Ryan Hunter-Reay got shuffled back from the front on a late race restart at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2013. Determined to not let that happen again, when the green flag dropped on lap 192, he set sail and provided the backdrop for one of the most dramatic finishes in the history of the storied event, holding off Helio Castroneves to win the 98th Indy 500. Afterwards, he talked about what it meant.
“This is everything I have worked for,” stated the jubilant Fort Lauderdale Fla., native. “Andretti Autosport gave me a car today that was capable of winning and that is all you want.”
Castroneves too had such a mount and was clearly frustrated afterwards when talking about how what would of been his fourth Indy 500 title getting away from him after passing Hunter -Reay on lap 196.
“I did everything I could added the clearly disappointed challenger. I thought I did not leave him enough room for him to regain the lead, but obviously I did.”
Unbelievably, the race was without a caution flag for the first 150 laps and as a result, the pace was torrid.
James Hinchcliffe darted into the lead when the green flag dropped to start the race and led the first nine circuits.
Ed Carpenter took the lead at that point and would hold it for 18 laps. Will Power would have a go at it up front for 20 laps before Castroneves led from 20 laps taking the field near the halfway point. The aforementioned first caution of the day occurred when Charlie Kimball spun his car bringing out the yellow for six laps. Kimball’s teammate at Ganassi Racing, 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, experienced a similar fate on lap 168, which again put the field behind the pace car through lap 174. Just when one thought it was time for some more green flag racing, Hinchcliffe came together with pole sitter Ed Carpenter in turn one, taking both cars out and once again putting the field under yellow for three laps. When the green dropped on lap 180, the battle between Hunter-Reay and Castroneves was on, but just 12 laps later Townsend Bell smacked the wall coming out of turn two and the red flag flew allowing the safety crew to clean up the track. On a restart of epic proportion, Hunter-Reay looked stout and pulled away for four laps until Castroneves passed him on lap 196, setting the stage for a dramtic pass by Hunter-Reay on the next lap that allowed him to retake the lead and hold off Castroneves for the final three laps.
Notes: Marco Andretti who led 20 laps on the day, brought it home in third place and in the process racked up his fourth Indy 500 finish of third or better. Teammate Carlos Munoz showed that his 2013 runner up finish at IMS was no fluke by coming in fourth. 2000 Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya, who looked to be in a position to win the race on fuel mileage strategy before he was penalized for speeding on pit lane, rounded out the top five.
NASCAR regular Kurt Busch captured the Sunoco Rookie Of The Year trophy after a spirited drive in which he finished sixth. After the race, Busch hopped in to a helicopter, which took him to a waiting private jet that transported him to Charlotte, N.C. so he could compete in the 600-mile stock car event held there that evening.
Sage Karem had a great day. The19-year-old rookie finished 9th and served notice he is ready for a full time ride.
Hunter-Reay’s victory was the first by an American driver since Sam Hornish did it at IMS in 2006. In the process he picked up a check for just over $2.4 million. The total purse for the race exceeded $14 million.
The 2013 Indy 500 Winner Tony Kanaan struggled after running out of fuel and experiencing great delays in the pits which left him out of contention. The affable fan favorite finished 26th.
Graham Rahal had high hopes for his National Guard car on Memorial Day weekend, but finished last due to an electrical problem. The son of 1986 Indy 500 Bobby Rahal finished last after completing, just 44 laps.
I give the IMS corporation high marks for making May both different and intriguing. Attendance was up and there was truly something for every race fan in attendance this month. The Indianapolis Grand Prix was a success, and with NASCAR and Moto GP events looming yet on the 2014 schedule, it is a banner year for motorsports enthusiasts.
The next stop on the Verizon Indy Car Series is this weekend at Belle Isle in Detroit, where a doubleheader will be ran on Saturday and Sunday. You can watch both races locally on ABC affiliate WRTV-6.
Danny Bridges, who stood up for the final 15 laps of a great Indy 500, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.