By: Spencer Neff
The month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is here, which means the biggest action of the year for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES on Saturday. The 85-lap GMR Grand Prix on the 2.438-mile, 14-turn road course will set the stage on Saturday in Speedway, Indiana.
Before the weekend’s on-track sessions begin, we’ll look back at the 2019 INDYCAR Grand Prix.
Pagenaud snaps winless streak in spectacular fashion
In the five previous iterations, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ IndyCar Grand Prix had become another Penske-dominated event at IMS. After Simon Pagenaud won the inaugural race in 2014, Team Penske’s drivers won the next four runnings, including Pagenaud in 2016.
Teammate Will Power, who became the first driver to win the Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year in 2018, looked for his third consecutive Grand Prix win. No driver has won three consecutive INDYCAR races at IMS.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s rookie Felix Rosenqvist earned his first career pole with a lap of 1m08.2785 (128.597 mph). Teammate Scott Dixon joined him on the front row, making it a CGR 1-2. On the start, Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey slipped by Dixon as Rosenqvist led the way.
On Lap 11, Schmidt Petersen Motorsports’ rookie Marcus Ericsson spun and crashed into the Turn 14 wall, prompting the first caution of the afternoon. Ericsson’s first race at IMS ended there. On the Lap 16 restart, Dixon was able to outfox Harvey and Rosenqvist for the lead of the race.
Further back, a multi-car collision resulting in stalled cars for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Colton Herta meant the second caution. After opening-lap contact for teammate Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport’s weekend incurred more disappointment. Lap 20 would are Ed Jones and Harvey sweep by Rosenqvist.
After pitting on Lap 27, Dixon would not lead again until Lap 40 as rain continued to drip on track. During the next cycle of pit stops, Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden were able to use strategy to find their way back up front on the final cycle of pit stops.
By Lap 63, Dixon would retake the lead. With a rain-soaked track continuing to play a factor, Pagenaud made his way to the front.
With two laps to go, he made a thrilling pass on Dixon in Turn 7 with two laps to go. The Montmorillon, France native earned his first victory since the 2017 finale in Sonoma and his third on the Road Course. After dominating most of the day, Dixon finished 2.047 seconds back, with Harvey earns ng his first podium in third.
A third win at the Grand Prix gave Pagenaud a boost of momentum that carried over to the “500”. He won his first career “500” pole eight days after and on May 26, out-dueled Rossi to win his first Indianapolis 5oo.
Since then, Pagenaud’s Car Owner would go on to purchase the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the INDYCAR SERIES in November 0f 2019.
Since then, “The Captain” has seen his organization win three times at IMS, sweeping the Harvest Grand Prix weekend in 2020 with Newgarden and Power.
In August of 2021, Power earned his fifth win on the IMS Road Course. Since then, Penske has not won on the road course or the oval.
In his first year, with Meyer Shank Racing, Pagenaud completed a 20th to second drive for last year’s Grand Prix.
Rosenqvist earned his first victory at Road America Race 2 in 2020 and starts on the pole for the last race on the IMS Road Course. His best finish at the venue has been fifth (Harvest Grand Prix-Race 2) but he has never finished worse than 15th in eight career appearances.
Header Image By James Black/INDYCAR