seven laps led.
The highest-finishing rookie was Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci, finishing seventh with one lap led on the day.
Today’s 2019 edition of the Indianapolis 500 featured 29 lead changes across 10 different race leaders. Pagenaud became the 21st driver to win the Indianapolis 500 from the pole position, and there were a total of 586 passes in the 500-mile race.
Despite five yellow periods, the average speed was still a brisk 175.794 mph. At the conclusion of the day, Honda still leads the manufacturer points standings over Chevrolet by a mark of 484 to 460.
While the weather forecast called for doom and gloom, the track saw sparse amounts of rain before the sun came up this morning and never again felt moisture on the track. The Hulman-George family was certainly looking down on us today and helped out with weather.
There were a few of incidents of note today. A pit crew member on Jordan King’s No. 42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team had to be wheeled off of the pit lane on a stretcher after being hit by a tire on a pit stop.
Later in the race, Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing’s dream run in this year’s “500” ended when he made race-ending contact with the wall on Lap 71. Then on Lap 176, Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal came together on the entry to Turn 3 and ended each of those drivers’ days.
Zach Veach and rookie Felix Rosenqvist were collected in the same accident, and that was the crash that caused the lengthy red flag period before the final shootout.
In the race’s early stages, rookie Colton Herta only completed three laps before he had a mechanical failure, and on Lap 54 we saw DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanely exit the race early when they broke a driveshaft.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels for further coverage of this year’s Indianapolis 500.
Header image by Dave Matthews/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.