Indinapolis: Simon Pagenaud steered clear of trouble on the track and in the pits, then out-duelled Alexander Rossi in a final lap shoot-out to win the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and give team owner Roger Penske a second consecutive victory in the “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
The win might have saved the charismatic Frenchman’s job with rumours circulating up and down pit lane that Pagenaud’s seat with powerhouse Team Penske was in jeopardy.
It would be hard, however, to find any fault in Pagenaud’s performance in the month of May as the 35-year-old son of a grocery shop owner from Montmorillon recorded the Brickyard double following his victory at the Indianapolis Grand Prix two weeks earlier.
“What do you think? Absolutely,” said Penske, when asked if Pagenaud would be back. “He’s on our team. He’s one of our drivers.
“That was scuttlebutt.”
US President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations to the Frenchman and Penske, inviting them and the team to the White House.
“I got a call from the President as we were in the winner’s circle and he congratulated me, he said, ‘I must have been your good-luck charm’,” smiled Penske, who increased his record total of Indy 500 wins to 18.
An exasperated Rossi was left pounding his steering wheel as his pit crew wrestled to engage an uncooperative fuel hose that dropped him from first to 12th, then vented his anger on Oriol Servia, shaking his fist at the Spaniard as they raced down the front straight at 230km/h when he would not give way despite being a lap down.
“When you come here four times and three of the times you can’t get fuel in the car, I think you can understand why I was upset,” fumed Rossi.
“It wasn’t a human error, it was a mechanical problem but still, it’s not something that we can have here. It’s the biggest race in the world, and 75 per cent of the time we can’t get fuel in the race car.”