104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 2020 Race Season Month of May NTT IndyCar Series

Pagenaud holds off hard charging Rossi to win 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500

Story Credit: INDYCAR PR
Photo Credit: INDYCAR Photo

A lot of the buildup surrounding the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 involved the weather, and the uncertainty of rain and thunderstorms. Fortunately for the near 300,000 fans in attendance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the rain would hold off all morning allowing for all activities to go off without delay.

The race would start clean, with many cars running two-wide through Turns 1 and 2. Polesitter Simon Pagenaud would lead the field through the opening few laps, but rookie Colton Herta would suffer from electrical issues and bring out the first caution of the race on Lap 6 needing a flatbed to make it back. Herta reported the car was stuck in 5th gear, so the car couldn’t even be towed back.

“I couldn’t get to 6th [gear] the whole time, so I was stuck in 5th gear” said Herta. “I couldn’t even get it to neutral so that’s why they had to put it on a flatbed and bring it back.”

The race would restart on Lap 10, with Pagenaud continuing to lead Ed Carpenter at the green flag. Will Power would get a great restart and pass Carpenter on the outside going in to Turn 1. For the next 23 laps, the two Penske drivers would pace the field before Pagenaud would make his first pit stop on Lap 32, handing the lead to Power. Three laps later Power would pit, turning over the lead to Carpenter. The next lap Carpenter would pit, cycling through different leaders.

During the cycle of pit stops, Helio Castroneves would make contact with James Davison on pit lane. Davison would spin through his pit box, sending a tire flying across pit lane. Fortunately nobody would be hurt, but Castroneves would be assessed a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact. On Lap 42, leader Felix Rosenqvist would pit and return the lead to Pagenaud.

Lap 56 would see rookie Ben Hanley slow on-track and duck onto pit lane. His rear halfshaft broke, only allowing one rear tire to spin and ending Dragonspeed’s first Indy 500.

Pagenaud would start the second round of pit stops on Lap 64, Carpenter would pit on Lap 67, followed by Power on Lap 68. Power would have an issue on his pit stop, hitting a couple of pit crew members and equipment.

One lap later, Jordan King would have an incident where he struck a tire entering his pit box. That tire would then strike and injure his front-right tire changer. While that incident was being attended to, Kyle Kaiser would spin in the shortchute between Turns 3 and 4, contacting the wall and bringing out the second caution of the race on Lap 72. This caution would last longer, with crews sweeping the high line of the track.

The restart would happen at the end of Lap 79, with Pagenaud leading Carpenter and Josef Newgarden with a massive jump of the restart. Pagenaud would lead until Lap 99, when he would kick off the third round of pit stops. Carpenter would pit on Lap 101, Newgarden on Lap 102, and Rossi on Lap 106. This round of pit stops would happen safely with no incidents on pit lane.

Once Pagenaud regained the lead on Lap 113, this time followed by Rossi and Carpenter. However Pagenaud wouldn’t hold the lead for long, needing to take his fourth pit stop on Lap 128. Carpenter would pit on Lap 133, and Rossi on Lap 137. During Rossi’s stop, Marcus Ericsson would spin entering the pits and contact both walls bringing out the third caution of the race. Meanwhile during Rossi’s stop, his fuel probe would not engage the car and require a nearly 20 second pit stop before getting fuel.

“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” said Rossi. “It can’t happen. I mean, 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 percent of the time we can’t get fuel in the race car.”

The restart on Lap 148 saw Pagenaud lead Carpenter and Newgarden to the green flag, with 19 cars on the lead lap. Oriol Servia would get a good draft and run despite being one lap down, but that wouldn’t stop Rossi from ducking under the white line on the backstretch nearly going three wide into Turn 3. Servia would back off, but Conor Daly would get by Rossi for 5th place.

“I think it was one of the most disrespectful things I’ve ever seen in a race car, to be honest” said Rossi on Servia. “He’s a lap down and defending, putting me to the wall at 230 miles an hour. It’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable for him, and it’s unacceptable that INDYCAR allowed it to happen as long as they did.”

Lap 151 would see Newgarden pass teammate Pagenaud entering Turn 3, marking the first on-track pass for the lead of the race. Meanwhile Daly would pass Sebastien Bourdais for 4th place. With Servia a lap down, Rossi would struggle to pass for a couple laps. Rossi would finally get past Servia, but not without a long-lasting shake of the fist as he passed the veteran Servia on the frontstretch.

Pagenaud would make his final pit stop on Lap 167, needing to last 33 laps on one tank of fuel. Rossi would pit on the next lap, this one much faster at 6.9 seconds. Right before hitting pit lane, Newgarden would be passed by Carpenter for the lead.

Lap 178 would see a big incident involving multiple cars. Graham Rahal and Bourdais would make contact in Turn 3, causing both cars to spin and contact the wall in the shortchute. Other cars involved in the incident were Zach Veach, Charlie Kimball, and Rosenqvist.

“I thought he was going to back off” said Bourdais of the incident.

The race would be red flagged at the end of Lap 180 in order to clean up the accident scene. Leaders at the red flag are 21-Pigot, 27-Rossi, 22-Pagenaud, 20-Carpenter, and 2-Newgarden. The red flag session would last for eighteen minutes. Pigot would need to pit under the caution, with Rossi leading the field to the green with only 13 laps remaining.

On the restart Pagenaud would pass Rossi for the lead while Newgarden would pass Carpenter for 3rd place. Pagenaud and Rossi would spend the next couple laps swapping the lead, with Pagenaud taking the lead on Lap 189 and holding it until Lap 197 when Rossi would take back the lead entering Turn 1. But coming to the white flag, Pagenaud would pass Rossi in Turn 3 for the lead and hold on to complete a full Month of May sweep: winning the Indy GP, winning pole for the Indy 500, and then winning the greatest race in the world.

“It’s hard to believe right now, to be honest with you” said Pagenaud. “It’s a dream come true, a lifetime of trying to achieve this. So I’m just speechless.”

Jared DePouw
Jared is the founder of RealOpenWheel.com but works as a small business accountant. He also officiates high school football and lacrosse in his free time.