Pagenaud Charges Through Rain For Third INDYCAR Grand Prix Win

Simon Pagenaud climbs from his car after winning the INDYCAR Grand Prix. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media

Simon Pagenaud climbs from his car after winning the INDYCAR Grand Prix. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media

Six INDYCAR Grand Prix races and still just two winners.

After what many had predicted as a down weekend for Team Penske, Simon Pagenaud ran down and passed Scott Dixon in the final laps of the NTT IndyCar series race to capture an exciting wet win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The win was the fifth victory in a row in this event for Team Penske drivers and Pagenaud’s first win in the series since the 2017 finale.

“I’m equal with Will (Power), which is awesome,” exclaimed the Frenchman. Each driver now has three INDYCAR Grand Prix wins. Pagenaud captured the inaugural INDYCAR Grand Prix driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2014.

“It was amazing, I thought every one was saving fuel it was so fast. I love racing in the rain, so I decided to attack right away. And then I gained confidence. I took a lot of risks for sure, the car was so good,” Pagenaud talked about his car. “This is the sweetest win I‘ve ever had.”

It wasn’t easy to get there though.

The race started under drizzling skies and that weather pattern kept up for most of the race. Just wet enough to make it difficult to run the slick tires but not enough water on the track to use the “wet” tires.

Polesitter Felix Rosenqvist held the lead through the treacherous first turn of the race and holding off the field through the first 15 laps of the race. Those laps led were the first he had led since the opening race of the season.
Others were not so lucky. Alexander Rossi was contacted by Patricio O’Ward when the green flag flew and hit the inside wall of the front-straight. The damage to the rear of Rossi’s car forcing him to lose four laps as the team worked to get him back on track.

Rookie Marcus Ericsson spun and contacted the wall in turn fourteen to bring out the first full course caution.

On the restart it was Dixon who put on a show, starting in third, as he passed both Jack Harvey and Rosenqvist to take the lead into turn one.

From there it was a battle between Dixon, Josef Newgarden and the rain. With each driver on different pit strategies and each driver hoping the rain would increase enough for rain tires when it was their turn to pit.

The turn of the race came between their strategies when Helio Castroneves pitted for rain tires and spun his car into the gravel trap exiting the pits through turn one. The rains increased and everyone hit the pits prior to the caution flag flying. Newgarden’s crew lost control of a tire during their stop, relegating them to a drive through penalty and taking them out of the running for the win.

The race was Dixon’s to win. But, lurking in sixth place was Pagenaud.

The race restarted on lap 68 of the scheduled 85 and Dixon got a great jump to stretch his lead.

But a lap later, Pagenaud was already up to fourth and turning quicker laps than the leaders with Harvey and Matheus Leist between himself and Dixon.

Three laps later, Pagenaud overtook Leist in turn one.

In five more laps, using up the last of his 200 seconds of “Push To Pass”, Pagenaud grabbed second from Harvey.

At the line with five laps to go Dixon led by just under four seconds and the chase was on.

In two laps, Pagenaud had caught Dixon and was looking for his chance to make a move to the lead.

That chance came as Dixon slipped in turn seven of the infield and Pagenaud got side by side and then passed through the esses of turns eight and nine to take the lead and pull away to victory.

“It was generally a good day. Conditions were tricky all day, with the sealer on the oval. It was a lot of fun,” said Dixon. “In the rain I knew with ten laps to go I knew we were going to get hosed today. The fronts had no grip. Bummer leading all those laps.”

Harvey held on for third as the veterans battled and picked up his best finish of his career. For a driver that team owner Michael Shank explained “has never run a lap in the rain, ever” in an Indy Car, Harvey drove an excellent race for a driver looking for a chance to run the full NTT IndyCar Series season.
“I believe in this team and I knew this weekend could happen eventually,” said Harvey. “You can see how happy these guys (Michael Shank Racing crew) are. Imagine when we get a win.”

Also running the best race of his IndyCar career was Leist who finished fourth.

Spencer Pigot kept his car in sight of the leaders all race long and took the checkers in fifth.

The top ten was rounded out by Ed Jones, three-time winner Power, pole-sitter Rosenqvist, Graham Rahal and rookie Santino Ferrucci.
Newgarden finished fifteenth after his pit issues.

Rossi finished 22nd, four laps down.

Colton Herta, who was quick all weekend, finished 23rd. Herta was spun after contact with Harvey on the lap fifteen restart and then contacted by Ryan Hunter-Reay when he was spun by James Hinchcliffe. Herta’s car was too damaged to continue.

With his second place finish and Newgarden’s troubles, Dixon takes over the point lead.

Up next for the NTT IndyCar Series is qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 next weekend and the running of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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