If you didn’t like the 103rd Indianapolis 500 that’s on you. Sunday’s race was potentially one of the most complete races we’ve ever seen at the speedway. Fantastic racing for nearly all 200 laps, guys fighting to keep their dreams alive, tempers flaring, a 12 lap shootout and a first-time winner.
Seriously, what’s not to like about that?
Simon Pagenaud stopped his #22 Menard’s car on the yard of bricks Sunday afternoon flabbergasted that he just swept the entire month of May at the speedway. Indy GP, check. Indianapolis 500 pole, check. Winning the Borg-Warner Trophy, check. We’ve never seen a driver do that and here we are looking at Simon Pagenaud as the first to do it. A guy literally fighting for his job, a guy who has heard the rumors of Alexander Rossi replacing him in 2020 went out and won everything you could at the sports most storied track. And he held off Rossi to do it on Sunday.
IndyCar fans were spoiled from 2012-2017 with the DW12 and the body kits that came along with it. In that span of time we saw record number of passes, battles for the lead on the last lap, surprise winners, first time winners. It was absolute insanity and we loved every minute of it. When the universal aero kit debuted last year fans were treated to a rather tame version of the 500. Thanks to high temperatures, a slick track, and it being really hard to pass a number of fans moaned about the lack of action.
2019: The Return
IndyCar listened to the fans and they made some tweaks to the cars. Wickers were added and suddenly passing became possible and Sunday’s race delivered when IndyCar needed it to the most.
Pagenaud led 122 of the 200 laps, that looks bad. However 10 cars led on Sunday for 29 lead changes. You can’t hate those numbers. Pagenaud had the most dominant car of the day, certainly the fastest car down the straights. An argument could be made for Rossi have the best driving car all day. Team Penske used their Chevy horsepower advantage to well, their advantage.
A 12 lap shootout Sunday after a multi-car wreck at the north end of the speedway set up one of the best battles we’ve seen in years. The Pagenaud v. Rossi bottle felt just like Ryan Hunter-Reay v. Helio or Takuma v. Helio or Montoya v. Power. This year we were treated to another battle between guys literally giving it their all.
Rossi made all of his passes against the inside wall on the front stretch and against the grass on the back stretch. Pagenaud and team realized that and took his line away. So with 3 laps to go Rossi went around the outside into Turn 1 but couldn’t drive away. The Chevy horsepower advantage reeled the #27 back in and Pagenaud regained the lead on the last lap. Rossi didn’t have enough time to use the slip stream to pull the #22 back and Pagenaud sailed to victory.
How you could watch the last 12 races and not be entertained is beside us. Rossi overcame a fueling malfunction and Team Penske trying to destroy his strategy. The rather mild mannered Californian was beating on his streering wheel and screaming on the radio. When lapper Oriol Servia took Rossi to the inside wall twice as the 2016 winner was attempting to catch back up to Pagenaud he stuck his entire arm out of the cockpit to display his displeasure.
Five cars that started outside of the Top-10 finished inside the Top-10 and that’s a sign of a good race. Qualifying for the 500 is important and everyone put a ton of weight on it in 2019 after the processional affair in 2018. This year proved passing was possible and the series knows what improvements they could make.
Great race, great battles, emotion, story lines, and everyone came home safe. Well hopefully, Zach Veach will be ok for Detroit.
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