Pagenaud wins wet-and-wild IndyCar Grand Prix

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Simon Pagenaud overcame the elements and the competition to win the IndyCar Grand Prix in thrilling fashion.

Pagenaud passed five-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon for the lead on the next-to-last lap on a rain-soaked Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and pulled away to collect the 12th victory of his Indy car career and first in a 23-race span. Three of those wins have come in the INDYCAR Grand Prix.

"What a way to start May!" said Pagenaud, who won by 2.0469 seconds. "The car was fantastic; the car was awesome all day. We had something for everybody."

Starting eighth in the 85-lap race that ran from start to finish in varying levels of rain, Pagenaud charged from sixth place in the final 18 laps in treacherous conditions to collect his first win since the 2017 season finale.

With all running cars on rain tires for the final stint, Pagenaud passed Matheus Leist of AJ Foyt Racing for third place with 10 laps to go and Meyer Shank Racing's Jack Harvey for second position five laps later. The 2016 IndyCar Series champion then set his sights on Dixon.

When Dixon, the reigning series champion, slid a little wide exiting Turn 7 on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn circuit, Pagenaud dove his No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet inside Dixon's No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. The two cars made light side-to-side contact in the series of corners before Pagenaud exited Turn 9 in front.

"It was a matter of being in the right position," Pagenaud said. "I pushed all race. When the rain came, I wasn't sure it was going to work. Surprisingly, it was just the best out there. When Dixon was really struggling with his tires, you could see that. 

"I was just braking as deep as I could to catch him. I wasn't really planning on passing him there. He made a slight mistake."

The win was No. 205 for Team Penske in its 51-year Indy car history. It was also the team's 24th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that includes 17 in the Indianapolis 500, five in the INDYCAR Grand Prix and two in NASCAR competition. Pagenaud and teammate Will Power own every win in the INDYCAR Grand Prix's six-year history, though Pagenaud's first win in 2014 came with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Dixon finished second in the race for the third straight year. It was also the reigning champion's 43rd career runner-up result, ranking second only to the 56 of Mario Andretti.

"It was tough," Dixon said of the conditions beginning in a light rain that grew stronger as the day wore on. Despite the slick track, no team opted to change from Firestone's dry-condition tires to the wets until past the halfway point. 

"I knew kind of from the get-go that I was going to be struggling with the front end, and I don't know why it was balanced that way, but it just felt like I needed about six turns of front wing," added Dixon, who led a race-high 39 laps. "I thought we could maybe hold the gap (over Pagenaud), but the harder I pushed, the worse it got. 

"All in all, a solid effort. It was a tricky race. It sucks to obviously 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."

Harvey finished a career-best third in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda for the Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM team that's scheduled to run 10 races this season as it builds toward a full-time NTT IndyCar Series program in the future.

"I will remember this day for a long time," said Harvey, who reached the podium for the first time in his 14th series race. "It was just so awesome that we finally got this podium. I feel like we've been right on the edge of having something like this for a while. 

"Great race today in the wet and the dry. Hopefully, it's just the first of many for this Meyer Shank Racing team. ... It's such a great day for the whole team."

Leist finished a career-best fourth in the No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Ed Carpenter Racing teammates Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot completed an impressive weekend by finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Power, the two-time defending race winner, placed seventh.

Points leader Josef Newgarden struggled to a 15th-place finish in the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Team Penske Chevrolet but retains the points lead by six over Dixon after five of 17 races.

IndyCar Series teams are busy the next two days preparing superspeedway cars for the opening of Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge practice on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval on Tuesday. Qualifying for the 103rd running of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" takes place May 18 and 19. 

IndyCar Grand Prix results

  1. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
  2. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
  3. (3) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running
  4. (21) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running
  5. (12) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 85, Running
  6. (5) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 85, Running
  7. (6) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
  8. (1) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 85, Running
  9. (7) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
  10. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 85, Running
  11. (10) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
  12. (20) Zach Veach, Honda, 85, Running
  13. (23) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
  14. (11) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
  15. (13) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
  16. (18) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
  17. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
  18. (22) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 85, Running
  19. (19) Patricio O'Ward, Chevrolet, 85, Running
  20. (24) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 83, Running
  21. (15) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 83, Running
  22. (17) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 81, Running
  23. (4) Colton Herta, Honda, 15, Contact
  24. (9) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 11, Contact

Race Statistics

Winner's average speed: 103.254 mph

Time of Race: 2:00:28.1166

Margin of victory: 2.0469 seconds

Cautions: 3 for 15 laps

Lead changes: 10 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Rosenqvist, Felix 1 - 15

Dixon, Scott 16 - 26

Rahal, Graham 27

Newgarden, Josef 28 - 39

Dixon, Scott 40 - 46

Rahal, Graham 47 - 49

Bourdais, Sebastien 50 - 51

Newgarden, Josef 52 - 59

Pagenaud, Simon 60 - 62

Dixon, Scott 63 - 83

Pagenaud, Simon 84 - 85

 IndyCar Series point standings: 

  1. Newgarden 182
  2. Dixon 176
  3. Rossi 146
  4. Pagenaud 138
  5. Sato 132
  6. Power 119
  7. Rahal 113
  8. Bourdais 111
  9. Hunter-Reay 109
  10. Hinchcliffe 107