It may not have been the closest finish to an Indianapolis 500 ever, but it was certainly one of the best.
The 103rd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing ended with a mad 13-lap dash to the finish as two of the sport’s biggest names—Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi—duked it out for the rights to have their face engraved on the Borg-Warner Trophy. The duo traded the lead multiple times, but in the end, it was Pagenaud’s bright yellow Chevrolet that crossed the finish line first by 0.2086 seconds.
Just one year after teammate Will Power became the first driver to sweep the IndyCar Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500, Pagenaud did him one better by also earning the pole for the race. From there, the 2016 IndyCar champion led 116 of 200 laps, the most by a winner since Dario Franchitti led 155 laps in 2010.
But no matter who triumphed in the head-to-head battle for the lead, second place would have been just as deserving. This time out, it was Rossi, whose four years at Indianapolis have established him as the driver to beat in race conditions. Overtaken by the red mist thanks to multiple instances of being hung up by lapped cars and a fuel probe issue, this year’s Long Beach winner managed to balance calculated risk with seething anger. Rather than trading the lead with Pagenaud lap after lap in the final stages, Rossi bided his time until just the right opportunity before making a second pass and trying to hold on.
Save for a single-car incident by Kyle Kaiser on Lap 73, the race ran relatively incident-free until its final stages. On Lap 176, Graham Rahal ducked below Sebastien Bourdais in Turn 3, attempting to make a move after briefly being held up by the lapped car of Marco Andretti. Neither driver was willing to give up their line, and the resulting contact sent both into the wall. The wreck ended the winning hopes of both drivers, as well as the days of Zach Veach and rookie Felix Rosenqvist.
Five of the top 10 finishers were previous Indianapolis 500 winners, including Takuma Sato in third and Power in fifth. Both Penske and Andretti placed three cars in the top 10, with Conor Daly’s run for Andretti the best result of his Indianapolis career; after spending a large chunk of time in the top five, he eventually settled for 10th. Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci was the top finishing rookie, coming home ninth after dodging the Lap 176 wreck.
The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season continues next weekend with the only doubleheader of the year, as the series visits Belle Isle in Detroit. Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay are the defending race winners, while Pagenaud will look to keep his win streak alive with his first Detroit victory since 2013.