What An Unbelievable Finish!
The 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was almost two races in one. The first three-quarters of the race was run completely under green. It was a frenetic pace as the first few rounds of pit-stops were all done under green conditions. This long stretch of green caused the field to really stretch out. By the time Charlie Kimball crashed on Lap 150, there were many cars that were several laps down.
Not that I wished Kimball or any other driver any ill will, but it was nice to finally have a break. I’m sure the drivers felt that way also. They never had a chance to catch their breath from the drop of the green flag. For almost two hours, they never let up.
Surprisingly, there were few passes for the lead in the first three-quarters of the race. Nothing resembled the record-setting amount of lead changes from last year. Once the race re-started however, that suddenly changed. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti all took their shots at leading.
During the first yellow, I mentioned to Susan’s son that there would probably be another yellow within ten laps. It was actually twelve before Scott Dixon crashed on the main straightaway. I was following the semi-logic of Darrell Waltrip that “yallers breed yallers”.
After the Dixon crash, the subsequent re-start was perilous. Hunter-Reay, Helio, Marco, Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe were all trying to make it into Turn One first. Carpenter and Hinch didn’t make it. As they went by my seats, you could tell there was going to be trouble. There was. I’ll have to see a better replay to know exactly who was at fault, but there didn’t seem to be any doubt in Ed Carpenter’s mind as to who to blame.
When Townsend Bell clouted the wall in Turn Two, he damaged the SAFER barrier – but none of us in my area knew it at the time. When the red flag came out, I thought the Indianapolis 500 had sunk into a NASCAR mentality. When I heard it was to fix the SAFER barrier, I felt better about it. It gave the drivers a chance to ponder the remaining eight laps once they got going.
When the engines were re-fired, what happened next will be remembered for years to come. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves dueled for the lead. Helio took the lead on Lap 196, but Hunter-Reay re-clamed the lead on the next lap with an unbelievable pass for the lead on the backstretch. Helio mounted a charge from the final turn, but it was not to be. Ryan Hunter-Reay won the 2014 Indianapolis 500.
It’s no secret that I was pulling for Helio Castroneves. Longtime followers of this site know that Helio Castroneves is one of my favorite active drivers. But that doesn’t mean I came away bitter or disappointed. Ryan Hunter-Reay was a very good series champion in 2012 and he will be a great Indianapolis 500 champion. He is the first American to win since Sam Hornish in 2006 and Buddy rice in 2004. He is the first American driver with a personality to win, since Buddy Lazier in 1996. He will represent this race and this series very well as the reigning champion.
Congratulations also go to Michael Andretti and his Andretti Autosport team They came prepared as they did last year. But this year, not only did they come away with the big prize – three of the top-four cars came from the Andretti Autspsort stable. Hunter-Reay won the race, Marco Andretti finished third and Carlos Muñoz finished fourth. Even more impressive is that Kurt Busch finished sixth. James Hinchcliffe was running near the front when he crashed in Turn One.
A tip of the hat also goes to Tony Kanaan and Pippa Mann. Both drivers developed problems early in the race. Their teams could have easily called it an early day and headed for the garage, but both drivers chose to go back out while several laps down and claw their way back to decent finishes. Kanaan finished 26th and Pippa wound up 24th. Both drivers should be proud.
Kurt Busch should also be proud. After starting twelfth, he dropped like a stone. At one time I saw him as low as twentieth. He could have been lower, but that’s as low as I saw him. But whatever caused his drop – he also fought his way back into contention and was there at the end for a sixth place finish.
But obviously, the biggest congratulations go to Ryan Hunter-Reay. Those final eight laps were some of the most exciting I’ve ever seen at this place – and I’ve been coming to races here for a long time. He drove an loutstanding race and he deserved the win.
So, it’s now all over for another year. Yes, there are more races. In fact, there is a double-header this weekend at belle Isle in Detroit. But there won’t be another Indianapolis 500 for another 364 days. As for my blogging this week, there will be some “random” thoughts posted tomorrow and a couple of other items, before taking a coulpe of days away from here before Belle Isle. o check back tomorrow after I’ve had a little more time to digest this latest installment of The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.