The 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 did not disappoint and provided an dramatic finish where Ryan Hunter-Reay out-dueled three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves over the final six laps to become etched in the history books. Hunter-Reay used a pass off Turn 4 coming to the white flag to grab the lead for the final time and then held off Castroneves on the final lap.
The win in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" is the 11th of his career but by far the biggest. In fact he said it alone is as big as winning the 2012 IndyCar Series championship.
"This is American history, this race," Hunter-Reay said. "This is American tradition, our auto industry is based on it and this is as big as a championship for me … I think that was some fantastic racing, I hope the fans loved it because I was on the edge of my seat that's for sure."
At the line Hunter-Reay won by 0.060 seconds which was the second closet finish in the 98 year history of the race behind the 1992 finish when Al Unser Jr beat Scott Goodyear. It was just closer than the finish in 2006 when Sam Hornish Jr won which also happened to be the last time an American born driver won the race. Not even thinking about it after the race, Hunter-Reay also moved into the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead after the 500 mile event that paid double points. Hunter-Reay drove from 19th on the starting grid to pull off the win for Andretti Autosport which ended up having four of the top six finishers including NASCAR's Kurt Busch who finished in sixth place in the first of his two races today.
Ed Carpenter started the Indy 500 on the pole for the second straight season but James Hinchcliffe came out of Turn 1 with the lead. Off of Turn 2 on lap 1 Ryan Briscoe got into the back of Jacques Villeneuve and almost hit the outside wall and then James Davison. Briscoe pitted and lost an early lap.
On lap 10 Carpenter passed Hinchcliffe for the first lead change of the race. After 20 laps the top five was Carpenter, Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, and JR Hildebrand. Green flag pit stops started for the first time on lap 29 when Carpenter pitted from the lead. Hinchcliffe led then pitted on lap 30. That gave the lead to Power who then pitted on lap 31. Tony Kanaan then led and pitted on lap 32 which gave the lead to Mikhail Aleshin before Hinchcliffe cycled back to the lead on lap 33 with Carpenter second then Power, Castroneves, and Hildebrand.
Will Power passed Hinchcliffe for the lead on lap 37. On lap 41 Graham Rahal pitted with an engine issue and he would retire soon after and finish in 33rd place. After 50 laps Power led over Carpenter, Hildebrand, Marco Andretti, and Castroneves.
Marco Andretti grabbed his first lead on lap 58 by passing Power. Andretti started the next round of green flag stops on lap 62 which gave the lead to Castroneves who then pitted on lap 63. In this cycle, Scott Dixon and Juan Pablo Montoya also led before pitting. Tony Kanaan was out of fuel when he pitted and when his team tried to restart his car they stripped some gears which ended up costing the team several laps. The defending race-winner ended 23 laps back in 26th.
When pit stops were over on lap 67 Castroneves led with Andretti, Carpenter, Dixon, and Power in the top five. By lap 90 Castroneves still led and it was Carpenter in second but Ryan Hunter-Reay had driven up to third place.
The next round of green flag stops started on lap 92 with Castroneves coming in. Ed Carpenter gained the lead. Mikhail Aleshin ended up having an issue on his stop which cost him to lose laps. Hunter-Reay passed Carpenter for the lead before both drivers pitted on lap 94. Dixon then led and pitted on lap 95. Juan Pablo Montoya then led as he was getting the best fuel mileage of anyone. He pitted on lap 99 and at the halfway lap of 100 it was Ryan Hunter-Reay leading with Castroneves, Andretti, Carpenter, and Montoya in tow.
On lap 103 Buddy Lazier pulled behind the wall ending his race in 32nd. Helio Castroneves passed Hunter-Reay for the lead on lap 108. Then on lap 115 Carpenter made an unscheduled stop while running fourth for very blistered tires. On lap 118 Hunter-Reay went back to the lead.
On lap 122 the next round of pit stops began with Castroneves pitting from second. Andretti pitted on lap 123 and Hunter-Reay on lap 124. Those three cars had separated themselves from the rest of the field over that run for the first time in the race. Josef Newgarden pitted on lap 124 but was out of fuel and his team had trouble getting his engine to refire and Newgarden would lose laps. Dixon again led and then pitted on lap 125 which gave the lead to Montoya once more.
Will Power made his pit stop but was caught speeding entering the pits. In fact Power almost crashed as he came in too hot. He had to serve a pass through penalty which hurt his chances to win. Montoya made his pit stop on lap 132 which gave the lead back to Hunter-Reay on lap 133. Also in the top five were Castroneves, Andretti, Carpenter, and Montoya. However, Montoya was slapped with a pit road speeding penalty and had to do a pass through on lap 134 which dropped him to 14th and 25 seconds behind the lead cars.
On lap 138 Andretti took the lead from Hunter-Reay. Ed Carpenter had to make his next stop on lap 145 from fourth place.
Finally on lap 150 the first caution came out when Charlie Kimball spun off Turn 2 and lightly hit the outside wall with the left-front of his car. He finished 31st. It was the longest into an Indy 500 race for the first caution to come out by a large margin. The previous mark was 65 laps in 2000. Everyone took the opportunity to pit and off pit road it was Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Dixon, Castroneves, and Hinchcliffe as the first five off. Ed Carpenter though was in the lead as he was on the lead lap still and did not pit due to being in only a few laps before.
The race restarted on lap 158 and Hunter-Reay took the lead in Turn 1. Carpenter fought back and took the lead on lap 159. Then Hunter-Reay returned the favor to take the lead on lap 160. Carpenter again led lap 163 before Hunter-Reay again went by on lap 164.
The second caution flew on lap 168 when Scott Dixon lost control off Turn 4 and pounded the outside wall. Dixon was running in fourth when he crashed. Also caught up was Josef Newgarden when he slowed for the caution and rookie Martin Plowman did not. The damage to Newgarden's car ended his race. Dixon finished 29th and Newgarden 30th.
Everyone pitted here because they would be able to make it to the finish on fuel after the restart. Alex Tagliani stayed out to lead laps under caution but would pit before the restart. The lineup for the lap 176 restart was Hunter-Reay, Carpenter, Townsend Bell, Hinchcliffe, Castroneves, Andretti, Carlos Munoz, Kurt Busch, Takuma Sato, and Montoya in the top 10.
The third caution came out for a hard crash in Turn 1 when three cars tried to fit in space for only two in a battle for second place. Bell had jumped to the outside of Carpenter on the restart and just before they turned down into Turn 1 Hinchcliffe made it three wide on the bottom. The move caught Carpenter and Bell off guard and there was not enough room. Hinchcliffe and Carpenter made contact and the two slide up into the SAFER barrier. Carpenter finished 27th and Hinchcliffe 28th and just like that two contenders were gone.
The race restarted on lap 181 with Hunter-Reay ahead of Bell, Castroneves, Andretti, and Sato in the top five. Andretti made a three wide move to Turn 1 to move into second and on lap 182 he took the lead into Turn 3. Hunter-Reay returned the favor into Turn 3 the next lap. Then Castroneves took the lead on lap 185 in down into Turn 1 but Hunter-Reay passed him back on lap 186.
The fourth and final caution came out on lap 191 with 10 laps left. The four cautions were tied for the fewest in the Indianapolis 500. This time the caution was for a piece of debris that came off Sebastian Saavedra's car when he touch Jacques Villeneuve off Turn 2. Right as the caution was signaled though Townsend Bell also lost control off Turn 2 and crashed hard. He was running in fifth and ended up 25th.
INDYCAR officials threw the red flag with eight laps to go to clean up the scattered debris and also fix the SAFER barrier where Bell hit. The red lasted seven minutes and it set up a six lap run to the finish whereas the race may have ended under caution. The running order for the lap 195 restart was Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, Andretti, Munoz, Montoya, and Kurt Busch in the top six.
Hunter-Reay got a good restart and held the lead for lap 195. Castroneves though took the lead on lap 196 into Turn 1. Then on lap 197 Hunter-Reay made a daring move down the backstretch where he almost clipped the grass to get to the inside of Castroneves and back into the lead in Turn 3. On lap 199 Castroneves got a run into Turn 1 and took the lead but Hunter-Reay got a great run off Turn 4 and as the two took the white flag Hunter-Reay led by a nose at the line and completed the pass on the outside down to Turn 1. Castroneves mounted one last run off Turn 4 but finished just behind Hunter-Reay at the line before be could pull out to make a pass. Hunter-Reay led a race-high 56 laps.
Marco Andretti joined them on the podium by finishing a close third. Finishing in fourth was another Andretti Autosport driver in Carlos Munoz. Juan Pablo Montoya finished fifth and Kurt Busch was the highest finishing Indy 500 rookie in sixth. Tonight Busch will attempt to become the second driver to finish all 1,100 miles when he completes the back half of the Memorial Day weekend double in the Coca-Cola 600.
Finishing in seventh was Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power was eighth, rookie Sage Karam was ninth, and JR Hildebrand rounded out the top 10. The rest of the finishing order was Oriol Servia in 11th, Simon Pagenaud 12th, Alex Tagliani 13th, Jacques Villeneuve 14th, Sebastian Saavedra 15th, rookie James Davison 16th, rookie Carlos Huertas 17th, Ryan Briscoe 18th, Takuma Sato 19th, and rookie Jack Hawksworth 20th. Those were the drivers on the lead lap at the finish. Finishing in 21st was rookie Mikhail Aleshin, Justin Wilson was 22nd, rookie Martin Plowman 23rd, and the only woman in this year's field was Pippa Mann in 24th.
Overall there were 34 official lead changes among 11 different divers. The average speed of 186.563 mph was the second fastest Indy 500 in history only behind last season's race which was 187.433 mph. A record 6,105 laps were completed by the 33 drivers which broke the old record of 5,863 which was set last year. The 20 drivers on the lead lap was the most in history breaking the old record of 19 which was set in 2009 and 2013.
Once the points are tallied and finalized Ryan Hunter-Reay will be the points leader after five races in the 2014 season. The Verizon IndyCar Series will be right back at it next weekend coming off momentum of the Indianapolis 500 when the series takes to Belle Isle for the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit. Race 1 will be on Saturday, May 31 and Race 2 on Sunday, June 1 with both races on ABC.
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