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 Pagenaud won on the road course two weeks ago, won the pole to start the Indy 500 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 bow tie 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, the Frenchman 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. Indianapolis records count five French winners but Gil de Ferran in 2003 and Gaston Chevrolet in 1920, while born in France, list other nationalities. Pagenaud was the 21st driver to win from the pole and first since Helio Castroneves a decade ago.
Fernando Alonso recently wrapped up a hugely successful stint with Toyota, which included the 2018-19 World Endurance Championship crown and two Le Mans 24 Hour wins. However, the two-time Formula 1 world champion indicated he is “100 percent” of a WEC return in the future.
The 38-year-old appears set on another big career move, with Fernando Alonso entertaining the prospect of tackling the Dakar Rally next January.
He currently has no active racing program.
Rumours surfaced after this year’s event that Fernando Alonso had severed ties with McLaren following their failure to qualify, but organisation CEO Zak Brown shot them down.
Whether or not he tackles a full-time IndyCar season remains to be seen, but Brown believes Fernando Alonso would be “outstanding” on the oval racing circuit.
“He’s well aware of everything that’s going on with our IndyCar activities and has been for some time,” Brown said.
“I don’t think his desire to win the Indy 500 has diminished at all. He has not shown an interest – yet, I should say – in a full season of IndyCar.
“He’s coming off of 20 years of lots of racing and I think he wanted to take the second half of this year off to see what he wants to do in the future.
“I think he would be an outstanding talent in IndyCar.
“I personally think, knowing him as well as I do, and his driving style, he’d be immensely successful and welcomed and would enjoy it.
“But Fernando is the type of individual that you put the opportunity in front of him and let him make his decision.
“So I’ll be picking that up with him in about a month’s time, but I would not anticipate in 2020 him having a desire to do a full season.”
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Current Schmidt Peterson Racing driver James Hinchcliffe also faces an uncertain future due to his relationship with Honda, with the re-branded McLaren Schmidt Peterson team to run Chevrolet engines in 2020.
The F1 silly season also garnered attention to Fernando Alonso, whose name was raised following the Hungarian Grand Prix.
After Fernando Alonso tweeted following the race, praising the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, the podium finishers — also including Sebastian Vettel — were informed of Alonso’s comment in the post-race news conference.
Hamilton suggested he had an idea for how Fernando Alonso could get back on the grid: take the “extra” seat at Red Bull following rumours of Pierre Gasly’s axing.
Shane van Gisbergen, who will be partnered in the enduros by three-time Bathurst winner Garth Tander, carried over the pace at Queensland Raceway a day later and narrowly missed victory to season pacesetter Scott McLaughlin.
Lowndes said the change to the linear spring has hampered the factory Holden squad’s development this season, and acknowledged how well the new-for-2019 Ford Mustang has performed. However, he suggested the Holden squad is beginning to peak at the right time.
“They’re getting better. There’s no doubt about that,” Lowndes said of Triple Eight.
“It’s taken them a long time to get their heads around the change to the linear spring.
“People ask me why that is, well we spent eight years with the car designing around the duel spring, uprights, roll bars, roll centres, everything.
“Everything and anything we used to make the dual spring work, it’s taken everything back to scratch.
“It’s taken time for everything to unravel, but I think they’ve done a great job. The next meetings at Tailem Bend and New Zealand will be a telling factor to whether those improvements will continue.
“Knowing the team, and the way they operate, they’re definitely not going to stand still. They’re evolving and changing the car at every meeting.
“The last test day we did was very important for them as a team to unlock a few things, to try some unusual things that they’ve been wanting to try but wouldn’t dare try at a race weekend.”
As for the driver himself, Lowndes will jump in for the final co-driver session at the OTR SuperSprint next week.
Apart from the other co-driver sessions at Symmons Plains and Winton, the veteran’s only race time in 2019 came in February’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour with Whincup and van Gisbergen in a Triple Eight Mercedes.
The Red Bull Holdens were brilliant at The Bend Motorsport Park 12 months ago, and Lowndes believes the co-driver session will provide him with a great chance to help the team remain on an upward trend.
“The team itself is confident they’ve found some things, but whether that translates into car speed at all tracks, that’s another matter,” he said.
“Every track’s different, and Tailem Bend will be a good challenge, they were strong there last year but the cars have evolved.
“Hopefully the co-driving session will be dry so I can give them some input and direction on where they need to be.
“It’s only going to be a matter of time if the consistency and speed is going to keep coming.”
Chaz Mostert is a name well entrenched in silly season rumours, and the Tickford Racing driver has become used to the attention regarding his future.
The exhaustive nature of the silly season keeps media and fans snapping at drivers’ heels, wanting to know who’s going where and who’s doing what.
Previously coy on his future, Mostert has become acquainted with the process over the last few months — he is off-contract at season’s end and has been linked to a number of teams, including Shell V-Power Racing and Walkinshaw Andretti United.
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The 27-year-old brought up 50 career podiums at the last round at Ipswich, but has recorded just the solitary victory from nine podium appearances in 2019, coming at Albert Park.
Mostert is one of the most popular drivers on the grid, and has only raced Fords in Supercars. With a combined 167,000 followers across his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, Mostert has great support.
Many fans back brands, while others back drivers. Very few fans wouldn’t have Mostert down as a favourite, and the driver himself acknowledged the significance of his future in racing.
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“As a driver, no doubt all the fans want to know what you’re doing. They want to know what you were doing yesterday,” he said.
“Sometimes these things have long processes, if it’s working out if you’re staying or going.
“It’ll be a decision that I’ll have to work out in time. There are a lot of factors I have to go through.
“At the moment, I just have to keep doing what I’m doing here in the Supercheap Auto Mustang.
“If we keeping making gains, it’ll all be sweet. We’ll see what happens.”
Mostert is just 20 points behind third-placed Shane van Gisbergen in the drivers’ championship, but lies a whopping 540 points down on runaway leader McLaughlin.
However, with the season of endurance approaching, Mostert will again rely on co-driver James Moffat to aid his title push. The pair linked up for solid finishes at Sandown (10th), Bathurst (4th) and the Gold Coast (1st) 12 months ago. With Bathurst kicking off the 2019 Enduro Cup, the pressure’s on to execute at the first opportunity and cut the deficit to the leaders.
While the championship may appear out of reach, Mostert is hoping to capitalise on his team’s solid form in the year’s longest races.
“It’s been a pretty good year. A lot of trophies taken back to Tickford HQ, but not many with the big ‘number one’ on them,” he said.
“It’s been a great year, but it hasn’t been a fantastic year.
“We’ve been chipping away, we’ve been trying to make some progress, but there’s another Mustang team out there doing a really fantastic job at the moment.
“We’re getting to the real big money races at the end of the year now, big points up for grabs at the enduros, obviously if you can put your name on the Bathurst trophy, it can outweigh not making the championship what you want it to.”