The NTT IndyCar Series hosted their biggest race of the season on Sunday. The Indianapolis 500 returned to its rightful place on the Sunday of Memorial Weekend. Plenty of fans packed the stands at the massive Indianapolis Motor Speedway to take in the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’. This year’s Indy 500 would set two records on the way to the checkered flag. In the end, Brazilian Helio Castroneves made IndyCar history by crossing the finish line first.
IndyCar Series Recap | Helio Castroneves Wins at Indianapolis
After all of the Indianapolis 500 pre-race festivities, Scott Dixon would lead the field to the green in front of 135,000 people and the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ was off. Scott Dixon would strategically fall back behind Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay within the first few laps to save some fuel by running in the draft. This would be the chess match that would transpire.
The first of just two cautions on the day flew for Stefan Wilson who locked it up trying to hit pit road and hit the wall. Most of the field had made the call to pit before the yellow flew, but Dixon and Alexander Rossi had not and were thought to be in good standing. Needing to stop for emergency fuel shouldn’t have been a huge problem, but both drivers had their cars stall out on pit road. Each went a lap down while their respective crews worked to retire the cars. As the field came to retake the green flag, Rossi pulled up alongside Dixon and gave him the signal that it was time to go.
Conor Daly and Rinus VeeKay Swap Lead While Helio Castroneves Lurks
When the race resumed, Herta led the field to the green. Helio Castroneves would make up some ground and inch closer to the front on the very first lap of the restart. Ed Carpenter Racing teammates Conor Daly and VeeKay got up to the front and were running 1-2 at both the quarter mark and the halfway point of the Indy 500. The two continued to trade the lead back and forth to help each other with fuel mileage.
Graham Rahal had a fast car that was super efficient in terms of fuel mileage as well. In fact, he looked like he might very well be the car to beat with about 85 laps to go. That all changed with one botched lug nut on a pit stop. The tire changer failed to secure the lug nut on the left rear and the tire popped right off the car as Rahal circled out of the pits and attempted to get up to speed. It caused him to spin and slam into the wall right in front of the race leaders. Rahal showed his displeasure for a long while on the track during the cleanup because he knew that he had a great car.
Contenders Separate Over Final Quarter
With 75 laps to go, it felt like a three-car race between Alex Palou, Castroneves, and Pato O’Ward. The race stayed green for the last 75 laps to the finish and set a record for the fewest cautions in Indianapolis 500 history by doing so. The three drivers stayed close together from Lap 126 until the very end unless they were pitting. Simon Pagenaud and Ed Carpenter also joined the fight at the front, but the laps were winding down in a hurry.
Castroneves and Palou would swap the lead with ten laps to go. Then, with just two laps remaining, the veteran Castroneves made an epic move to get the lead back. The 46-year-old would hold off all final challenges to earn his fourth career Indianapolis 500 win.
Final Indianapolis 500 Thoughts
The race started slowly as it normally does because the teams don’t want to show their hands too soon. Of course, saving fuel is another major component of the race strategy early on. But boy did things pick up as the afternoon went on. I was on the edge of my seat pretty much the entire race and joined the massive crowd at the race in standing for the final 10 laps. That’s how intense things were. It was amazing to not only see history as Helio Castroneves become the fourth driver to win the Indianapolis 500 for a fourth time but to also correctly pick the winner for what I consider the second-biggest race of the year in all of motorsports.