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Pagenaud Uses Stunning Late Charge To Win Dry-Wet INDYCAR Grand Prix Thriller

Simon Pagenaud delivered a clutch victory Saturday in the INDYCAR Grand Prix, ending a 22-race NTT IndyCar Series drought by passing Scott Dixon with less than two laps to go after a stirring charge in the rain during the closing laps.

Pagenaud, from Montmorillon, France, beat Dixon to the checkered flag by 2.0469 seconds in the 85-lap race on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was his first victory in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet since the 2017 season finale at Sonoma Raceway.

“I answered it,” Pagenaud said about increasing questions about his winless spell. “I know what I’m worth. I’ve got to get everything right, and we did that this weekend.

“Slowly and surely, we got there. The stars just didn’t align before. But the performance has always been there this year. The team has been fantastic at giving me what I need, so here we are.”

This was the fifth victory in six INDYCAR Grands Prix for Team Penske and the fifth in a row.

Jack Harvey finished a career-best third in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda in a race that started on a dry track and ended in showers. Matheus Leist also finished a career-best fourth in the No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet.

Spencer Pigot rounded out the top five in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist finished eighth in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Dixon led Harvey by 5.5257 seconds with 10 laps remaining, with Pagenaud running third, 6.0122 seconds behind the leader.

Pagenaud passed Harvey for second in Turn 1 with five laps remaining, trailing Dixon by 3.9666 seconds as the rain intensified.

The gap evaporated to 1.8388 seconds just one lap later. With three laps left, Pagenaud closed to within .5404 of a second and drove into the rooster tail of spray from Dixon’s car. 

Pagenaud closed the gap to .5167 of a second with two laps to go. On Lap 84, Dixon ran slightly wide in Turn 7 in his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and Pagenaud dove under him in a bid for the lead. The cars made light contact, and Pagenaud drove past Dixon for the lead in Turn 9.

2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion Pagenaud led just five laps, the fewest by a winner in this event’s history. But he was up front when it counted.

“I knew from the get-go that we would be struggling with the front end, and I don’t know why it was balanced that way,” Dixon said. “It felt like we needed about six turns of front wing. I thought maybe we could hold the gap. But the harder I pushed, the worse it got and just blitzed the front tires off the car.

“But all in all, it was a solid effort. It was a tricky race. It sucks to lead that many laps and come up short, but again, congrats to Simon. He drove a hell of a race, and it’s nice to see him back in victory lane.”

Dixon finished runner-up in this event for the third consecutive year. He led a race-high 39 laps, the most by a non-winner in INDYCAR Grand Prix history.

The thrilling race in changing weather conditions jumbled the series championship standings. Josef Newgarden’s 28-point lead over Alexander Rossi entering this race dwindled to just six points over Dixon. Newgarden finished 15th in the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Team Penske Chevrolet after a drive-through penalty when a tire rolled out of his pit box during a Lap 63 stop.

Rossi finished 22nd in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, four laps down. Rossi was hit from behind at the start by Patricio O’Ward, forcing the Andretti Autosport team to make a lengthy suspension repair. Rossi fell to third in points, 36 behind Newgarden.

Pagenaud jumped from 11th to fourth with the victory, 44 points behind teammate Newgarden.

“What a way to start May,” Pagenaud said. “The car was fantastic. The car was awesome all day. We had something for everybody.”

The next NTT IndyCar Series race is the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 26. Practice starts Tuesday, with Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19.

Earlier Saturday, the second race of the weekend took place in all three Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires series.

Rinus VeeKay earned his second Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory of the season. VeeKay, from The Netherlands, started from the pole, led all 35 laps and beat Zachary Claman to the checkered flag by 6.8849 seconds. Oliver Askew finished third.

VeeKay took the championship lead by one point over Askew with the victory. VeeKay’s drive to the top of the standings came after a first-lap joust with Friday winner Robert Megennis.

The two drivers were side by side entering Turn 7, with VeeKay on the inside and Megennis on the outside. Megennis drove into the grass to drop to seven, eventually rallying to finish fourth. It was smooth sailing from there for VeeKay.

“It was a great race,” VeeKay said. “I had a good start. I had a little meddle with Robert Megennis. Then we got a little bit of a gap. I just had my own race – being consistent. I even did my best race lap on the last lap. The pace was really good.

“It’s really good going into the Freedom 100 with the points lead. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Rasmus Lindh completed a sweep of the Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires races. Pole sitter Lindh beat Sting Ray Robb to the finish by 2.0669 seconds, a joyride compared to his .8797 of a second margin of victory Friday. Danial Frost finished third for the second straight day.

Swedish driver Lindh led all 25 laps for the second consecutive day to earn his second win of the season.

“Today everything was perfect,” Lindh said. “We changed a little bit in the car for today, and there was a big improvement. I could be on the same time every lap. I’m so happy. I have two wins in the Road to Indy. We want to continue this way for the whole season.”

Braden Eves continued his perfect record in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship with his fourth victory of the season. Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, beat runner-up Darren Keane by .5455 of a second in the second consecutive tight finish for the series at this event. Eves won Friday by .2998 of a second over Hunter McElrea, who finished third today.

Eves started from pole and led all 20 laps despite three caution periods.

“Four-for-four; it feels great,” Eves said. “That one was definitely not as intense as the one yesterday. It was more out front, but the cautions kept them in contention. I couldn’t make mistakes at the restarts or else they would’ve been right on top of me. I managed to do that. Two wins, two qualifying poles in one weekend – it couldn’t go any better than that.”

The next race for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is Friday, May 24 in the Freedom 100 on Miller Lite Carb Day. The Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship next compete Saturday, May 25 in their respective first oval event of the season, at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

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