Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Masterful Pagenaud Swipes Road Course Win

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After entering the final laps running fourth, a come-from-behind win for eighth-place starter Simon Pagenaud in a complicated sixth running of the INDYCAR Grand Prix was unlikely but the Frenchman stormed forward to capture his third triumph on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Pagenaud kept the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet safely in contention as light rain heightened the challenge of lapping the 2.439-mile circuit during much of the event’s 85-lap duration.

When harder rain arrived after 60 laps of anticipation, Pagenaud was in the lead group and restarted in fifth — finally fitted with Firestone’s rain tire offering — after his Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves caused a full-course caution by spinning at Turn 2.

That restart began with Scott Dixon in the lead over Jack Harvey, Matheus Leist and Pagenaud and marked the start of Pagenaud’s fierce push to turn himself from a podium contender to a race winner. Dixon kept Harvey at bay with a well-timed launch when the green flag returned but Pagenaud was not to be stopped after picking off Leist and Harvey and setting his sights on the race leader.

The gap between Dixon’s PNC Bank Honda and the bright yellow Chevrolet of Pagenaud was four seconds on Lap 81. Four minutes and one Turn 7 mistake for Dixon later, Pagenaud had control of the race.

Pagenaud led Dixon through the next seven turns and under the white flag with an advantage of 0.9026 seconds. Having commandingly taken over at the front, Pagenaud secured the victory by 2.0469 seconds over Dixon who struggled late in the race with extremely limited front-end grip.

Coincidentally, Pagenaud’s win drought ended at a rain race after 22 winless outings — matching his car number.

Simon Pagenaud races down IMS road course backstretch
Simon Pagenaud put his bright No. 22 Menards Chevrolet in the mirrors of Matheus Leist, Jack Harvey and Scott Dixon and passed all three at the end of the 2019 INDYCAR Grand Prix. | Photo: Gannon Burgett / The Apex

Now a 12-time NTT IndyCar Series winner, Pagenaud ensured that the INDYCAR Grand Prix remained a race only ever won by two drivers. Beyond Pagenaud’s IMS road course victories in 2014, 2016 and 2019, Will Power has come out on top in every other edition of the event.

Penske has now won the last five races at the road course inside the historic venue. Pagenaud won the inaugural running with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Behind Pagenaud delivering Penske its 205th Indy car win, Dixon earned his 43rd second-place finish and remains second on the all-time runner-up list.

Nearly four seconds further back, Harvey captured his best IndyCar result and the first podium for Meyer Shank Racing. Harvey’s previous best finish was 10th, earned in the first two races of 2019 in St. Petersburg and Austin.

Matheus Leist, knocking down his own previous personal best finish of 11th last year at Pocono Raceway, led Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot in completing the top five over his teammate Ed Jones who started fifth and finished sixth after a strong showing up front.

Power came home seventh after losing several positions and led pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist plus Graham Rahal and Santino Ferrucci in completing the top 10.

Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi entered the two-day weekend atop the points standings but were unable to increase their advantages with finishes of 15th and 22nd, respectively. Newgarden was ordered to the back of the field for a restart due to a pit safety infraction while Rossi was tagged by Carlin’s Patricio O’Ward at the initial start.

Newgarden remains the championship leader as focus turns to the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with Dixon and Rossi swapping places and the Chip Ganassi Racing veteran now ahead.

With his win, Pagenaud vaulted from 11th to fourth in the standings in time for his 141st IndyCar start, which will also mark his eighth Indianapolis 500.

Practice for the first oval race of 2019 will begin Tuesday, May 14 and continue until Friday before two days of qualifying commence on Saturday, May 18. The Indy 500 itself will take place Sunday, May 26.

Aaron Durant
Aaron Duranthttp://aarondurant.com
Aaron brings a developing design and editorial vision to The Apex every day and co-hosts The Braking Point podcast every week. As editor-in-chief and an avid reader, Aaron enjoys aligning his relentless care for quality with an interest in counterintuitive approaches.

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