Simon Pagenaud held off Alexander Rossi in a frantic and fantastic final 12 laps to win the 2019 Indianapolis 500.
Rossi held the lead after the final restart of the race with 13 laps to go. But Pagenaud soon got the lead not long after the green flag flew. They traded passes again before Pagenaud executed a perfect pass entering turn 3 on the penultimate lap to pass Rossi and beat him to the finish line.
Rossi was able to get close to Pagenaud on the final lap but as Pagenaud weaved down the backstretch to prevent Rossi from getting a drafting run, Rossi was unable to get close enough to try a pass before time ran out.
“The car was just on rails, the yellows aligned perfectly. Wow, seeing myself on TV with this is pretty amazing,” Pagenaud said with milk all over his face and draped by the traditional Indy 500 winner’s wreath in victory lane.
Rossi said Pagenaud’s Chevy simply had a little more raw speed than his Honda did. Rossi passed Pagenaud at the end of lap 197 of the 200-lap race. But he wasn’t able to prevent Pagenaud from quickly recovering.
“Horsepower,” Rossi said. “It’s unfortunately the way it is — they did a great job, obviously he was on pole and led the most laps but I think we had the superior car but just didn’t have enough there at the end.”
Pagenaud and Rossi each made their final pit stops with over 30 laps to go. Since they were good on fuel, they were able to stay out after the race was slowed for a big crash involving Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais and others.
The two drivers had the best cars throughout the entirety of the race; it was fitting they were the two to battle for the win as 2017 Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato lurked in third place.
And saying it’s fitting that it was Rossi and Pagenaud going for the win doesn’t even consider any of the speculation about 2020 that’s surrounded the two drivers.
Both are in the final year of their contracts. Pagenaud with Team Penske and Rossi with Andretti Autosport. Rossi, perhaps the most exciting driver in North American motorsports, had been surmised to be a good replacement for Pagenaud if Penske wanted to make a change.
It’s impossible to see how Penske would make a change now, especially after Roger Penske said after the race that Pagenaud would be back with the team in 2020. Pagenaud won the Indianapolis Grand Prix on May 11 and then won the pole for the 500 on May 19. He’s now leading the points standings after a winless 2018.
The win is the first Indy 500 victory for the 2016 IndyCar champion and the 13th win of his IndyCar career.
Penske now has 18 Indy 500 wins
Pagenaud’s victory is the second-straight win for Team Penske in the Indy 500 after Will Power’s win in 2018. It’s the 18th Indianapolis 500 victory for Penske, far and away the winningest car owner in Indy 500 history.
Pagenaud is also the first driver to win the Indy GP, the Indy 500 pole and the Indy 500 in the same season.
As Pagenaud dominated the race, Penske’s other two team cars finished in the top five too. Josef Newgarden was fourth while Power finished fifth.
Rossi made an epic pass on Oriol Servia
Rossi and Pagenaud traded some great passes back and forth over the final 30 miles of the race. But Rossi’s best pass of the day came when he passed Oriol Servia on the frontstretch while shaking his fist at Servia.
Servia was racing aggressively near the front of the field after a restart with fewer than 50 laps to go while he was a lap down. Rossi wasn’t a big fan of that and as he drafted up and alongside Servia he showed his displeasure before diving into turn 1 with one hand on the wheel.
In addition to Servia, Rossi wasn’t thrilled with the way that other lapped cars had aggressively raced and held their position on track relative to lead lap cars throughout the race.
Rahal unhappy with Bourdais after crash
The race’s biggest crash of the day came when Rahal tried to pass Bourdais with 20 laps to go. Rahal made a move to the inside as the two approached turn 3 and the two made slight contact.
Rahal was undeterred and didn’t back off entering the corner. Neither did Bourdais, who didn’t think two-wide was feasible in the corner. So they crashed and Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach and others got caught trying to avoid it.
Rahal said what Bourdais did is how somebody gets killed.
Bourdais, meanwhile, said his car wasn’t stable because of the prior contact and was thinking that Rahal would potentially back off.
Herta’s day ends extremely early
19-year-old Colton Herta qualified fifth and appeared to be one of the drivers to beat entering Sunday’s race.
He was the driver everyone beat instead. Herta finished last after his car didn’t even complete four laps because of a mechanical issue.
Herta became the youngest winner in IndyCar history earlier in the season when he won at Circuit of the Americas in the second race of 2019. He’s failed to finish each of the races since that win, however.
1. Simon Pagenaud
2. Alexander Rossi
3. Takuma Sato
4. Josef Newgarden
5. Will Power
6. Ed Carpenter
7. Santino Ferrucci
8. Ryan Hunter-Reay
9. Tony Kanaan
10. Conor Daly
11. James Hinchcliffe
12. James Davison
13. Ed Jones
14. Spencer Pigot
15. Matheus Leist
16. Pippa Mann
17. Scott Dixon
18. Helio Castroneves
19. Sage Karam
20. JR Hildebrand
21. Jack Harvey
22. Oriol Servia
23. Marcus Ericsson
24. Jordan King
25. Charlie Kimball
26. Marco Andretti
27. Graham Rahal
28. Felix Rosenqvist
29. Zach Veach
30. Sebastien Bourdais
31. Kyle Kaiser
32. Ben Hanley
33. Colton Herta
– – – – – – –
Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
More from Yahoo Sports: