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 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