It was as if a switch was flipped, and Pagenaud went from midpack driver to world-beater.
“It’s an easy answer,” Moyer said. “He’s (Penske) on your back looking at you and you’re on this team for a reason — and that is to win. Team Penske has always been winners, that’s why I came here. That’s why Simon is here. That’s why all of our drivers, everybody that works here is for a reason, and that is to win, because that’s our brand we’re putting out there, you know. Penske, Team Penske, all of them are winners. You’re expected to win.
“So when you’re not, you’ve got to figure out a way to do it,” Moyer continued. “Simon has done that. I think in this month he’s actually forced it on you to show you that he can win. Like I told you a month ago, I said, if he wins one, there’s no reason he can’t win five in a row because he’s that type of driver — once he gets the confidence built, the GP really gave him confidence, and then the pole did, and so now you’ve got the race.”
Penske was proud of Pagenaud’s effort.
“Simon wasn’t going to be beat today,” Penske said. “He raced clean and that’s what I have to say about Rossi, also, the two of them for the laps that they ran side by side was as good a racing as you’ve ever seen here.”
It was an epic ending to a fantastic Month of May.
Takuma Sato, the 2017 Indy 500 winner, charged from a lap down to finish third, while Pagenaud’s Team Penske teammates, Josef Newgarden and Power, completed the top five.
One driver not in the field of 33 was two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren. The McLaren Indy car operation was completely disorganized, and its European-based crew was completely unprepared for the rigors of the Indy 500.
It was like covering the sinking of the Titanic.
When Kyle Kaiser on Ricardo Juncos’ small-buck team knocked Alonso out of the race, it gave further evidence to the mystique of what it takes to simply make the 33-car starting lineup.
Meanwhile, Pagenaud became the first driver from France to win the Indianapolis 500 since Rene Thomas in 1914.
“I think it’s fate, quite frankly,” Pagenaud said. “Obviously, in racing you need a little bit of luck on your side. You need everything to go your way, so it did today. I could do nothing wrong, quite frankly. Sometimes I can’t do anything right.
“That doesn’t mean I lost my talent, that doesn’t mean my team is not doing a good job,” Pagenaud added. “It’s just you have to accept that there’s a little bit of mystery out there that you can’t control. All you can do is the best you can and extract the best out of yourself in every situation.
“The rest, it sorts itself out.”