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PAGENAUD ENDS DROUGHT IN SOGGY INDYCAR GRAND PRIX

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INDIANAPOLIS – Simon Pagenaud overcame the elements and the competition to win the INDYCAR Grand Prix in thrilling fashion.

Pagenaud passed five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon for the lead on the next-to-last lap on a rain-soaked Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and pulled away to collect the 12th victory of his Indy car career and first in a 23-race span. Three of those wins have come in the INDYCAR Grand Prix.

“What a way to start May!” said Pagenaud, who won by 2.0469 seconds. “The car was fantastic; the car was awesome all day. We had something for everybody.”

Starting eighth in the 85-lap race that ran from start to finish in varying levels of rain, Pagenaud charged from sixth place in the final 18 laps in treacherous conditions to collect his first win since the 2017 season finale.

With all remaining running cars on rain tires for the final stint, Pagenaud passed Matheus Leist of AJ Foyt Racing for third place with 10 laps to go and Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey for second position five laps later. The 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion then set his sights on Dixon.

When Dixon, the reigning series champion, slid a little wide exiting Turn 7 on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn circuit, Pagenaud dove his No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet inside Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. The two cars made light side-to-side contact in the series of corners before Pagenaud exited Turn 9 in front.

“It was a matter of being in the right position,” Pagenaud said. “I pushed all race. When the rain came, I wasn’t sure it was going to work. Surprisingly, it was just the best out there. When Dixon was really struggling with his tires, you could see that.

“I was just braking as deep as I could to catch him. I wasn’t really planning on passing him there. He made a slight mistake.”

The win was No. 205 for Team Penske in its 51-year Indy car history. It was also the team’s 24th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that includes 17 in the Indianapolis 500, five in the INDYCAR Grand Prix and two in NASCAR competition. Pagenaud and teammate Will Power own every win in the INDYCAR Grand Prix’s six-year history, though Pagenaud’s first win in 2014 came with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Dixon finished second in the race for the third straight year. It was also the reigning champion’s 43rd career runner-up result, ranking second only to the 56 of Mario Andretti.

“It was tough,” Dixon said of the conditions beginning in a light rain that grew stronger as the day wore on. Despite the slick track, no team opted to change from Firestone’s dry-condition tires to the wets until past the halfway point.

“I knew kind of from the get-go that I was going to be struggling with the front end, and I don’t know why it was balanced that way, but it just felt like I needed about six turns of front wing,” added Dixon, who led a race-high 39 laps. “I thought we could maybe hold the gap (over Pagenaud), but the harder I pushed, the worse it got.

“All in all, a solid effort. It was a tricky race. It sucks to obviously lead that many laps and come up short, but again, congrats to Simon. He drove a hell of a race and it’s nice to see him back in victory lane.”

Harvey finished a career-best third in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda for the Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM team that’s scheduled to run 10 races this season as it builds toward a full-time NTT IndyCar Series program in the future.

“I will remember this day for a long time,” said Harvey, who reached the podium for the first time in his 14th series race. “It was just so awesome that we finally got this podium. I feel like we’ve been right on the edge of having something like this for a while.

“Great race today in the wet and the dry. Hopefully, it’s just the first of many for this Meyer Shank Racing team. … It’s such a great day for the whole team.”

Leist finished a career-best fourth in the No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Ed Carpenter Racing teammates Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot completed an impressive weekend by finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Power, the two-time defending race winner, placed seventh.

Points leader Josef Newgarden struggled to a 15th-place finish in the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Team Penske Chevrolet but retains the points lead by six over Dixon after five of 17 races.

NTT IndyCar Series teams are busy the next two days preparing superspeedway cars for the opening of Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge practice on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval on Tuesday. Qualifying for the 103rd running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” takes place May 18 and 19.

Live coverage of the Indy 500 begins at 11 a.m. ET Sunday, May 26 on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Power is the defending race champion.

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