Aussie champ’s fury at Indy 500 ‘disgrace’
FRENCHMAN Simon Pagenaud delivered billionaire team owner Roger Penske a golden Indianapolis 500 victory after Australia's 2018 champion Will Power was knocked from contention into last place after a pit lane violation.
Pagenaud gave Penske his 18th victory in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing", out-duelling 2016 winner Alexander Rossi in a breathtaking 13-lap sprint to the finish on Monday (AEST).
The two swapped the lead five times over the final stretch before the Frenchman stormed to the front for good seconds before taking the white flag.
Rossi chased him for the final lap around Indianapolis Motor Speedway but fell 0.2086 seconds shy of his second Indy 500 win - the seventh-closest finish in the 103 years of the race.
While Pagenaud cruised, two of his Penske Team stablemates, defending champion Power and three-times winner Helio Castroneves, had difficult days.
Running second early on, Power slid into the pits, his rear wheel appearing to bump one of his crew and triggering a penalty that sent him to the back of the field where he battled back to eventually finish fifth.
The Queenslander was filthy after the race, blasting officials.
"They ruined my day for no reason," Power said. "I didn't even hit a guy. Wait until I see them. What a disgrace, to ruin someone's day for no reason. I didn't touch a guy.
"It was a really bad call. Shame on them, man. We were really good. We were in that group at the end. It's a disgrace that these guys control what happens on the track. I'm not really happy at all."
Castroneves's quest for a record-equalling fourth race win also suffered an early setback when the Brazilian was slapped with a drive through penalty after running into Australian James Davison during the first pit stops. He finished 18th while Davison's Honda managed 12th.
Pitlane continued to steal headlines with Jordan King adding to the mayhem when he knocked over a crew member who was transferred to hospital with a leg injury.
However it was a milk-fuelled celebration for Team Penske on the 50th anniversary of the owner's first entry in the famous race.
With Power's 2018 triumph, Penske now has two consecutive Indy 500 victories and two consecutives sweeps at the speedway in May.
Pagenaud, in a contract year and underperforming, arrived at Indy with his job on the line.
His rumoured replacement is Rossi but he won on the road course two weeks ago, won pole and now has given his boss a victory in the only race Penske truly cares about.
"What a guy, can you believe it?" Penske said. "He won that thing, I just can't believe it."
Pagenaud was in a Chevrolet and the bowtie brand were the dominant engine maker all May.
He climbed from his car, let out a primal scream of relief, then dumped the entire winning jug of milk over his head.
"We've come through a life of trying to achieve this and I am just speechless," Pagenaud said.
"I never expected to be in this position and I certainly am grateful."
Asked if he was on a mission - Pagenaud led a race-high 116 of the 200 laps - to save his job, he dismissed the pressure of free agency.
"The milk motivated me," Pagenaud said. "Just focus on the job, man."
Pagenaud is the first Frenchman to win the Indy 500 since Rene Thomas in 1914. He becomes the 21st driver to win from the pole and first since Castroneves a decade ago.
Japan's Takuma Sato finished third.