Race Weekend Central

Indy 500 Special: What We Learned From NBC’s 2019 Indy 500 Repeat

The 2019 Indy 500 had a second life on Sunday (May 24), as NBC aired Back Home Again: Indy 500 Special to fill the void where this year’s race should have been. The best part of the special by a mile was winner Simon Pagenaud and runner-up Alexander Rossi telling us what they were really thinking this time last year.

The duo didn’t get a lot of time to talk, but their interview segments did reveal a few things that audiences likely didn’t know before. Here are the most interesting and entertaining parts from Pagenaud and Rossi’s commentary. If you missed Back Home Again: Indy 500 Special, you can see highlights from the broadcast here.

1. Alexander Rossi is over fueling issues

Everyone remembers seeing Alexander Rossi visibly upset when the fueler on the No. 22 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport entry couldn’t get the car tanked up. Watching him slam his hand on the steering wheel and demand to know “What are we doing?!” was one of the race’s most intense moments.

What was new information was Rossi pointing out that it wasn’t the first time this mistake had happened. “Three out of four years we’ve had some sort of fueling issue in this race in particular,” he told NBC Sports host Mike Tirico. That’s surprising, especially since it’s Andretti Autosport, which is always the team to beat at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But between that incident, yelling at Helio Castroneves and shaking his fist at Oriol Servia, Rossi certainly saw his blood pressure spike a few times last year. And yet, even with all that, he just missed out on another win.

Indy 500
Alexander Rossi at the 2019 Indy 500. (Photo Credit: Stephen King/Courtesy of IndyCar)

2. Pit lane is not relaxing

Motorsports fans know how races can be won or lost on pit lane and there were plenty of pit mishaps in last year’s Indianapolis 500. Will Power was one of two drivers to hit a crew member while pitting, resulting in Power having to go to the back of the field. It was truly impressive to see Power battle his way back to finish fifth.

And if Rossi hadn’t had the aforementioned fueling issues, it’s entirely possible that he could have won his second Indy 500 title. But he also pointed out something that IndyCar viewers may not think about: that slowing down on pit lane is not less stressful for drivers. In fact, it can even be more so as they think about getting into their pit boxes exactly right and nailing that perfect stop.

If it doesn’t go perfectly, well, then you just channel that frustration and drive angry for the rest of the race.

3. Simon Pagenaud didn’t initially love his car

Pagenaud dominated the 2019 Indy 500, leading more than 100 laps of the race, so it was surprising to hear that he initially wasn’t sure about the No. 22 Menards Team Penske entry. Simon revealed that even as he jumped out to an early lead last Memorial Day Weekend, he was still a bit nervous about how the car would perform.

Turns out that Pagenaud didn’t have anything to worry about; he wound up in front for the majority of the race. The biggest concern wasn’t the car’s mechanics, but if the Team Penske veteran would run out of fuel before the checkered flag, because he was running so hard and leading so much! That’s not a bad problem to have, especially if it leads to an Indianapolis 500 victory, a sweep of the entire Month of May, and a place in IndyCar history.

Now, there’s just one question for this year’s race: as Pagenaud and Rossi speculated during this special, will Pagenaud’s savvy draft-breaking move wind up being against the rules?

The NTT IndyCar Series begins its 2020 season on Saturday, June 6 with the Genesys 300 from Texas Motor Speedway. The race will air at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT on NBC.

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