France's Pagenaud gets 'sweetest' win at Indy Grand Prix

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Washington (AFP)

France's Simon Pagenaud won his third IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday, overtaking New Zealand's Scott Dixon on the penultimate lap for the "sweetest" victory of his career.

Chasing down top-10 rivals over the last 20 laps on a rain-slickened Indy road course, Pagenaud's skillful braking and superb handling of a superior car brought his third victory in the road-course tuneup event for the Indianapolis 500.

"This is the sweetest win I've ever had," Pagenaud said of his 12th career IndyCar triumph. "It was amazing."

Pagenaud won the inaugural 2014 race and added the 2016 crown on the way to the season points championship. The event's only other winner was Penske Racing teammate Will Power, the Australian who also won the 2015 and 2017 races.

"Third time, I'm equal with Will," Pagenaud said. "We kept it in the Penske family. It's awesome, what a race."

Britain's Jack Harvey was third in his best IndyCar finish to complete the podium in the 85-lap event over a 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where qualifying will be staged next weekend for the May 26 Indy 500 oval classic.

A week before his 35th birthday, Pagenaud won for the first time since the 2017 season finale in Sonoma.

"I answered it. I know what I'm worth," Pagenaud said. "We had to get everything right and this weekend we did. The stars aligned right."

Dixon led much of the race but settled for a third consecutive runner-up finish in the Indy road course race, pulling within six of American Josef Newgarden for the season points lead.

Defending season champion Dixon, seeking his sixth points title, surged past Swedish rookie pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist into the lead on a lap-20 restart.

Dixon kept the lead over Pagenaud after pit stops on lap 48 and went to rain tires on lap 60, cycling back into the lead after a heavy downpour.

Pagenaud was shuffled back but charged through the field in the tricky wet conditions even as Dixon stayed in front.

Pagenaud passed Harvey for second with six laps remaining and took advantage of Dixon going wide in a corner for the pass late in the 84th lap, then denied the Kiwi racer any hope over the final turns.

"It was tough," Dixon said. "Thought maybe we could hold the gap but the harder I pushed it the worse it got.

"It sucks not to win after leading that many laps but all credit to Simon. He drove a hell of a race."

Harvey was excited to hold on for third, saying: "It wasn't an easy race, half dry half wet. It feels great to get my first podium."