American racer stretches fuel, coasts across line to win 100th running
Yes, Alexander Rossi is the latest Indianapolis 500 champion.
In one of the most stunning finish in Indy 500 race history, the former Formula One driver reached victory lane in his first oval race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Rossi won for a combined effort of Andretti Autosport and Bryan Herta Autosport. Michael Andretti’s team won for the for the fourth time — four different drivers — and Bryan Herta’s team has won twice since 2011. The other victory was with Dan Wheldon.
Rossi won by conserving fuel as the leaders realized too late they weren’t going to make it on fuel. As many pitted, Rossi slowed down as best he could.
“I have no idea how we pulled that off,” Rossi said after the race.
Rossi, who won in just his sixth IndyCar race, held off Carlos Munoz and Josef Newgarden, who both pitted. The margin of victory was 4.49 seconds.
The race featured 54 lead changes (second-most in 500 history) and 13 leaders. IndyCar’s timing and scoring system clocked 850 passes during the 200-lap race.
The spectacle of the 100th was displayed from the dawning of the morning, with 350,000 people pouring into the historic facility for the first sellout in IMS history.
Buddy Lazier’s car had a throttle problem ahead of the start, keeping him from taking the green flag. He missed the first 48 laps as his crew made repairs.
Pole-winner James Hinchcliffe led the sprint to turn one, but as he predicted, he wasn’t in the lead the first time the pack got to turn three. That honor went to Ryan Hunter-Reay, his former Andretti Autosport teammate.
The two took turns swapping the lead — 12 times in the first 24 laps — and the chase was on. Hinchcliffe first incurred trouble on the first pit stop when the fueling mechanism stuck, costing him an extra five-plus seconds. He exited sixth.
After debris on the track at lap 47 created the first caution, most of the competitors came to pit road. Exiting, Will Power drifted wide into the pit road path of Tony Kanaan, who lightly brushed the wall. Power was penalized for an unsafe exit, a penalty Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud later incurred as well after hitting Mikhail Aleshin.
Juan Pablo Montoya wasn’t able to defend his title after losing control of his Penske machine in Turn 2 of Lap 64. After finishing first, fifth and first in his first three 500s, Montoya hit the wall for the first time in his IMS career.
“I just lost it,” said Montoya, who started 17th.
The last driver to win consecutive 500s was Helio Castroneves in 2001 and ’02.
Sage Karam was charging to the front after starting 23rd when he ran out of Turn 1 real estate battling Townsend Bell for the fifth spot. Karam found himself too high in the corner, and the car wiggled. Before Karam could get back on top of the steering wheel, impact with the outside wall came, and it was a hit significant enough to damage the SAFER barrier, which required repair.
On the pit stop that followed, Bell and Castroneves came together on exit, the contact sending Bell into the path of Hunter-Reay. Both Andretti cars turned to the inside wall, Bell’s hitting a tire sitting out. Both drivers lost a lap as repairs were made, and Bell lost another serving a penalty for an improper move. (He got one lap back shortly after the restart.)
The next caution was the result of Lazier’s left front wheel coming off on the warmup lane in turn one. While that wasn’t newsworthy, the fact that several contenders were on pit road when the caution came out and others weren’t was. Castroneves, Kanaan and Newgarden led the field back to the restart.
Castroneves got split on the restart by Kanaan and Newgarden, with Kanaan taking the lead in turn two, Newgarden passing him in turn three and Kanaan getting the lead back in the next approach to turn one. Castroneves dropped to fourth and then was struck in the left rear bumper by JR Hildebrand. Castroneves caught a break when the yellow for Takuma Sato drifting into the wall came. The Penske crew replaced the Brazilian’s rear section, but he was 19th at the restart.
Alexander Rossi became the first rookie since Helio Castroneves in 2001 to win the Indy 500.
100th running of the Indianapolis 500
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