Ryan Hunter-Reay Wins Exciting Indianapolis 500
It’s the Sunday before Memorial Day. For most people, they’re watching baseball and going to family barbeques. It’s also a time for us to remember all of our troops, and former troops who have fought to keep us free, and be happy on days like today.
Race fans are especially excited. For them it starts with the Grand Prix of Monaco, and the Indianapolis 500, and of course, on the NASCAR side, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
This Indianapolis 500 started off like every one since 1972, with one of America’s favorite fictional military men, Gomer Pyle himself, actor Jim Nabors singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the last time. It was a beautiful sunny day in Indianapolis, and once the balloons were released, it was time for some action packed racing.
The 2012 champion of the Indy Car Series, Ryan Hunter-Reay becomes the first American born driver to win the Indy 500 since Sam Hornish, Jr in 2006. It was an extremely entertaining finish, as Hunter-Reay was able to hold off a hard charging Helio Castroneves, who was trying to win his fourth 500, and teammate, Marco Andretti for the win. Carlos Munoz was fourth, Juan Pablo Montoya was fifth, and Kurt Busch, in his first Indy 500 had a respectable 6th place finish.
The drivers were using the early stages of the race to prepare themselves for the finish. Some drivers, like Juan Pablo Montoya, were gambling on fuel mileage to try and gain the best shot to win.
Still, even with all of the strategy going on, it was clear who had the best three cars. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, and pole sitter, Ed Carpenter, the hometown driver running for his own team had a strong racecar in the early going.
The first 150 and laps of the 200 lap race were under green flag conditions. This wasn’t the most entertaining part of the race, but by keeping it green, the race went by quickly, and drivers were able to see how their car would react in race conditions and make the proper changes to get better. With the way sports are now, and many people complaining about baseball being “too long,” letting the race run green, and move quickly was a good decision by the sanctioning body, so fans would stay interested for the end of the race.
Defending race winner, Tony Kanaan was looking to repeat, but it just wasn’t his day, as something broke on his Chip Ganassi Racing car, and his bid to win his second straight 500 was over. The bad luck for contenders didn’t end there, as another former winner, Juan Pablo Montoya had trouble. Juan and his Team Penske crew were trying something different, and decided to stay out longer on fuel runs, and get off sequence a little with the leaders. And it seemed to be working too. While all of the other drivers pitted by lap 128, Montoya came in on 132, and with the cars getting about 30-35 laps on a fuel run, it looked like Juan was going to try and make it on one more stop.
But as he was coming down pit road, he went to take off the tear off on his visor, and didn’t hit the button to slow the car down to pit road speed, and Juan Pablo Montoya was hit with a pit road speeding penalty, derailing his strategy and eliminating himself as a contender for the time being.
The crazy finish started to take form on lap 150, when Charlie Kimball spun causing a caution. Pole sitter, Ed Carpenter was off sequence to the leaders, and was able to stay out and get the lead on the ensuing restart, only to be passed by Ryan Hunter-Reay eight laps later.
More trouble for another former winner of this race, when on lap 170, Scott Dixon crashed. This led to the last round of pit stops, and again, it was Hunter-Reay with the lead, followed by Carpenter, Townsend Bell, James Hinchcliffe, and Helio Castroneves.
Once the race restarted, it didn’t stay green for long, as Townsend Bell went high to pass Ed Carpenter, James Hinchcliffe went low and made it three wide. “Hinch” made contact with Carpenter sending both cars into the outside wall, and ruining a shot at both of them winning their first 500s. It was a bitter sweet ending to Carpenter’s day, as his car was fast all-day long and he should have been proud of his smaller team even competing with the bigger teams, but it ended badly, and Ed Carpenter will have to try again in 2015.
The next restart is where business started to pick up again, as Marco Andretti, son of Michael and grandson of Mario Andretti, was making a bid to end the 44-year Andretti drought, with a bold move to the outside putting himself into the lead on a three wide move.
It wasn’t long though before Hunter-Reay charged again and got around Marco, and Helio Castroneves got around him as well. The two, Castroneves and Hunter-Reay swapped the lead back and forth before Townsend Bell’s car slammed into the wall on lap 190, and cause the race to go under the red flag.
The race got restarted on lap 194, and Helio soon got around Hunter-Reay. Then it was Ryan Hunter-Reay who swung to the inside, nearly clipped the grass in a breath taking move to the inside and got around Castroneves for the lead again. Helio then passed Hunter-Reay on the outside, before the white flag lap when Hunter-Reay got around Helio on the outside, for the final time.
It was an exciting finish with the leaders battling for the win, and the Andretti team winning the Indianapolis 500 once again. As the cars went down the pit road, Helio Castroneves climbed out of his car and put his hand in his head as he lost a great fight.
With Hunter-Reay winning the race, it was a feel good story, as an American won the race. Former NASCAR driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, after a pit road speeding penalty finished 5th, and Kurt Busch, the NASCAR driver, in a backup car, ended up sixth. It was a strong day for Kurt in his first Indianapolis 500.
This race on the 10 scale was a 10. The race stayed green, which is something we don’t see in NASCAR racing today, and that made the ending so exciting. With that ending, the fans felt good about it, because it didn’t seem rigged by a late race, bogus, debris caution. It was true, good old racing, and it was a dandy, and one that will be remembered for a long time.