INDIANAPOLIS – Simon Pagenaud may have had an equally good explanation of how he won the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
"This race picks its winners," Pagenaud said after holding back Alexander Rossi in a hectic finish. "Today I was the chosen one."
Pagenaud also helped his uncanny ability to anticipate Rossi's moves. This allowed him to fend off Rossi, who won the race in 2016 and said he drove "eleven-tenths" for the last 12 laps and tried to demolish the lead.
Said a disappointed Rossi who came up short just two tenths of a second. "I know that. It's going to be hard to overcome."
Rossi was also thwarted by a backmarker who refused to give in and hit him against a wall, a driver almost blocking him off the track and a stuck fuel tap during a pit stop cost him precious time and position on the track on the track pushed each other out of the way, disrupting themselves dangerously and causing accidents.
A clash of five cars, the only big wra ck of the day, was caused by the refusal of one driver to give way another blocked him in the grass of the infield. The officials halted the race for 18 minutes to eliminate the chaos and provided one last shot among the leaders.
Of the 17 riders who traveled the full distance from a 33-man field, Pagenaud had the smoothest sailing.
"I mean, no problems," he said. "No mistakes on the track, in the box. I said before the race that this is what it takes to win here.
Pagenaud, who turned 35 last week, drove 116 out of 200 laps on the two and a half mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. He also won the Indianapolis Grand Prix at the site two weeks ago and earned the pole position for the 500.
"Well, it was the perfect month for us," Pagenaud said. "But Roger Penske has hired me to win."
"Did you see that?" Penske exclaimed after the finish. "Can you believe it? I can not. The race side by side, lap by lap, that's as good as I've ever seen it."
That was a big praise from a team owner since the 1960s Years of racing and now has a record of 18 victories in the Indianapolis 500.
"If you have a car like this, a team like this, just work your way up to reach and finish the final result," Pagenaud said, "We worked perfectly today, no mistakes, and here we are, Victory Lane, man, we did it."
When Pagenaud then lifted the liter of milk traditionally given to the Indy winner, he took one Sip and pour the rest over his head. "I love milk!" He said. "Fresh Whole Milk."
Pagenaud, from Poitiers, France, said he developed a taste for milk when he was a teenager His father's grocery store stored a milk crate
At that moment, he also started playing video racing games and go-karting games. He was so gifted that he quit his grocery job and moved to the US 15 years ago to realize his dreams one day in Indy.
He finally made it to IndyCar in 2011 and two years later won his first race with Fang the Eye of Penske. He won the 2016 IndyCar title for Team Penske, but had a certain drought behind him this month.
"This is a dream come true," said Pagenaud. "For a lifetime we tried to achieve this."
Penske dispelled the rumors that Pagenaud's contract may not be renewed after this season.
"Simon will be back with us next year – you can count on that," said Penske. "I can kill this rumor right here and now."
After conquering the checkered flag just a few meters from Rossi, Takuma Sato, the winner of 2017, and his Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, winner of 2018, followed Pangaudaud with the Indy tradition the winner drives to Victory Lane.
Instead, he stopped his car on the long strip of original 1911 stones that adorned the finish line, got out, knelt down and drove, kissing her.
"It was great to share that with you in the Yard of Bricks," Pagenaud said in the PA system. "You are the best, Indianapolis."