Above: Simon Pagenaud made two brilliant passes in the last five laps to win the Indycar Grand Prix. Photo: Kyle McInnes
This was supposed to be the year the streaks ended. The race would have its third winning driver, and his last name wouldn’t begin with P. A team other than Penske was supposed to celebrate in Victory Lane. It looked like the reign was over when Felix Rosenqvist won the pole and Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon grabbed the second spot on the grid. But in the end, a masterful drive by Simon Pagenaud kept the Indycar GP trophy with Team Penske. Pagenaud made two brilliant passes with five laps to go to win.
Pagenaud ended a 21 race winless streak. There were rumors about job security at Team Penske. He is now fourth in points. I wouldn’t overlook him when considering title contenders.
Dixon said after the race, “With 10 laps to go i knew i was in trouble. I had to stop the car to get it to turn.” Dixon has finished second three straight years at the Indycar Grand Prix. ” Simon was turning some amazing lap times,” Dixon added.
Pagenaud said that the tires of each podium car showed a different wear pattern. It was an indication of how varied car setups were for the race. Pagenaud’s team his upon the one that worked best in the wet.
Tire strategy looked like it would be what decided the outcome of the race when Josef Newgarden pitted during the first caution and was able to cycle to the lead. He may have had to gamble on whether an extra would have been necessary, but he hit a tire leaving the pits on lap 68 and going to the rear of the field for the restart ended his day. Newgarden finished 15th.
Tony Kanaan gambled on going to the rain tires early, but the move backfired when the rain came later than his team anticipated. Kanaan finished 20th.
Some Traditions End,Others Continue
For just the second time in the brief history of the Indycar Grand Prix, a Penske car was not on pole. Will Power qualified sixth fastest and dropped back all day, but he recovered to finish 7th.
The traditional first lap incident made its annual appearance. Pato O’Ward collided with Alexander Rossi. Rossi returned to the race four laps down and didn’t make up any ground all day.
The race still boasts just two winners, Pagenaud and Power. Team Penske has won five of the six Grand Prix.
Tough Day for Rookies
With Felix Rosenqvist on pole and Colton Herta staring fourth, it looked to be another great day for the rookies. It didn’t turn out that way. Rosenqvist lost the lead to his teammate Dixon on the first restart. Herta’s day ended when he got spun in turn 1 and then hit by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Herta has had a rough string last or near last place finishes since winning at COTA.
Rosenqvist faded. He left the pits with his car on fire from a spill. The flames extinguished as he exited the pits. He finished 8th. The only other rookie in the top 10 was Santino Ferrucci.
Pato O’Ward was involved in the Rossi incident and received a drive through penalty. the team had alternator all weekend. O’Ward made seven pit stops yesterday.
Dixon makes Up Ground in Championship
Scott Dixon is now within six points of Josef Newgarden for the series title. This puts Dixon ahead of where he was last year at this time. He didn’t lead a lap or win a race until June in 2018 and won the title by a healthy margin.
How odd to be five races into the season and not have seen Will Power win a race. I’m sure that will change soon.
Pagenaud is the season’ fifth different winner. Four different team have won the first five races. I believe the record is seven different winners in the first seven races of a season.
I hope Andretti Autosport comes out of the box strong for the 500 starting Tuesday. This was a completely forgettable weekend for the team. The highlight was Marco Andretti improving 10 spots in the race.
This was by far the best of the six Grand Prix races.
I don’t usually talk about drive of the day, but htree drivers deserve mention. I will go with hockey’s system of award the three stars of the race.
#3- Matheus Leist- started 21st, fished fourth. This is a huge boost for A. J. Foyt’s team.
#2- Jack Harvey- started and finished third. Harvey has been driving under the radar with two top tens and nearly a third. He has gotten to second round qualifying more than once. His move to grab second at the start was incredible. The most amazing thing is Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing are a part time team.
#1- Simon Pagenaud- started 8th, finished 1st. Just a great drive all day. When is the last time you someone make up six seconds in five laps?