NTT IndyCar Series drove the fifth round of the season in Indianapolis, but not the legendary 500 miles race. Instead it was IndyCar Grand Prix which was run on nearly the same version as the track Formula 1 used for twelve years ago.
Felix Rosenqvist had taken his first første Pole Position in Indycar, while his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon started from P2. There were several new faces at the top of the field, with Jack Harvey starting from third position, in front of Colton Herta, Ed Jones, Will Power, Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud.
Championship leader Josef Newgarden would start all the way back from P13, while his first contender before the race, Alexander Rossi started from P18.
Helio Castroneves was back in the field, as a warm-up to the Indy 500 race later in the month, just as he did in 2018. Team Penske used IndyCar Grand Prix to get the last procedures and mechanics settled.
There were, however, rain clouds on the way towards Indianapolis, so all the drivers and teams had an extra factor they would have to include in the strategy.
The start was a chaos, whore Harvey went past Dixon straight away, on the way into Turn 1.
Further down the field, Alexander Rossi collided with Patricio O’Ward, which broke Rossi’s rear suspension. O’Ward got a drive through for the contact.
Zach Veach also got a little push from Tony Kanaan in Turn 1, so he had to run over the gravel before going back to the track.
Graham Rahal went past Will Power in the battle for P6.
The first raindrops began to fall after the start, but weren’t enough to give the drivers trouble on the track – maybe only mentally, since you never know if it rains harder in the next corner.
The first Full Course Caution of the day came when Marcus Ericsson spun in the last corner and hit the wall. He should’ve had help to get the car started again, but the mechanics in the pits could see that the rear suspension was damaged, when he drove the car back to the pits.
When the race got restarted, there was panic in Turn 1 when Scott Dixon did a big jump and not only went past Jack Harvey but also on the way to pass Rosenqvist. The Swede tried to brake as late as he could and instead got his wheel locked, and came too wide around the corner, so Dixon could get past. Behind him, Colton Herta was about to drive into the back of Harvey’s car and in the attempt to avoid it, Herta spun himself around. It caused more chaos at the back, where James Hinchcliffe spun Ryan Hunter-Reay around when he braked way too late and came with locked wheel, just next to poor Hunter-Reay. Wasn’t surprising Hinch got a Drive-through.
It triggered another Full Course Caution, so they could get both Herta’s and Hunter-Reay’s cars started again.
The rain slowly became heavier, so it was an exciting restart, where Ed Jones came up to second place by overtaking both Rosenqvist and Harvey. Rosenqvist was the big loser and fell back to P4.
Santino Ferrucci put pressure on Will Power, but he got instead overtaken by Helio Castroneves, in the fight for 10th to 12th positions. Ferrucci went past one lap later.
Takuma Sato also braked too late in Turn 1 and had a wild ride over the grass, but he came back on the other side.
Power’s detour continued, and shortly afterwards Zach Veach and Josef Newgarden were right behind him.
The teams began with the first obligatory pitstop after 25 laps, and even though there were more and more drops in the air, they set another slicks on the cars, since there was no moisture enough on the track for wet tires. Both Jones and Harvey were some of the first to pit, soon followed by the rest of the field.
The fast pitwork from Chip Ganassi Racing put Rosenqvist in between Jones and Harvey, but Harvey had warmer tires and went past a few laps later.
Graham Rahal had a little tour over the grass at the end of the back straight, when he got his right tires out on the curb under braking. It cost him a position to Sebastien Bourdais.
Newgarden, O’Ward and Max Chilton were the three drivers who had pitted under the first Full Course Caution, so they were leading after 30 laps of the race.
They started to pit 37 laps into the race, Chilton first followed by O’Ward one lap later, while Newgarden stayed out for a couple of extra laps.
Spencer Pigot dived very late on Rosenqvist at the end of the back straight, so the Swede had to avoid him and as a result losing not only the position to Pigot, but also Pagenaud.
Dixon was still the real leader of the race, ahead of Ed Jones and Jack Harvey.
Rosenqvist had a little hot second pitstop, where some extra fuel dripped from the fuel hose, and it got ignited just as he left the pits. It got blown over after a few metres so it didn’t give him any problem.
Dixon had earlier in the race a 7-second lead, but Harvey closed in the gap and the defending champion was under pressure. Both drivers, as well as Pagenaud right behind in P3, pitted at the same time. Team Penske got Pagenaud out in front of Harvey, while Chilton was right behind Harvey – the four drivers were only two seconds from each other.
55 laps into the race, it started to rain heavier. Tony Kanaan was the first to change to wet tires, since he got nothing to lose. Kanaan was much slower than the drivers on slicks, so the gamble didn’t seem to work.
Castroneves was the next person to pit for the wets – but the experienced Brazilian spun in Turn 2 and got stuck in the grass when he was about to get going again.
It caused the majority of the teams to pit for the last time, but it was a mix of slicks and wet tires that the teams chose to put on.
Rosenqvist was on fire once again, when the fuel hose didn’t close. After a round of fire extinguisher, he was sent back out.
The second half of the field came in to pit, while the SC was still on the track. And the usually perfect Team Penske mechanics made a mistake on Newgarden’s car and lost one of the tires, that rolled down the pitlane. But luckily it didn’t hit any car. Newgarden got sent back as the last person on the lead lap, as the penalty for the escaping wheel.
The rain only got worse, so all the drivers who opted for slicks had chosen wrong.
At the restart, the position order was Dixon, Harvey, Pigot and Leist.
The race got restarted with an attacking Leist, who was quickly up to P3.
Pagenaud was also on the move and was up to P4, with his eyes strictly set on top 3.
Dixon used the free air in front and had almost four seconds to the drivers behind him.
Eleven laps before the end, Pagenaud outbraked himself from the outside of Leist in Turn 1. And then the next target was Harvey, since Dixon was way ahead. Just one and a half laps later, the Frenchman was right behind the Brit and put him under pressure.
The two Dale Coyne Racing drivers Bourdais and Ferrucci brushed each other in Turn 1, but both could continue.
Pagenaud overtook Harvey with six laps left, and had a bit over five seconds gap to Dixon. The distance got reduced metre by metre, where Pagenaud gained two seconds per lap on him. Three laps before the chequered flag, he was less than a second from the New Zealander.
But Pagenaud ran out of Push2Pass, while Dixon still had about half a minute left. It would still be three long laps for him.
One and a half laps before finish, Pagenaud succeeded to get past Dixon from the outside, with no chance for Dixon to defend himself.
Simon Pagenaud won his third IndyCar Grand Prix in Indianapolis, which was also his first victory since the season finale in 2017.
Scott Dixon ended up in P2, while Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing finish at the podium for the first time in IndyCar.
Matheus Leist drove A. J. Foyt Enterprises #4 to an impressive fourth place, while Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones were the last drivers in top 6.
Despite finishing in P15, Josef Newgarden is still leading the championship, with six points to Scott Dixon, followed by Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato and Will Power respectively.
The next race will be their biggest race of the year – Indianapolis 500. The practice was already run on Tuesday 14 May, with practices, qualifying and more practices, while the 103rd edition of the legendary race will be run on Sunday 26 May.