Simon Pagenaud celebrates in victory lane after winning Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. (Chris Owens/IndyCar photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Simon Pagenaud completed a perfect Month of May with a dominant and gutsy drive to victory in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Pagenaud, who started from the pole and led a race-high 116 of 200 laps in the 500-mile classic, took the lead with a thrilling outside pass of Alexander Rossi on a restart with 13 laps left, then traded blows with Rossi down the stretch as the duo raced for NTT IndyCar Series glory.

Though Rossi wrested the top spot away from Pagenaud with three laps left, ducking to the top lane and soaring past into turn one, Pagenaud reloaded and used the same move to retaliate the next time by.

The Frenchman powered back past Rossi on lap 199 and stayed out front for the final two laps en route to his maiden victory in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, snaking down both the backstretch and the frontstretch in order to break the draft behind him and coming home to victory by .2086 seconds.

Sunday’s triumph was Pagenaud’s 13th Indy car victory, but easily the most important win of his life.

“I wanted to share this one with the fans, so I’m sorry it took a little while,” said Pagenaud in victory lane after first parking at the Yard of Bricks and celebrating with his team in front of the grandstands.

“It was such an intense race. The car was just on rails,” Pagenaud added. “The yellows came out perfectly, though, and the stars aligned for us. It’s really amazing, what we did today. I’m speechless. I never expected to be in this position, but I certainly was trying to make it as hard as I could.

“We talked about achieving and executing at the end, and we did, and here we are in victory lane.”

Pagenaud became the first Frenchman to win the Indianapolis 500 since Gaston Chevrolet in 1920.

For team owner Roger Penske, Sunday was equally historic. Pagenaud delivered Team Penske’s 18th Indianapolis 500 pole and record-extending 18th 500 victory with his dominant month-long effort.

“What a job Simon’s done this month,” Penske said. “If you saw that race – Rossi being one of the best and Simon being one of the best – and it came down to the last lap. It’s just a great day all around.”

The relatively calm race saw only two cautions in the first 150 laps, with Colton Herta stalling on lap four after a gearbox failure and Kyle Kaiser crashing in turn three on the 73rd lap of the race.

However, the final stint was where things got crazy for the frontrunners.

At the tail end of a green-flag pit sequence, contact between Graham Rahal and Sebastien Bourdais sparked a multi-car crash collecting a half-dozen drivers with 23 to go, leading to an 18-minute red flag.

Following track cleanup and a handful of additional caution laps, the race resumed under green flag conditions with 13 to go, with Rossi out in front of Pagenaud and home favorite Ed Carpenter.

Simon Pagenaud (22) battles Alexander Rossi in the final laps of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. (Doug Mathews/IndyCar photo)

That restart was when Pagenaud made his first gutsy move, diving to the outside coming across the famed Yard of Bricks and taking the lead with authority from Rossi going down into the first turn.

Rossi stayed in the tire tracks of the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet, though, not letting Pagenaud get too far away and briefly passing him back on lap 190 – though Pagenaud retook the lead at the start/finish line.

From there, it was about patience and timing for the top two, as Rossi laid in wait and Pagenaud tried to escape to no avail.

Rossi’s guts showed through with three to go, when he ducked high down the frontstretch and appeared to potentially have his second 500 victory in his grasp after retaking the lead from Pagenaud.

But Pagenaud simply would not be denied. He replicated Rossi’s pass with two laps remaining going down into the first turn, seizing command that he didn’t relinquish again after that.

Rossi, the 27-year-old Californian who thrilled fans with his 2016 Indianapolis 500 win as a rookie, was forced to settle for second at the finish instead of drinking the milk for the second time in four tries.

“Horsepower was the difference at the end,” lamented Rossi. “That’s unfortunately the way it is. They did a great job, though, by starting on the pole and leading the most laps. I think we had the superior car, though. We just didn’t have enough right at the end.

“I’m happy to get a result for this team, but nothing matters here besides winning the race.”

Takuma Sato charged forward late to complete the podium, his best Indianapolis 500 finish aside from his victory in 2017.

NTT IndyCar Series point leader Josef Newgarden was fourth and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power completed the top five.

Connecticut’s Santino Ferrucci was the highest-finishing rookie in the race, coming home seventh.

To view complete race results, advance to the next page.

Pages: 1 2
Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman, 24, is the founder and managing editor of 77 Sports Media and a major contributing writer for SPEED SPORT Magazine. He is studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. and also serves as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

View all posts by Jacob Seelman
error: Content is protected !!