Full Throttle writer recaps the Indy 500
By NICHOLAS DETTMANN
INDIANAPOLIS – Was it bravery? Or was it stupidity?
It was bravery only because it worked for Ryan Hunter-Reay.
For the first time since 2006, an American-born driver won the Indianapolis 500 on the weekend where the world watched a field of 33 cars, with 11 countries represented, dedicated to honoring the American military.
Not since Sam Hornish Jr. won the Indianapolis 500 in 2006 had an American won open-wheel racing’s greatest spectacle.
“I’m a proud American boy, that’s for sure,” Hunter-Reay said in victory lane following Sunday’s 98th running of the Indianapolis 500. “I’ve watched this race since I was sitting in diapers on the floor in front of the TV. My son did it today. He watched me here. I’m thrilled. This is American history, this race, is American tradition.”
Hunter-Reay held off a motivated Helio Castroneves moments after making one of the boldest moves to win the Indianapolis 500 in recent memory.
In the waning laps, Castroneves dipped low down the back straight away, trying to hold off Hunter-Reay. But he wasn’t low enough.
As the two came up to Turn 3, Hunter-Reay found some space to fit his race car underneath Castroneves and made the car stick without making contact with Castroneves.
If there was space between Hunter-Reay’s tires and the inside grass, there wasn’t much.
“I tried to not leave any room, but he was able to find some room there,” said Castroneves, who wound up finishing an agonizing second place. “Once you put the nose inside, nothing you can do in terms of blocking, trust me.
“I used every inch. I think both of us used every inch of the track to make sure that both of us, I mean, at the end of the day there is stupid and then there’s bravery. I think we’re right there on the edge, both of us, really trying.”
Castroneves lost the race by 0.060 seconds, the second-closest finish in Indy 500 history. Only Al Unser Jr’s triumph over Scott Goodyear in 1992 was closer (0.043). Castroneves was that close to becoming just the fourth four-time winner of the Indy 500.
“It’s frustrating to be so close to something that only a few guys did,” Castroneves said. “But I do not take for granted. I’m extremely happy with the result. The car worked really well during the race. The team did a great job during the pit stops.”
It was a dominating day for the Andretti Autosport team.
Car owner Michael Andretti, who never won the Indy 500 in 16 tries, now has three Indy 500 victories as an owner.
“Probably if I would have won it as a driver, it would definitely be a different feeling,” Andretti said. “You always feel that, Geez, I wish I could have won. I don’t dwell on those things because I’ve been the luckiest guy in the world, had a great career. I feel like I’m so lucky to be able to stay in the sport I love in another capacity.”
Andretti’s son, Marco, finished third and led the race with 18 laps to go, nearly ending a 45-year drought for one of open-wheel racing’s prominent racing families.
“It’s a weird feeling because I really was disappointed for him,” Michael Andretti said about his son falling just short of an Indy 500 victory. “I know you only get that many shots. He had a car that was close, just not close enough. Yet I’m so happy and proud of the rest of the team. So it’s a weird feeling.”
Carlos Munoz, who as a rookie last season finished second, went on to take fourth. Juan Pablo Montoya was fifth, and Kurt Busch was sixth. Four of the top-six finishers were from the Andretti stable.
“It was amazing when I looked up at the pylon at the end, to see all our cars up there in the top six,” Andretti said. “Just an amazing team effort. I’m so proud of the team. I’m proud of Ryan and the DHL guys.”
The IndyCar Series’ next race will be May 31 and June 1 for the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit. The series will return to the Milwaukee Mile for the fourth-straight year Aug. 17. Hunter-Reay is the two-time defending champion of the race.