INDIANAPOLIS – Simon Pagenaud survived a late-race duel with Alexander Rossi to win the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Pagenaud and Rossi were engaged in a late-race war, with the pair exchanging the lead half a five times in the last 13 laps before Pagenaud made the race-winning pass entering turn three with two laps left.
“It’s hard to believe right now, it’s been such an intense race,” said Pagenaud, who led a race-high 116 laps from the pole.
Rossi had just taken the lead from Pagenaud, who won the IndyCar Grand Prix earlier this month, on lap 178 when the final caution flag of the race waved for a crash involving Sebastian Bourdais, Graham Rahal, Zach Veach, Charlie Kimball and Felix Rosenqvist.
After a lengthy red flag period for cleanup the field returned to racing, with Pagenaud immediately taking the lead away from Rossi entering turn one. Rossi returned the favor one lap later, but Pagenaud took the lead back again entering turn one with 11 laps left.
Rossi stayed in line behind Pagenaud for the next several laps, shadowing the Frenchman around the 2.5-mile speedway as they battled for the lead.
With three laps left Rossi made his move, using a big run on the outside down the frontstretch to take the lead away from Pagenaud into turn one. Pagenaud tried to get a run on Rossi entering turn one with two laps left, but couldn’t get close enough to make the move stick.
Down the backstretch Pagenaud got a run on Rossi and quickly bolted to the outside, pulling clear of Rossi as they raced into turn three.
Rossi stayed right on Pagenaud’s rear wing on the final lap, but Pagenaud did everything he could to hold Rossi back. Down the backstretch he swerved back and fourth across the track, breaking the draft so Rossi couldn’t get a run on him into turn three.
Coming out of turn four Rossi wasn’t close enough to get a run on Pagenaud coming to the checkered flag, allowing the Frenchman to cross the finish line and win the Indianapolis 500 for the first time.
“This is a dream come true,” said Pagenaud, who delivered Roger Penske his 18th victory in the Indianapolis 500. “I’m just speechless. This is just incredible. I never expected to be in this position, but I certainly was trying to make it as hard as I could.”
Rossi, who won the 100th Indianapolis 500 as a rookie, settled for a frustrating second.
“They did a great job. Obviously he was on pole and led the most laps, but I think we had the superior car,” Rossi said. “Just didn’t quite have enough at the end.”
Takuma Sato, Josef Newgarden and defending race winner Will Power completed the top-five.
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