Simon Pagenaud and the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet earned Roger Penske his 18th Borg Warner Trophy on Sunday afternoon, winning the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a stirring late-race battle with Alexander Rossi. Pagenaud started the event from the pole – the 18th pole for Team Penske in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – and led the first 32 laps as the field got single file and he hit pit road for the first time. He radioed of just a bit of understeer during the first stint.
The French driver regained the top spot on lap 42 after the first round of pit stops cycled through. Race strategist Kyle Moyer coached Pagenaud on saving fuel while maintaining a comfortable gap on second-place and teammate Will Power. The team made a slight front wing adjustment on the second stop of the day. Eventually, Pagenaud cycled back to the lead as the second caution of the day flew around lap 72. He came back to the pits, once again giving up the lead, on lap 99 while making another front wing adjustment.
The Menards Chevrolet continued to burn a little more fuel while running in the lead, forcing Pagenaud and Moyer to continually communicate the best way to effectively save fuel and also keep the top spot. During a number of green flag pit stops, Pagenaud continually cycled back to the lead, but had to continue to save fuel while his closest competitors were able to run harder. A caution with just over 50 laps to go finally allowed the team to save some fuel.
Pagenaud lost the lead via an on track pass for the first time on lap 151. But running second behind teammate Josef Newgarden allowed Pagenaud to save more fuel. He made his final pit stop with 30 laps to go.
Fortunately, two late caution flags, including a 20-minute red flag for a multi-car accident, finally allowed Pagenaud to be good on fuel, setting up a shootout with 13 laps to go.
The final stint produced a stirring battle as Pagenaud and Rossi swapped the lead four times. In the end, Pagenaud made the winning pass going into turn three while coming to the white flag. He was able to hold on and collect the victory, his first in the Indianapolis 500.
“It’s amazing. It’s another dream come true, and the biggest dream of my life come true. It’s hard to fathom really. It’s really hard to process it right now, but I’m just filled with a lot of joy. I drove really spirited today, but it’s just incredible. I can’t take all the credit because I think I definitely — and I think it showed I had the best car out there. What a day. Wow, incredible. Well, I want many Indy 500s and more championships. You know, my goal, I’m already leading the championship this year, so it’s fantastic. I told Ben Bretzman before the month, knowing our momentum, I said, we can win the next two and be in the championship, and it happened.”