IndyCar Indy GP Report: Pagenaud masters the rain in hectic race

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud has ended his winless streak in the most exciting fashion possible, passing defending champion Scott Dixon on the penultimate lap to take his first win since 2017’s season finale at Sonoma. The Frenchman was certainly an unexpected winner, but Jack Harvey’s third was equally as remarkable.

Pagenaud started the race in eighth and was only making very steady progress until the rain started falling, and from there on in he excelled. With seventeen laps to go Pagenaud embarked on his charge, first passing the duelling Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones before moving onto the then third-placed Matheus Leist. The Brazilian was unable to fend off Pagenaud who then set his sights on Harvey in second, and race leader Dixon.

He dispensed with Harvey with relative ease, however in doing so he used up the last of his Push to Pass. It didn’t take long for the #22 to catch Dixon but, with no P2P, getting through on the #9 was always going to be tough. It didn’t look like he was going to be able to do it but, on the penultimate lap, Dixon made an uncharacteristic mistake, running wide and giving Pagenaud all the opportunity he needed to take the lead and with it his ‘sweetest win ever’, one which catapults him into fourth in the championship.

Dixon was the more consistent of the two over the race, leading the most laps of anyone at 39. The #9 took the lead from teammate Felix Rosenqvist after the first restart, passing both Harvey and Rosenqvist in one corner and forming a comfortable lead for there. Rosenqvist had no such luck and was unable to convert his first pole into anything meaningful.

Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe and Patricio O’Ward all looked to be minorly threatening mid-race but their hopes on the alternate strategy were dashed by the increasing rain, causing the strategies to merge as they all pitted for rain tyres. Once the rain had set in, Dixon held firm in the lead, though was unable to match Pagenaud’s blistering pace, conceding the race lead but moving to within six points of Newgarden’s championship lead.

Credit: Doug Mathews/IndyCar

Newgarden himself had a troublesome race with any hopes of a good result ruined first by the rain and then by a penalty for an uncontrolled tyre when he was changing to the wets. That penalty dropped the championship leader to the back of the pack, and he was only able to recover to fifteenth from there, salvaging something out of what could’ve been a complete disaster.

Speaking of disasters, Alexander Rossi’s race was doomed from the get-go when he got hit from behind by O’Ward, sending the #27 into the inside wall on the main straight and damaging his right-rear suspension. O’Ward took a drive-thru penalty while Rossi went four laps down due to the repairs; the incident was partially a legacy of Rossi’s poor qualifying as starting down in the pack is always a risk, but that result couldn’t have been much worse for the American’s title challenge.

Away from the title contenders, part-timer Harvey finished third to take his first ever IndyCar podium, much to the delight of his Meyer Shank with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport team. Harvey took second at the first turn having qualified third and looked set to finish there once the rain came but, like so many others, he could do nothing to stop Pagenaud’s charge, meaning he had to settle for third.

The podium (L-R) Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Jack Harvey. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

Harvey’s SPM teammates, however, both had days to forget. Marcus Ericsson caused the first caution by losing the rear of his car at Turn 14 and hitting the wall, breaking his right-rear suspension and bringing a premature end to his first race at Indianapolis.

Hinchcliffe’s race unravelled in the carnage that was the first restart; Colton Herta had already been spun around by Harvey when Hinchcliffe tagged Ryan Hunter-Reay, spinning the Andretti and landing the #5 with a drive-thru penalty.

Leist almost got a surprise podium but instead finished fourth, which was still by far the best result for A.J. Foyt for what seems like years. Teammate Tony Kanaan tried his luck by switching to the wets first, a call that proved to be just a bit too early meaning he finished well down the order.

Matheus Leist celebrating with his team after his fourth-place finish. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

Next up for IndyCar is the big one, the 103rd Running of the Indy 500. The action starts with qualifying on the 18th and 19th May when we will find out who will make the race and who will get bumped.

Full Race Results:

  1. Simon Pagenaud
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Jack Harvey
  4. Matheus Leist
  5. Spencer Pigot
  6. Ed Jones
  7. Will Power
  8. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  9. Graham Rahal
  10. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  11. Sebastien Bourdais
  12. Zach Veach
  13. Marco Andretti
  14. Takuma Sato
  15. Josef Newgarden
  16. James Hinchcliffe
  17. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  18. Max Chilton
  19. Patricio O’Ward (R)
  20. Tony Kanaan
  21. Helio Castroneves
  22. Alexander Rossi

DNF – Colton Herta (R) (collision), Marcus Ericsson (R) (crash)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Alexander Rossi
  4. Simon Pagenaud
  5. Takuma Sato

Featured Image Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

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