Indy 500 Report: Pagenaud completes May treble with first 500 win

Simon Pagenaud stunned the field to win his first Indy 500, having already taken pole for the race and the Indianapolis GP win. He becomes the first driver to ever do that sweep of May, after Will Power came close last year. Pagenaud held off 2016 Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi in a thrilling duel during the last ten laps.

The Frenchman started from pole and dominated the race in a way that we are just not used to seeing at the Indy 500. He led 116 laps, nearly 100 more than anyone else, though it was not all plain sailing. All the Chevrolets were struggling with fuel mileage and none more so than Pagenaud, who had the added disadvantage of being out front in clean air with no one to work with.

If it wasn’t for the fourth and final caution which turned into a red flag, the end of the race could’ve been a very different story fuel-wise. If and buts aside, Pagenaud ran a near faultless race to win his first Indy 500 and Penske’s 18th, writing himself into the history books and taking the championship lead with it. Perhaps his only mistake of the day was stopping his car on the yard of bricks after the race, rather than the more traditional Victory Circle… but he didn’t seem to mind!

Simon Pagenaud celebrates victory with partner Hayley and dog Norman. Credit: Doug Mathews/IndyCar

Chasing Pagenaud all the way to the flag was Rossi, who was going after his second 500 win. Early on in the race the #27 had a small problem with the fuel in his pit stop but it only cost him a second or two, so no one thought much of it at the time. However, when it came to the penultimate stops, that problem became something more major with Rossi losing a significant amount of time, making him a very angry driver.

Once the race was restarted after the third caution, Rossi was on a mission passing whoever he liked, wherever he liked and soon caught up to the leaders. He pushed Pagenaud very hard in the final laps with the leading driver always heavily defending the inside line but, despite Rossi’s best efforts, Pagenaud squeezed pass on Lap 199 and held onto the lead for long enough to cross the line victorious. He was visibly disappointed by the result saying, “nothing else matters here but winning, today will suck for a while.”.

Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi. Credit: Tim Holle/IndyCar

In amongst all that drama, the third-place finisher was nearly forgotten, but 2017 Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato gave the other two a run for their money in the final laps, only dropping back slightly at the very end. The #30 briefly led at two points during the race, though never really had the pace of fellow Honda-runner Rossi. Still, a more than respectable result moves him up to fourth in the championship.

Sebastien Bourdais was one driver who had been comfortably within the lead group until his race came, quite literally, crashing down on Lap 176 when he came together with Graham Rahal and caused the biggest wreck of the day. In taking each other out, the pair created a secondary wreck where drivers behind crashed while reacting to what was going on ahead. Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach’s races were ended while Charlie Kimball, Sage Karam and Scott Dixon all managed to carry on.

Graham Rahal’s car is towed away after the wreck. Credit: Walt Kuhn/IndyCar

There were some remarkable near misses to come out of that wreck with rookie Ferrucci coming off best. The #19 dived onto the grass to avoid his teammate Bourdais and the others in the wreck and, where many drivers would’ve backed off, Ferrucci floored it and gained a handful of places. He eventually finished as top rookie in seventh-place, two places better than Robert Wickens managed in his debut Indy 500 last year.

Hinchcliffe also avoided disaster in that Lap 176 wreck, though that wasn’t the only time he avoided something that could’ve been a whole lot worse. After missing out on the race last year, Hinchcliffe’s nightmare nearly repeated itself again this year however, he scrapped into the race by qualifying 32nd. From there, he could only go forwards, threading the needle through that wreck and finishing in a very respectable 11th place.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Marcus Ericsson was less fortunate. He had been running as best rookie until he lost control on pit entry on Lap 138, causing a caution and putting himself two laps down. This year was always going to be a learning experience for the ex-F1 driver, and he proved just that.

That rounds out what was an action-packed Indy 500 with more going on than could ever possibly be mentioning all at once! IndyCar are back in action in just a few days for the Duel in Detroit double-header so watch out for that.

Full Race Results:

  1. Simon Pagenaud
  2. Alexander Rossi
  3. Takuma Sato
  4. Josef Newgarden
  5. Will Power
  6. Ed Carpenter
  7. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  8. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  9. Tony Kanaan
  10. Conor Daly
  11. James Hinchcliffe
  12. James Davison
  13. Ed Jones
  14. Spencer Pigot
  15. Matheus Leist
  16. Pippa Mann
  17. Scott Dixon
  18. Helio Castroneves
  19. Sage Karam
  20. JR Hildebrand
  21. Jack Harvey
  22. Oriol Servia
  23. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  24. Jordan King (R)
  25. Charlie Kimball
  26. Marco Andretti

Non-finishers:

  1. Graham Rahal
  2. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  3. Zach Veach
  4. Sebastien Bourdais
  5. Kyle Kaiser (R)
  6. Ben Hanley (R)
  7. Colton Herta (R)

Championship Top 5:

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

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Indy 500 Drama: Alonso Fails To Qualify

In pursuit of the Triple Crown (Monaco GP, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500) Fernando Alonso and McLaren returned to American soil for the Indianapolis 500.

Saturday was the day where the top 30 qualifying took place, with the fast nine to qualify again on Sunday for pole position and the six drivers out of the top 30 would also qualify again on Sunday, but with a higher stake.

After the two-time F1 World Champion did not make the top 30 (he ended up in 31st) it was time for ‘Bump Day’, where the last six drivers fight for the last three positions on the starting grid. The three slowest would pack up and go home. James Hinchcliffe, Sage Karam, Fernando Alonso, Max Chilton, Patricio O’Ward and Kyle Kaiser were all in the danger zone.

First to put a time on the table was James Hinchcliffe. With an average of 227.543 MPH, he was almost guaranteed of a spot on the grid for next week’s race, having missed out on the race last year. Next in line was Max Chilton, and just like Alonso, with a Carlin car. His pace was way off, with a mere 226.192 MPH meaning his chances would be very slim to qualify.

The third driver to make his run was Alonso. His first lap looked promising for a good result, and he ended up with an average of 227.353 MPH, putting him in (at that moment) second place.

Zak Brown and Fernando Alonso watch and wait after their qualifying attempt. Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

With three drivers to go, it would take just two of them to be faster than Alonso for the Spaniard not to qualify for the legendary race. The fact that Fernando was signing some autographs rather than watching the timings showed everything about his nerves. He just didn’t want to look, knowing full well that it would be very close.

Sage Karam surprised with a pretty quick average of 227.740 MPH, putting him on the top of the table. He pushed Alonso back to third place, just enough to qualify. But with two drivers left, tensions were rising.

Patricio O’Ward, the new Red Bull F1 junior, also drove with a Carlin built car, which showed; an average of 227.092 MPH put him in fourth, meaning he was done for this year. The last one who could attempt to qualify was Kaiser.

His first lap was the same as Alonso, but his second and third lap were slightly quicker than the Spaniard’s. With only one lap to go, Alonso once again went to sign some items of fans, too afraid of looking at the timings.

In a very dramatic manner, Kaiser – with his very small Juncos Racing team – beat the great (but new) McLaren Indy team to the last spot on the grid: 227.372 MPH. Just 0.019MPH quicker than Fernando.

Juncos Racing celebrate qualifying for the Indy 500, despite numerous setbacks. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

In a reaction on social media, Alonso said: “A difficult week, no doubts. We tried our best, even today with a completely different set-up and approach, 4 laps flat on the throttle but we were not fast enough. It’s never easy to drive around here at 227mph+, and want more speed… We tried our best and we’ve been brave at times, but there were people doing a better job than us. Success or disappointments only come if you accept big challenges. We accepted.”

Gil de Ferran, McLaren sporting director, apologized to Alonso, the team and fans. “This has been a very emotional and difficult experience, I think, not only for me but for the whole team”, he said. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize and thank the fans, not only here in the U.S. but globally, who have been following our progress.  So you know, this is in my 35 years of racing – actually a few more – the most painful experience I’ve ever had.”

Even though Alonso will not be there, the show still goes on. The only Carlin car to qualify for the Indy 500 was Charlie Kimball in 20th. Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud took pole and got a cheque of $100,000, with Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot lining up next to him. There will still be a fantastic race and all fans of motorsport should definitely watch it.

Simon Pagenaud accepts his pole award for his first ever Indy 500 pole. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

(Featured Image Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher/IndyCar)

IndyCar Indianapolis GP Preview

After nearly a month off track, it’s finally time for another IndyCar race, this time at the most famous track on the calendar. The Indianapolis GP acts as a prelude to the rather more famous Indy 500, with the circuit race being the first major event of the Month of May.

It seems like a long time ago, but the winner last time out was Alexander Rossi who dominated Long Beach for the second year running to take Andretti Autosport’s 200th IndyCar win. His win never looked in danger with no one else even close to challenging him however, it is not Rossi who comes into this round leading the championship.

That honour goes to Long Beach runner-up Josef Newgarden, who has been the most consistent driver in the first four races of the season with one win and two podiums. Each of the first four races have been won by different drivers with Newgarden taking the glory at St Petersburg followed by Colton Herta at the Circuit of the Americas, Takuma Sato at Barber Motorsports Park and, most recently, Rossi at Long Beach.

2019 Long Beach podium (L-R) Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon. Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Coming into the Indy GP, Newgarden and Rossi are the ones who should be in with a good chance of becoming the first repeat winner of the season, but there are plenty of other drivers in the field who will be doing everything they can to stop that from happening.

Included in that is defending Indy GP winner Will Power, who would be delighted if he could have the same fortunes this May as he did last year. Penske were the ones getting their 200th win at the Indy GP in 2018 after Power broke a pretty awful run of form to take the win first at the GP and then at the 500.

Whoever finds themselves in Victory Lane this year will be hoping to emulate Power’s double-win, because there’s no race they want to win more than the Indy 500!

The form book does look to be swaying in Power’s favour; the Penske driver has won the Indy GP three times in the past four years while Penske themselves have won the race four years in a row. Power has also had a similarly dreadful start to the season as he did in 2018, however, there’s no saying that history will repeat itself and there are plenty of other contenders in the mix.

Defending champion Scott Dixon is in the hunt for his first win of the season while Penske’s third driver, Simon Pagenaud, is after his first podium since Toronto 2018, while his future at the team is being continually called into question.

Unlike in previous years, there is only one addition to the grid for this race. Helio Castroneves returns to IndyCar in the build-up to what could be his final attempt at the Indy 500 after it all ended in the barriers last season. He will be piloting the #3 Penske, bringing their total back up to four cars for the next two races.

The Indy GP if often an unpredictable one but the stakes are obviously higher than in most races as all the drivers know how important it is to get their Month of May off to the best possible start.

All three series of the Road to Indy are also back in action this weekend after around two months off track. One thing to note about this weekend is that it is a two-day event with the race held on Saturday afternoon, rather than Sunday. The timings for this weekend are as follows:

May 10

Practice 1 – 9:10am (EDT) / 2:10pm (BST)
Practice 2 – 12:30pm / 5:30pm
Qualifying – 4:35pm / 9:35pm

May 11

Final Warmup – 11:15am / 4:15pm
Race – 3:40pm / 8:40pm

Entry List:

# Driver Team
2 Josef Newgarden Team Penske
3 Helio Castroneves Team Penske
4 Matheus Leist AJ Foyt Racing
5 James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
7 Marcus Ericsson (R) Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing
10 Felix Rosenqvist (R) Chip Ganassi Racing
12 Will Power Team Penske
14 Tony Kanaan AJ Foyt Racing
15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan
18 Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne Racing
19 Santino Ferrucci (R) Dale Coyne Racing
20 Ed Jones Ed Carpenter Racing
21 Spencer Pigot Ed Carpenter Racing
22 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske
26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport
27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport
28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport
30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan
31 Patricio O’Ward (R) Carlin
59 Max Chilton Carlin
60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
88 Colton Herta (R) Harding Steinbrenner
98 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport

Featured Image Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar