Simon Pagenaud and the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet team drove a nearly flawless race in tough, rainy conditions on Saturday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and chased down leader Scott Dixon from nearly six-seconds back to take the lead with just two laps to go and win the INDYCAR Grand Prix for the third time in his career.
As the race went green, Pagenaud held serve from his eighth-place starting spot while avoiding contact from several other drivers who got together in the tight turn one area. Early in the race, light sprinkles began to fall as the threat of rain increased and Pagenaud found himself in sixth following two great restarts in the first 20 laps of the 85-lap race.
Pagenaud ran a near perfect first half of the race and drove all the way to third, avoiding the issues that plagued many of the other competitors. He continued to work the same pit strategy as race leader Scott Dixon all day and found himself right behind the defending series champion following his second stop.
The rain continued to pick up, but it didn’t slow the French driver. He hounded Dixon on the track while waiting for those ahead of him pit off sequence.
A yellow for the stalled car of Helio Castroneves allowed Pagenaud to take the lead as others dipped into the pits for rain tires. The Menards driver elected to stay out on slicks while the rain varied. Unfortunately, the rain continued to pick up and the track became very wet, forcing Pagenaud down pit road during the caution, which lost all the track position he’d gained throughout the day. He fell to sixth for the restart.
However, Pagenaud wasted little time navigating the rain and the wet track, getting to second with just five laps to go and setting his sights on Dixon, who was in the lead by nearly seven seconds. Pagenaud was able to turn laps one- to two-seconds faster than Dixon and caught the multi-time series champion with less than two laps to go. Pagenaud made a daring pass in the back half of the track and took the lead coming to the white.
Pagenaud pulled away to earn his first victory of the season and the third at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. It was his 12th-career IndyCar Series victory. The win vaulted the French driver to fourth in the INDYCAR point standings, just 44 points behind teammate Josef Newgarden.
“Oh, yeah, it was. It was amazing the whole race. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I thought everyone was saving fuel; I was just so fast. Chevy did a fantastic job giving us the horsepower. Third time – I’m equal with Will (Power). That’s awesome; we kept it in the Penske family. I can’t believe it; it’s awesome. What a race! I want to thank Team Penske, everybody who supports me, obviously. This is the sweetest win I’ve ever had, I guess. I just have to get everything right. We did that this weekend, slowly and surely. The starts just didn’t align. The performance has always been there this year. The team has been fantastic giving me what I need, so here we are.”