Simon Pagenaud played Saturday’s IndyCar Grand Prix perfectly, chasing down defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon on the way to his record-tying third career victory in the annual road course event from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Team Penske driver snapped a winless streak dating back to the 2017 season finale with a pass on the penultimate lap of the race.
RACE RESULTS: Click here (via IndyCar.com)
After a surprising qualifying session where none of the four Andretti Autosport cars advanced to the second round and promising rookie Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing won the pole over teammate Dixon, weather played a major part in Saturday’s race as drivers looked to manage impending rain. The result was perhaps the most exciting IndyCar race ever held on IMS’ road course, and a perfect lead-in to the 103rd Indianapolis 500, which begins practice on Tuesday.
Rosenqvist charged to an early lead in front of Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey, who made his first career Fast Six in qualifying and had one of the strongest cars all weekend. An early spin for Schmidt Peterson Racing’s Marcus Ericsson caused a caution, and Dixon pounced on the lead in the first restart while more chaos happened behind them; Colton Herta was spun and stalled in the racing line, and Ryan Hunter-Reay was collected in the mess.
After the subsequent restart, the race went green most of the rest of the way. Pit stops would contribute to a number of the remaining lead changes, with Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, and Sebastien Bourdais among the drivers to spend time at the front. But at lap 63, during a final caution period caused by Helio Castroneves going off track, Dixon would regain the top spot and looked to finally score his first win of the 2019 season.
Pagenaud, however, had other plans. Restarting sixth with 18 laps to go, the French driver began his charge to the front despite having used much of his Push to Pass early in the race. He cracked the podium with 10 laps to go by passing AJ Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist, and caught Harvey for second with five to go. Then, when Dixon opened the door on the second to last lap, Pagenaud seized the opportunity, making the pass stick despite light contact and hanging on for the win.
Harvey completed the podium in third, his first career podium and the first for Meyer Shank Racing. Leist’s fourth place finish was also a career best, while the Ed Carpenter Racing duo of Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones took fifth and sixth. Defending race winner Will Power was seventh, while Rosenqvist, Rahal, and Santino Ferrucci rounded out the top 10.
Heading into the Indianapolis 500, Newgarden retains a 182-176 advantage over Dixon in the standings despite a 15th place finish on Saturday. 36 cars will battle for 33 spots in qualifying next weekend, with most drivers named to their respective entries; Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will formally confirm the driver of its #77 car on Monday.
Stay tuned to the Down & Dirty Show Powered By Polaris RZR over the coming weeks for interviews with many of the NTT IndyCar Series’ biggest stars, including Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe, Conor Daly, and more!