Simon Pagenaud Sweeps The Month of May

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What quite honestly started out as a boring parade, turned out to be a finish for the ages. For the last fourteen laps, Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi went back and forth and swapped the lead a couple of times, with Pagenaud emerging as the winner.

Simon Pagenaud dominated this day from the pole. The box score shows that Pagenaud led 116 laps, but it seemed like more. Rossi led twenty-two laps, while Josef Newgarden led twenty-one. The other seven drivers that led laps were mostly due to pit stop shuffles.

After a safe but spectacular start, the yellow came out for Colton Herta on Lap Six. In those six laps, there seemed to be a lot of bold moves and jockeying for position. After the restart, it seemed that either no one could pass or they chose not to. It was a very processional parade for the next sixty-four laps with very little passing.

The Kyle Kaiser lost control of his car in Turn Four and his day was done. I was hoping that when the field bunched up for the restart, that the cars would get racy. They didn’t. It really wasn’t until Marcus Ericsson spun in the pits that another yellow came, ending more processional laps.

But for whatever reason, the restart on Lap 147 from that caution, was where things got more interesting. Four laps after that restart was when Josef Newgarden passed his Penske teammate Pagenaud, and led for twenty laps.

I had been keeping my eye on Alexander Rossi. He had been steadily moving up to second before an issue with the fuel nozzle on a pit stop relegated him back to sixth. But again, he moved up picking off fast cars one by one. He and Pagenaud pitted before Graham Rahal and Sébastien Bourdais got together in Turn Three, igniting a crash involving three other cars on Lap 178.

The race was red-flagged at that point due to damage to the SAFER Barrier. But when the cars were restarted on Lap 180, the cars drove around under the yellow for another six laps inexplicably. When it became obvious that Lap 185 would begin under the yellow, the crowd justifiably booed. Why they ate up precious laps under yellow was beyond me.

But those last fourteen laps under green were about as good as it gets. Rossi was leading when the green flag flew but on the next lap, Pagenaud passed Rossi for the lead. Try as he might, Rossi could not get past the Frenchman. Just when it looked as if Rossi was done, he got a run and passed Rossi on Lap 198. But the next lap, Pagenaud retook the lead, took the white flag and then the checkered flag. The margin of victory was 0.286 seconds.

This was the first time a Frenchman has won the Indianapolis 500 since René Thomas won in 1914. It was also the first win ever for car number 22.

I had the honor of riding up the elevator in the Media Center with Roger Penske and Kyle Moyer, Pagenuad’s race strategist. Penske was bubbling with joy, while Moyer looked stunned and exhausted. They were joined in the press conference by John Menard, who after all these decades,  got to see a car in his livery in Victory Lane for the Indianapolis 500.

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While it was the first Indianapolis 500 win for Menard, Roger Penske now has eighteen wins in this great race. What puts that amazing total in perspective, is that second place in the win total has five total wins.

Simon Pagenaud becomes the second driver to sweep the Month of May at Indianapolis, by winning the IndyCar Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. He actually out performed Will Power’s sweep last year, because Pagenaud also won the pole. He was understandably exhuberent when he entered the Media Center for his press conference. Why shouldn’t he be? He just won the biggest race in the world and he leaves with all that goes with that, plus he is now the points leader over Josef Newgarden (by one point) and Alexander Rossi by twenty-two points. (Photo courtesy of my wife, Susan)

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The weather that was certain to wreak havoc on our day never materialized. Just like last year, we arrived at the track this morning hoping that we could dodge raindrops enough to at least get 101 laps in and make it an official race. And just like last year, we had sunny skies for most of the day and were never even threatened by rain. Even as I type, the sun is shining into the IMS Media Center, almost making me want to put my sunglasses back on.

That’s going to do it for today. We have been here for about thirteen hours and I’m tired. We are going to meet my brother and his crew for dinner and call it an early night.

I had said that I would post my Random Thoughts tomorrow. Quite honestly, I don’t have the energy to write t up tonight. Since tomorrow is a holiday anyway, I’ll post it here on Tuesday morning, if that’s OK. And Susan will post something sometime next week with some of her photos from the month.

Congratulations to Simon Pagenaud and Team Penske for a hard-earned victory. It was an impressive and dominating drive.

George Phillips

10 Responses to “Simon Pagenaud Sweeps The Month of May”

  1. “some French guy won.”
    that was pretty much all i heard
    from family and friends and casual fans.

  2. Talón de Brea Says:

    Thanks for the coverage, George. Glad the weather held off, for you and a few hundred thousand others … and the (I hope) growing TV audience.

    As Simon parked on the yard of bricks and then took longer than usual to enter Victory Lane, I commented to myself: “Uh-oh — what’s George going to think of this?” My take is that it was a little untraditional and awkward (and time-consuming for NBC), but no real harm done.

    Randomly:

    – Rossi had about as good a second place as could be possible; tough one to lose.
    – Simon impressively capped an amazing month.
    – Daly showed quite well.
    – Penske’s early pit bobbles seemed to be a bad sign for them … but they recovered OK, I’d say.
    – I’m not a fan of past immature behavior, but Santino was Ferruccious. He drove like he truly belonged.
    – Where did Sato come from? Strong finish!
    – Dixon seemed to be lurking, but not a strong day for Ganassi.
    – Interested to see what people say about the fuel mileage disparity and how that ultimately played out (or didn’t). (I’m neutral on this regarding today’s race.
    – Impressive to see on-track lead changes at the end — I think that’s what people will remember.

  3. Bruce B Says:

    Thanks for all the coverage Susan and George. I’m surprised you guys don’t do the victory banquet as well! After this much, what’s another few hundred dollars? : )

  4. Ron Ford Says:

    The last twenty laps had me on the edge of my seat, although I don’t understand why the pace car led a parade of cars for about ten laps before it went back to green. Randomly: I thought the NBC production was very good including their booth crew of Danica and Junior. A young girl and former winner of the “Voice” TV show Chevel Sheperd really nailed “America The Beautiful”. I also think the performance of the man who sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” was very good. Already, at other sites, folks are suggesting that Simon was blocking Rossi.
    Blocking, my a##. They don’t recognize good race craft when they see it. Did they expect Simon to just wave Rossi past and say: “Excuse me Alex, do you have any Grey Poupon?”.

    • Shyamc Cherupalla Says:

      Few things took the race away for Simon’s opponents like Ed Carpenter, Rossi, Power and possibly Dixon due to ille timed yellows when clearly Simon was getting less mileage and eventually would have played a part in the latter stages of race with Simon either needing an extra stop or conserve, power getting penalized for no reason and we eventually we were robbed off another at least three laps of green flag racing. Dont understand after the red flag they spent another 5 laps just going around and sending back markers to the back without concern for what that does to the race result

    • billytheskink Says:

      Pagenaud did block Rossi, quite deliberately. He made four significant lane changes on a single straightaway to keep Rossi behind him at least one of which was unquestionably reactive. That is blocking. I understand it, he’s racing for a win in the Indianapolis 500, but I find it very disappointing nevertheless.

      Pageanud is not at all an undeserving winner, he was as good as anyone all day and raced clean and clever holding off Rossi prior to that last lap, but if that last lap is officiated like the last lap at Long Beach he would have been penalized. In the interest of being consistent with recent officiating, he probably should have been penalized. In the interest of keeping the end of the race free from large scale controversy (and Roger Penske’s legal team), race control made the right call.

      • Ron Ford Says:

        A block is when you position your car with a rapid reactive maneuver to obstruct the line your opponent has committed too in his attempt to overtake. What Simon was doing was putting a wall of clean air in front of Rossi to break the draft. Rossi did not have the speed with his Honda to pass high on the outside, so Simon would move to the inside before Rossi could get there. Just smart racing. Go back and look at some Rick Mears footage.

        • billytheskink Says:

          That is exactly what Simon did on the front straight the last several laps, but that is not what I saw him do on the back straight on the final lap.

          Rahal was penalized for far less at Long Beach.

          • Ron Ford Says:

            Better/smarter driver than Rossi + better car = buttermilk in victory lane. No blocking necessary. No blocking observed.

  5. Don’t know about George but I didn’t care much for the delayed Victory Lane thing. Or the pouring milk on your head thing. Pag. sure seemed to be everywhere on the track, but I don’t know that it was penalty-worthy? Rossi just became my favorite driver, at least until he signs with Penske. And I know it’s part of the strategy, but I get weary of hearing about “fuel-saving,” couldn’t they just mandate a minimum number of pit stops or something? But the beginning part was good and the ending part was entertaining. Tired of Penske winning everything I guess and for sure I still think that nothing is guaranteed at Indy.

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