Takuma Sato won his first Indianapolis 500. [Andy Clary Photo]
It was the 101st edition of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and as the winner said after taking the checkers, it was “Unbelievable”.
YOUNG GUNS VS VETERANS
While most of the Indianapolis 500 was led by drivers with little experience on the legendary oval, it was two forty year old drivers that battled for the win at the end. Takuma Sato, who turned 40 in January, beat Helio Castroneves, who celebrated his 42nd birthday on May 10th. Rookie Ed Jones, 22 years old, finished third after running up front for most of the race and 26 year old Max Chilton, in his second race on the Speedway, finished fourth and led the race for 50 laps, the most of any driver today. Veteran 43 year old Tony Kanaan finished fifth.
“[Takuma Sato] just proved that age is just a number, because he’s probably around 40, correct? There we go, see. I’m telling you guys,” said Castroneves after the race. “You guys think, Hey, you old, you old. We get better when we get old.”
Throughout the weeks of on-track activity leading up to the Indianapolis 500, Honda teams have been fast – but they have lost eight engines including James Hinchcliffe who had his powerplant blowup in turn 3 late in the final hour of practice on Carb Day.
The ninth engine to let go was on lap 137 of the Indianapolis 500 when Andretti Autosport ride driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay shut down on the back-straight while he was running in the third position. Hunter-Reay was having a fantastic race running at the front of the pack and exchanging the lead with his teammates throughout those 137 laps. On lap 167 the Honda engine of Charlie Kimball let go at about the same spot in the track as Hunter-Reay, making it engine number ten. Kimball was running in second place at the time his engine expired.
The next one to go was the big one. Fernando Alonso drove a great race like a world champion should, running up front and leading 27 laps, but his engine wouldn’t be running as he crossed the yard of bricks for the 179th time in the race.
That is a total of eleven engines expiring in two weeks. But, in the end, a Honda engine won the race and Honda had four drivers in the top five and six drivers in the top ten finishers.
Normally drivers talk about how hot they are after racing throughout the afternoon. But Jones had a different story today. After driving through debris from drivers wrecking in front of him, Jones had an issue.
“I actually damaged my front wing, had a big hole in it. My legs got pretty cold, to be honest. I had wind blowing into them like crazy. Also created a lot of drag,” said Jones.
“That meant I was really good in the corners catching up to other cars, but it was difficult in the straights. I couldn’t pull up to them. We lacked that straight line speed for, I’d say, the last 40 laps. It was really hard for me to defend or even attack, which was really frustrating because I think we had the car to win today.”
While Chilton led the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in his career, Tony Kanaan led the race for the 13th time in his illustrious career – tying him with A.J. Foyt. Kanaan has now lead over 4000 laps in his career and Castroneves has surpassed 5700 laps led in his career.
Sato, a former F1 driver, captured his second Verizon IndyCar Series win and first Indy 500 victory. A quarter of the way into the race, the top three drivers included former and current F1 drivers all driving for Andretti Autosport. Fernando Alonzo led teammates Alexander Rossi and Sato. In the final fifty laps of the race, Max Chilton put his car up front and was in contention for the win.
Pole sitter Scott Dixon had his day end in a dramatic and scary incident.
Jay Howard, running a few laps down, got up in the marbles and struck the outside wall in turn one. As the car slid to the inside of the track, Dixon tried but could not avoid the collision. Dixon’s Honda drove over the left rear tire of Howard and launched into the air, landing with the left side of the cockpit on the top of the inside wall and the front of the car piercing the safety fence. As the car landed it barely clipped Castroneves rear wing, knocking off the right side winglet. Dixon’s car continued to flip over with the remains of the car landing driver side up. Dixon was able to exit the car under his own power and walk to the safety car as was Howard.
Howard was being passed by Ryan Hunter-Reay heading into turn one and felt he was forced into the outside of the track where grip was lacking.
The typically calm, cool and collected Scott Dixon left the medical care and explained the he was “a little beaten up” and it was “definitely a rough ride”. “It was definitely a wild ride for sure. There was no where to try and avoid him,” explained Dixon.
The race was red flagged for about 19 minutes to clean up the wreck and repair the wall and fencing.
Later in the event, it was reported that Dixon returned to the medical care center and left the facility with a walking boot on to take care of his left ankle.