Simon Pagenaud wins Indy 500 on Penske's golden anniversary

Simon Pagenaud, of France, crosses the start/finish line on the start of the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Rob Baker)
JENNA FRYER
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Simon Pagenaud may have saved his job by giving Roger Penske a golden Indianapolis 500 victory.

Pagenaud gave the venerable team owner his 18th victory in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" by outdueling Alexander Rossi in a breathtaking 13-lap sprint to the finish Sunday. The two swapped the lead five times over the final stretch before Pagenaud stormed to the front for good seconds before he took the white flag.

Rossi chased him for the final lap around Indianapolis Motor Speedway but fell 0.2086 seconds shy of his second Indy 500 win — the seventh-closest finish in the 103 years of the race.

Instead, it was a milk-fueled celebration for Team Penske on the 50th anniversary of the owner's first entry in the famous race.


Penske now has two consecutive Indy 500 victories — Will Power won last year — and two consecutives sweeps at the speedway in May. Pagenaud, in a contract year and underperforming, arrived at Indy with his job on the line. His rumored replacement is Rossi, but Pagenaud won on the road course two weeks ago, won the pole to start the Indy 500 and now has given his boss a victory in the only race Penske truly cares about.

"What a guy, can you believe it?" Penske said. "He won that thing, I just can't believe it."

Neither could Rossi, who lost his cool several times in the race but twice charged to the front and had better fuel mileage than Pagenaud and the Penske cars.

"Horsepower, that's unfortunate the way it is," said Rossi, who was in a Honda for Andretti Autosport. "I think we had the superior car, we just didn't have enough there at the end."

Pagenaud was in a Chevrolet and the bowtie brand was the dominant engine maker all May.


He climbed from his car, let out a primal scream of relief, then dumped the entire winning jug of milk over his head.

Simon Pagenaud rolls into Victory Circle after his win. (WTHR/Scott Hums)
Simon Pagenaud can't believe he wont the 103rd running of the Indy 500. (WTHR/Scott Hums)
Simon Pagenaud celebrates winning the Indianapolis 500. (WTHR staff)
Simon Pagenaud's crew celebrates the Indianapolis 500 win. (WTHR staff)
Simon Pagenaud's crew celebrates the Indianapolis 500 win. (WTHR staff)
Simon Pagenaud's crew celebrates the Indianapolis 500 win. (WTHR staff)
Simon Pagenaud's crew celebrates the Indianapolis 500 win. (WTHR staff)
Pagenaud's team running to join him at the Yard of Bricks. (WTHR Staff)
Simon Pagenaud's mother running to join him at the Yard of Bricks. (WTHR Staff)
Simon Pagenaud kisses his fiancee after winning the race. (WTHR/Scott Hums)
Pagenaud's fiancé is emotional after his win. (WTHR Staff)
Simon Pagenaud wins the 103rd of the Indianapolis 500. (WTHR/Scott Hums)
Helio congratulates Simon on his win. (WTHR/Scott Hums)
Pagenaud drinking the milk. (BSU / Stephanie Amadour)
Simon after he pours milk over his head. (WTHR/Scott Hums)
Simon Pagenaud celebrates his Indianapolis 500 win with Dave Calabro. (WTHR staff)
Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Dave Calabro talk about Simon's win. (WTHR/Scott Hums)
Helio Castroneves hugs Simon after his Indy 500 win. (WTHR/Scott Hums)
Helio Castroneves congratulates Simon Pagenaud. (WTHR/Scott Hums)
Pagenaud about to begin his victory lap. (WTHR Staff)
Simon Pagenaud and his fiance take a victory lap in a pace car with Dave Calabro. (WTHR staff)
Pagenaud celebrating with fans during his victory lap. (WTHR Staff)
Simon Pagenaud looking at his team in disbelief after his victory lap. (WTHR Staff)
Roger Penske won his 18th Indianapolis 500 Sunday. (WTHR staff)
Simon Pagenaud and Roger Penske hug after his win. (WTHR Staff)
Simon Pagenaud kisses the bricks with team sponsor John Menard. (WTHR staff)
Simon Pagenaud celebrates his Indy 500 win with team sponsor John Menard. (WTHR staff)
Simon Pagenaud and team kissing the bricks. (WTHR Staff)
Pagenaud and team Penske kissing the bricks. (WTHR Staff)
Simon Pagenaud and his fiancé kissing the Yard of Bricks. (WTHR Staff)
Pagenaud celebrating at the Yard of Bricks. (WTHR Staff)
Pagenaud celebrating with fans after his victory lap. (WTHR Staff)
Simon Pagenaud celebrating at the Yard of Bricks. (WTHR Staff)
Pagenaud giving the cameras a fist pump. (WTHR Staff)
Simon Pagenaud kissing the Yard of Bricks. (WTHR Staff)
Simon Pagenaud leaving the Yard of Bricks. (WTHR Staff)
The 500 Festival princesses watch over the celebration at Victory Circle. (WTHR staff)
Simon Pagenaud and his ring. (WTHR Staff)

To see photos of Simon Pagenaud's victory, click here.

"We've come through a life of trying to achieve this and I am just speechless," Pagenaud said. "I never expected to be in this position and I certainly am grateful."

Asked if he was on a mission — Pagenaud led a race-high 116 of the 200 laps — to save his job, Pagenaud dismissed the pressure of free agency.

"The milk motivated me," Pagenaud said. "Just focus on the job, man."

Pagenaud is the first Frenchman to win the Indy 500 since Rene Thomas in 1914. Indianapolis records count five French winners, but Gil de Ferran in 2003 and Gaston Chevrolet in 1920, while born in France, list other nationalities.

Pagenaud was the 21st driver to win from the pole and first since Helio Castroneves a decade ago.

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