Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won this year’s Indy 500, getting to kiss the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The neck-and-neck race left fans closely watching to the very end. Coming down to the last two laps, Pagenaud took and held the lead. He says the feeling after winning his first Indy 500 is amazing.
“Another dream come true; and the biggest dream of my life come true,” says Pagenaud. "So it’s hard to fathom really. It’s really hard to process it right now. But I’m just filled with a lot of joy.”
Pagenaud also won the IndyCar Grand Prix race earlier this month at the Speedway, the second driver to ever win both in the same year. Driver and Penske teammate Will Power was the first to do so last year.
This is the first time in over a century that a Frenchman has won the Indy 500. Rene Thomas won the race in 1914. Pagenaud says the win comes at a time when his country has faced some hardship.
“The burning of Notre Dame was a catastrophe,” he says. “It’s good for the country to just be able to give back, give some smiles and make people happy. So sports, that’s what sports is all about.”
Unlike other IndyCar drivers, Pagenaud does not come from a racing family and says he feels there’s some benefit to that.
“It’s been tough to get to the top level of racing, especially when you come from a non-racing family. You know I had nobody in racing, I had to learn all on my own,” says Pagenaud. “But actually I think it’s an advantage because I had no choice, it was either I was going to have to work or I was done.”
This is Team Penske’s third Indy 500 win in five years and 18th overall in the teams 50 years of competing in the oval race. Team owner Roger Penske says he’s proud of Pagenaud and what his drivers and crew members have been able to accomplish.
“Look this success here is amazing, but you can’t do it without the best people,” says Penske. “And again year after year, and I said it here a couple of weeks ago, that we had over 700 years of experience in our pit this weekend and this month. So that’s what makes the difference.”
President Donald Trump tweeted congratulating Penske and his team on the win and inviting them to the White House.
“I got a call from the president as we were in the winners circle,” says Penske. “He said, ‘I must have been your good luck charm.’ He was in Japan and Simon got a chance to talk to him.”
Pagenaud says he’s honored to have brought another Team Penske to victory lane again and a give car sponsor John Menard Jr., founder and owner of the Menards home improvement stores, his first win he’s been trying to get for 40 years.
“Bringing another win to Roger is very special. You want to see him happy like that. He gives us so much, he treats us like his children,” says Pagenaud. “And John Menard has been trying so hard. I felt so bad that we didn’t get one for him already. So finally getting him one for him is very special.”
For second-place finisher Alex Rossi, heartbreak and disappointment were left for the him after coming just short of winning. It wasn’t the race ending he wanted, but Rossi says he left it all on the track.
Having some issues during the race getting fuel in the car’s tank during one of his pitstops, Rossi was able to make up the lost time and came just short of winning despite a prolonged pit stop where his crew had trouble getting gas in his tank.
Rossi won the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” three years ago on the race’s 100th anniversary and says he wants another win.
“But as I’ve said leading up to this many times, once you one this once, the desire to win just ramps up exponentially every year,” says Rossi. “So it just sucks to come this close and really have nothing that we as a team could have done differently.”
Takuma Sato placed third and 20-year-old Santino Ferrucci was awarded Rookie of the Year after placing seventh in his first Indy 500 race.
About 300,000 spectators attended this year’s race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.