Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, IN — May 30, 2021
It is great to see fans back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500. The Memorial Day weekend classic runs for the 105th time today with over 130,000 people in attendance to take in all the tradition and pageantry of “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.”
Roger Penske, the winningest car owner at Indy, bought the Speedway and the Indy Car Series in November of 2019. His inaugural race as the track owner was moved from the traditional date to August due to the pandemic and was ultimately run with no fans in attendance. When race fans return to the Speedway today they will benefit from $50 million dollars of improvements made by Penske’s investment in the historic venue.
Retired NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson has brought a lot of attention and publicity to the Indy Car Series with his debut on the circuit as a rookie. Johnson is at the Indy 500 today, but not in a driver’s suit, he sits in the NBC broadcast booth on pit road adding commentary. Johnson’s contract with Chip Ganassi Racing does not include the four oval races on the Indy Car schedule. It’s Johnson’s first visit to the 500.
Defending Champion Takuma Sato starts 15th. Former winner Scott Dixon sits on the pole with Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay beside him on the front row. Fan favorite and 3-time winner Helio Castroneves starts 8th. Third-generation driver Marco Andretti takes the green from the 25th starting position. They will all be following Danica Patrick who is the pace car driver leading the 11 rows of 3 drivers each to the yard of bricks at the start/finish line.
Will Power’s race car would not start, it had to be pushed back to pit road to fire the engine, creating some pre-race drama. Despite a jumbled start, everyone got through Turns 1 and 2 safely following pole-sitter Scott Dixon. However, it was Colton Herta who led the pack when they returned to the yard of bricks at the end of Lap 1. His lead was short-lived as Rinus VeeKay took the top spot as the race settled in for its initial run.
Drafting another car improves fuel economy, something most drivers will be very conscious of as tire and fuel stops are anticipated every 30 laps. Eeking out a few extra miles on each tankful could be the difference at the end of the race.
During the first round of pit stops, Stefan Wilson came in too fast, locked up the brakes, and spun. He impacted the pit road wall and tore the right front wheel off his car. The pits were closed and the cars continued to circle the track under yellow as Wilson’s damaged car was removed.
Scott Dixon was forced to make an emergency stop as he ran out of fuel. The engine air locked and his crew could not immediately restart it. Dixon lost a lap as they worked to refire the machine. Alexander Rossi suffered the same fate, both drivers lost a lap due to their fuel problems. Starting at the rear of the field will present a huge challenge in getting their lap back.
After all of the cars cycled through their stops, Colton Herta was the leader heading to the restart.
The Top 5 after 50 laps were Conor Daly, Rinus VeeKay, Colton Herta, Helio Castroneves, and Alex Palou.
More Pit Stops
Leaders began to pit after 70 laps were complete. Helio Castroneves, in his 21st Indy 500, held the lead for several laps as a result of his car getting better fuel economy and pitting later during the initial stops.
Castroneves pitted on lap 78. Daly returned to the lead when service on all cars was complete.
At the 100 lap mark, the Top 5 were Conor Daly, Rinus VeeKay, Pato O’Ward, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Colton Herta.
Graham Rahal seems to be getting the best fuel economy as he is the last driver to pit each sequence. Unfortunately, during his stop on Lap 119, the crew failed to get the left rear wheel tight. The wheel came off on the speed-up lane and he spun sliding up into the Turn 2 wall. Conor Daly hit the loose wheel as it bounced down the backstretch, launching it into the infield. There was damage to the nose cone of Daly’s car, how much it hurts the aero may determine how competitive the car is in the last half of the race.
The resulting yellow allowed Scott Dixon to get back on the lead lap. On the restart at Lap 126, Castroneves powered to the lead.
Laps Wind Down
With 50 laps to go, Castroneves pitted from the lead. The Top 5 through 3/4’s of the race were Pato O’Ward, defending champion Takuma Sato, Will Power upfront after starting in the last row, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Marcus Ericsson.
When Power presented his car on pit road for service he had no brakes, the pedal went to the floor. He spun trying to get the car slowed down and essentially took himself out of contention for the win.
Scott Dixon returned to the lead at the end of the pit cycle. With 37 laps to go, he pitted and his crew believes he can run to the finish without another stop. It would be an incredible recovery if Dixon can pull off the win.
With 10 laps to go Felix Rosenqvist led Takuma Sato, but both cars will have to pit before the finish at Lap 200. The race looks to be down to Alex Palou, Helio Castroneves, and Pato O’Ward.
Rosenqvist pitted with 7 laps to go, Sato came to pit road a lap later. Palou and Castroneves swapped the lead in the closing laps.
Castroneves went to the front as he and Palou crossed the line with 2 laps to go. They caught lapped traffic down the backstretch and had to weave through slower cars as the pair took the white flag.
Helio Castroneves held on for his 4th Indy 500 win to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears as the only 4-time winners.
Castroneves came around to the yard of bricks, stopped, and got out his car to climb the front stretch fence saluting the fans. He had just recorded the fastest Indy 500 in history.
CLIMB THAT FENCE, @H3LIO!
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) May 30, 2021
A celebratory sprint down the track brought the fans to their feet roaring. Teams and drivers came out to congratulate Helio, even getting a kiss from the legendary Mario Andretti. Returning to kiss the yard of bricks and then to his car in victory lane for the traditional winner’s wreath and drink of milk, the party is sure to run long into the night.
Results of the 105th Indianapolis 500
|9||86||Juan Pablo Montoya|
|31||16||Simona De Silvestro|