By: Tanner Watkins
May 11, 2019 | 6:00 PM
After watching today’s INDYCAR Grand Prix, all that can really be said is “wow.” Simon Pagenaud put on an absolute clinic, coming from fourth to the victory by passing Scott Dixon with two laps remaining – and in the process, secured another Team Penske win in this event.
It is Pagenaud’s third victory in this race, tying him with Will Power for the INDYCAR Grand Prix event lead. Furthermore, Jack Harvey picked up an improbable, uplifting podium finish for Meyer Shank Racing on this day and proved that they have legitimate pace in 2019.
The event started with a bang – unfortunately, literally – for Alexander Rossi as the Andretti Autosport driver was driven over by Patricio O’Ward. While O’Ward was handed a pass-through penalty, Rossi was parked in the pits for four laps while repairs were made to his No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda.
The race settled down with Rosenqvist leading ahead of Harvey, Dixon, Colton Herta and the upstart Ed Jones. The sprinkles began to fall early on in the running but the rain never fully materialized in the first half of the race.
Marcus Ericsson’s race came to an abrupt end on Lap 12 when he caught a handful of steering wheel after putting the power down in Turn 14, eventually ending up in the SAFER barrier at the oval layout’s Turn 1. Ericsson would limp his No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports machine to pit lane before retiring from the race.
When the race restarted on Lap 15, Dixon made waves by going from third to first in the running order – all while chaos was unfolding behind him. Harvey and Herta would get together on the entry to Turn 1, sending the rookie Harding Steinbrenner Racing driver around.
While Herta was dead in the water as the field passed him by, James Hinchcliffe got into the back of Ryan Hunter-Reay to send the No. 28 Honda around – which left him sliding into the stalled machine of Herta.
Herta’s race was over while Hunter-Reay never fully recovered, finishing a disappointing 17th.
The race settled into the event’s middle stages while the threat of rain was always near, but never present. A host of drivers led, including Dixon, Josef Newgarden, and Graham Rahal. Action would begin to pick up again on the other side of the halfway mark.
On lap 55, Tony Kanaan became the first driver to move to rain tires when the rain finally arrived. Part-time Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves was the second driver to take Firestone rain tires, but on the exit of pit lane the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner spun out and stalled.
INDYCAR Race Control allowed the leaders to pit before throwing the yellow flag, though most drivers opted to take Firestone alternate tires instead of the rain skins. During the yellow flag period the rain began to fall even harder, forcing the drivers not yet on rain tires to re-pit for the wet weather tread.
It was then that things went from bad to worse for Newgarden as he had to re-pit, then his team lost control of a tire during the same second pit stop. The penalty from Race Control relegated Newgarden to the tail end of the restart line, and the Tennessee native could only muster a 15th place result at the end of the day.
On Lap 68 of 85, the race finally went green following an eight-lap caution period. In total there were 15 caution laps on three caution periods.
Dixon led the field to green and opened up a massive multi-second lead on Harvey while Matheus Leist was incredibly in a podium position. This was when Pagenaud began his assault on the field.
With 15 laps to go, Pagenaud was in fourth place. He stalked Leist and passed the second-year driver with 11 laps to go – then set his sights on Harvey.
In perhaps the pass of the race, Pagenaud caught Harvey with six laps to go and displayed a masterful over-under maneuver to pass the Briton going into Turn 1. Still a four-second lead to cut into, Pagenaud again put his head down and looked ahead to Dixon.
After just a couple of laps, Pagenaud had made the gap to Dixon evaporate. Despite Dixon holding the push-to-pass advantage, Pagenaud was motoring ahead with an incredible will and desire.
After pushing Dixon with immense pressure for a couple of laps, Pagenaud found a window and the two former champions banged wheels in the IMS road course esses. When the fans saw the two drivers flash by to take the white flag, Pagenaud was in the lead and Dixon had been relegated to second place.
That’s exactly how they would finish, with Pagenaud finishing 2.04 seconds ahead of the New Zealand native. It was Pagenaud’s 12th IndyCar victory and Dixon’s third-straight runner-up finish in the INDYCAR Grand Prix.
As previously mentioned, Harvey held off an opportunistic Leist to remain on the podium for Michael Shank’s race team. It was still a great run for the No. 4 A.J. Foyt team as Leist recorded his first NTT IndyCar Series top five, and he was joined in the first five by Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot.
At the end of the day, Newgarden narrowly held onto the series points lead – a gap of just six points to Dixon now in a similar turn of events as last May. After a dreadful 22nd-place finish, Rossi is third in the points – 36 points behind Newgarden.
And now we are finally here: All focus will turn to the Indianapolis 500 with official practice opening on Tuesday. With that being said, stay tuned for continued INDYCAR Grand Prix coverage from a wet and windy Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Header image by Joe Skibinski/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.