France's Simon Pagenaud wins 103rd Indianapolis 500

<i> Image: AFP / Clive Rose </i>
<i> Image: AFP / Clive Rose </i>
Clive Rose

France's Simon Pagenaud won the 103rd Indianapolis 500 Sunday, holding off Alexander Rossi in a fierce finishing duel to win America's fabled race for the first time.

Penske driver Pagenaud started from pole position and led 116 laps of the 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile oval of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, finishing in front of two former winners in Andretti Autosport's Rossi and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Takuma Sato of Japan.

Rossi, who won the 2016 Indy 500 as a rookie, held the lead after the final restart from caution of the race with 13 laps remaining.

Pagenaud quickly regained the lead, and they would trade it again before Pagenaud swept by on turn three of the penultimate lap on the way to a victory by .2086sec.

"It's hard to believe it right now to be honest," Pagenaud said after he had donned the winner's laurel wreath and doused himself with the bottle of milk traditionally given to the victor.

Pagenaud completed a May treble at the speedway after winning the IndyCar Indianapolis Grand Prix and putting his car on pole for the 500 last weekend.

But despite his dominance on Sunday, it looked like fuel could be a problem for him late.

That concern evaporated when the caution flag came out on the 177th lap after a crash between Graham Rahal and France's Sebastien Bourdais -- which also took out three other cars.

The red flag came out to send all cars to pit lane as the track was cleared of debris and the stage was set for the duel to the finish.

"It's been such an intense race," Pagenaud said. "I believe we led most of the race. The race car was just on rails. The yellows (flags) came out perfectly.

"Stars aligned," he said.

American Josef Newgarden was fourth and defending champ Will Power of Australia was fifth, despite a penalty for bumping a member of his pit crew in pit lane.

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