Pole sitter Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet won the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge Sunday afternoon under sunny skies. Just like last year, the dire weather failed to appear. This is the second year in a row that a (Penske) driver has swept both May races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was the seventh closest finish at the Indy 500 – 0.2086 seconds. Pagenaud now leads the Driver Standings, by one point over his teammate, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus.
It is the lucky 13th victory for Pagenaud, as well as the 18th Indy 500 win and 206th career victory for Team Penske. The last time a pole sitter won the Indy 500 was ten years ago – Helio Castroneves. Pagenaud leading the most laps as pole sitter hasn’t happened since Dario Franchitti did in 2010.
Pagenaud led 116 laps – five times was for recycling through pit stops and regaining the lead he relinquished when he pitted; and the last two were during his battle with Rossi for the victory, after the last restart. Drama. Excitement. Worth the wait.
Pagenaud said “The car was just on rails. The yellows came out perfectly. The stars are aligned. It’s pretty amazing. So I’m just speechless. It’s just incredible. I never expected to be in this position, but I certainly was trying to make it as hard as I could. It’s all about achieving and executing at the end, and we did execute perfectly today. No mistakes. Here we are, Victory Lane!”
Team Owner, Roger Penske said “That flight at the end, you knew we were building up to something with 15 laps and they take the cars that are not on the lead lap and put them in the back. It really sets up for an amazing run and good clean racing. You see how close it was.
“This win here today for Simon and our 50th, it goes down in the record book. But as I say, it’s not me, it’s all the people that we work with day in and day out that makes it so good.”
The very disappointed runner-up was Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport who had battled fiercely with Pagenaud after the last restart. There were several on-track passes which led to edge-of-seat excitement until the Checkered Flag. Rossi led three times when recycling through Pit Stops, plus his two killer on-track passes of Pagenaud that were thrilling to watch – total 22 laps led. He now is third in the points standings.
Rossi said “Horsepower was the difference at the end. They did a great job. Obviously, he was on the pole and led the most laps, but I think we had the superior car. We just didn’t have enough there at the end.” Rossi persevered after two episodes which could have kept him further back at the finish. He had a trying time trying to pass a lapped Oriol Servia/No.77 MotoGator Stange w/Arrow SPM Honda; and when he finally did he shook his fists furiously at the Spaniard. The other problem was a fuel flow issue during his last pit stop. Again he showed some animated frustration, pounding his fists on the cockpit.
The dire weather forecasts never materialized, not even after the race was over. Although the early morning alerts warned of possible severe weather and lightning strikes, the warnings and threats faded. It was dry with high clouds all day, with sun breaking through on the last 50 laps of the race. That’s when the race woke up, after being somewhat lulling.
Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda finished third, but felt like it was a win. “The last 15 laps were great excitement. It’s always challenging. It’s always difficult. We just kept our heads down, did our job and made the most of it.”
The top Rookie was Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who finished seventh overall. He led once for a lap, and got up to second place at another point. And he made the most on-track passes of any driver, according to his team. And he wowed the crowd with his on-the-grass evasive maneuver he made during the five-car incident which caused a Red Flag. “My spotter says don’t go high, just don’t go high. Then I see everybody starting to wreck, and I’m just like, middle of the track, and then I floored it because I thought that was the smart thing to do. Then I saw the grass, which to me was the only hole, and that looked like the most intelligent place to go. So we mowed the lawn in retrospect, and we came out just fine.”
The 20-year old was still pumped after the race, ready to run another 500 race tomorrow. He said the race was “surprisingly longer than it looks, and the racing with other drivers was actually a lot more fun than I had evr hoped it to be. I got to battle it out almost the entire race with Hunter-Reay, who’s a champion here, and I can’t thank him enough because the experience that you get racing someone like that and the enjoyment and the excitement of racing around other competitors like him, it was just a blast. I think that was probably some of the best parts. It feels like a victory. We started 23rd, man.”
The first 150 laps were relatively drama free, with the most excitement happening in the pits. There was one crash – Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet got loose and spun out on his own, crashing hard in Turn 4. He was not hurt, and was cleared to drive. Close to the 150-lap mark, Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda spun coming into the pit lane, hit the wall and stalled. He had to be towed, which brought out a ten-lap caution. It was at the same time as Rossi was enduring his fuel flow failure. The caution was lucky for Rossi as he was able to move up during subsequent pit stops by others. Ericsson said he locked up his rears. He continued to race, and finished 23rd, two laps down.
There were three speeding tickets, and three cited for ‘Service in a Closed Pit.’ Two drivers-Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet and Rookie Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda were given drive-thru penalties for hitting their respective crews during pit stops. JR Hildebrand/No.48 DRR Salesforce Chevrolet and Sato were fined for Pit Safety infractions. Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda came into his pit box too hot and hit a tire which hit his right front tire guy – Chris Minot, who was taken to IU Methodist Hospital for a leg injury. King received a fine.
After the restart from the pit lane incidents, there was maneuvering and jostling for position behind Pagenaud. Then there was the first on-track pass for the lead – Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet passed his Penske teammate, who hung onto Newgarden’s tailpipe. This is where Rossi was trying to catch up and being thwarted by Servia. Rossi continued his passing, including his Andretti teammate, Conor Daly/No.25 United States Air Force Honda, who had quietly been moving up and racing in the top ten and then top five. Pagenaud and Rossi pitted, and came back 16th and 17th. Then Newgarden pitted, and Rookie Ferrucci took the lead. Various leaders led and pitted, recycling leaders, including Penske teammate Will Power/No 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet and Sato. Rossi passed Pagenaud. In the end Daly finished tenth although he ran as high as fourth. It was his best Indy 500 finish. His pit stops went well. Daly said “Our car was fast enough to be in the top five, for sure. It felt nice to be in the lead group and fighting. I’m bummed to be 10th, but it’s still a career best and i think that the whole U.S. Air Force team can still be proud of what we did here this month.” Daly had the only female over-the-wall crew member, Jessica Mace, his right-rear tire changer.
Just as the race was getting exciting, there was an accident on Lap 178 which ultimately caught out five cars. Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda and Sebastien Bourdais/No.19 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda touched. Rahal was inside Bourdais, came up along side, there was contact. Rahal spun off inside and stopped and Bourdais fishtailed down track, spun into wall hard, and then was hit by Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Zach Veach/No.26 Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda and Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet were also involved. Kimball was the only one who was able to continue. Four of the five drivers were unhurt and cleared to drive. Veach was not cleared – right knee. Veach said “I think that was the biggest hit I have ever had on an oval. My knee came up and hit the steering wheel where I backed in. I got my right knee pretty bad – I think it is okay. Luckily, they did x-rays, but it is just really bruised.”
Rahal was obviously frustrated and disappointed afterwards. He went over to check on Bourdais, who had to have help from the AMR Response team to get out of his car. Rahal said “I respect Bourdais, but I don’t respect that move. At those speeds that’s how you kill people.” Bourdais said “I thought he was going to back off, and we were going to be OK. He didn’t. It’s that stage of the race where nobody wants to give up. It’s just bad timing.” After a Steward’s Review, Bourdais was assessed a 30-second penalty for Avoidable Contact.
This accident caused a caution, which became a Red Flag situation for 3.17 minutes. The race restarted on Lap 180 under caution, with the lapped cars at the rear of the field as per rules governing a restart with 20 or fewer laps to go. The race went Green on Lap 187. Rossi was the leader. Pagenaud went high and passed Rossi at the Start-Finish line. One lap later Rossi retook the lead, and then Pagenaud repassed Rossi another lap later. Rossi made passing attempt but didn’t complete. Then on Lap 197 Rossi passed Pagenaud, Pagenaud tried a repass attempt but failed. He tried one more pass on Rossi and was succssful. He kept his lead and won.
Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda had a sad day, lasting only three laps. His car had gearbox problems, he couldn’t get sixth, so he stuck it in fifth gear. He was resigned to running in fifth, making it a long day. But he lost gear pressure, couldn’t change gears and the engine was dying. He limped to Pit Entry where he stalled and had to be towed, bringing out the first caution. “It’s just really sad. The guys have been working really hard, through Mother’s Day and every weekend. We’ve been quick everywhere and haven’t qualified outside the top 10 yet. I know we’ll be back next week.”
The crowd count was not released, but IMS President, Doug Boles, acknowledged earlier that the troubling weather forecast could affect the walk-up crowd.
1. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
3. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
4. (8) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
5. (6) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
6. (2) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running
7. (23) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 200, Running
8. (22) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
9. (16) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 200, Running
10. (11) Conor Daly, Honda, 200, Running
11. (32) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 200, Running
12. (15) James Davison, Honda, 200, Running
13. (4) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 200, Running
14. (3) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (24) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 200, Running
16. (30) Pippa Mann, Chevrolet, 200, Running
17. (18) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
18. (12) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 199, Running
19. (31) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 199, Running
20. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 199, Running
21. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 199, Running
22. (19) Oriol Servia, Honda, 199, Running
23. (13) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 198, Running
24. (26) Jordan King, Honda, 198, Running
25. (20) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 196, Running
26. (10) Marco Andretti, Honda, 195, Running
27. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 176, Contact
28. (29) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 176, Contact
29. (28) Zach Veach, Honda, 176, Contact
30. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 176, Contact
31. (33) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 71, Contact
32. (27) Ben Hanley, Chevrolet, 54, Mechanical
33. (5) Colton Herta, Honda, 3, Mechanical