A Finish Befitting This Month Of May

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To use an old cliché, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 was one for the books. Rookie Alexander Rossi won an improbable victory when he was running out of fuel while leading on Lap 199, but had built up enough of a lead over teammate Carlos Muñoz that he was able to make it to the yard of bricks for the 200th time with a speed of only 179.784 mph on that final lap.

Nashville native Josef Newgarden came in third after leading fourteen laps and running up front practically all day long. I spoke to him briefly as he was leaving the media center this afternoon. He was extremely disappointed, but still gracious. The fact that he was so disappointed to finish third in the biggest race in the world tells me that one day sooner than later, the still young twenty-five year-old from Music City will be drinking milk.

This was one crazy race. You could tell that from the start. Pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe took the lead into the first turn, but by the time the field circled around to complete Lap One, Ryan Hunter-Reay had taken the lead. It was that kind of day. Altogether, there were fifty-four lead changes among thirteen different drivers.

For a while it looked as if my pick, Helio Castroneves, might actually pull out his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory. That ended when Helio made contact with JR Hildebrand and damaged his rear-wing assembly. It took a forty second pit-stop to replace the rear-wing, which effectively took Helio out of contention. He finished eleventh.

Then it looked as if the race would come down to either Josef Newgarden or Tony Kanaan. If Helio couldn’t win, I would have been ecstatic with either Kanaan or Newgarden winning. But as both drivers battled for the lead, their fuel was running dry. Both had to pit in the waning laps. Then it looked as if Carlos Muñoz might take the victory.

Muñoz looked like he may get an easy win, but he too had to pit. Within the last five laps, everyone was pitting for a splash of fuel to get them to the end – everyone except Alexander Rossi, that is. At Lap 196, I had no idea who would win. With four laps to go, the race appeared to still be up for grabs. Rossi took the lead on Lap 197, but I was assuming he still would have to pit like everyone else. But Rossi’s team played their cards to perfection and figured his fuel mileage perfectly – almost. His car sputtered in Turn Two and he slowed considerably. But he coasted around with Muñoz in pursuit, but Rossi had enough to make it to the checkered flag.

After all of the months of hype, it would have been bad if this race was a dud. As we all know, they can’t all be riveting, edge of your seat excitement. But if the folks at IMS were to capitalize on the first sellout in over twenty years, this race needed to match the hype. It did. I think over the entire two-hundred laps, I probably stood for half of them, including the last twenty. It was that good.

Congratulations to Alexander Rossi, car owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta as well as Doug Boles and the work he has done over the past year to make this entire month one of the most enjoyable that I have spent here. Now let’s see what he does starting tomorrow to get ready for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.

George Phillips

Please Note: Susan and I are staying in Indianapolis tonight, but are going to dinner (at Dawson’s one last time). With tomorrow being a holiday, I’ll rest a bit and have the usual “Random Thoughts” post up on Tuesday, so that everyone will have something to read when they return to work on Tuesday. Enjoy your Memorial Day holiday! – GP

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10 Responses to “A Finish Befitting This Month Of May”

  1. colum1357 Says:

    Thanks George!

  2. Mark Wick Says:

    To start at the beginning, the performance of “God Bless America” was a huge improvement over previous years, “The National Anthem” was decent – it would have been better is he had sung the last half straight as he did the first half, and I felt “(Back Home Again In) Indiana” was good enough to deserve an encore for years to come.
    I did wonder where Al Unser, Sr. was when the four-time winners were announced.
    How some drivers rose and fell through the field in short intervals several times is still a mystery to me, hopefully recaps will sort some of that out.
    The last time I was at the race was when car 98 became a surprise winner right at the end.
    I enjoyed the race and hope IndyCar will do a good job of using it to grow the series in the eyes of the public, potantial competitors and sponsors.
    Speaking of sponsors, NAPA has to be happy.
    Have a safe trip home George and Susan.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    What a race! I can’t speak for everybody at the race, but I can tell you That my Dad and I had the time of our lives, the Dutch guys to our left loved it, the folks from Florida running a 500 pool behind us loved it, the family from Minnesota in front of us loved it, and even the Pall Mall smoker to our right who very much wanted an American to win the race loved it.

    Also, I’d like to thank Alexander Rossi for not dumping the milk all over his head. It is a fun visual, but I really appreciate it when drivers keep it in the bottle and allow their owners and crews to taste the milk too.

  4. Ron Ford Says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the race, though I did not forsee the Rossi finish. I was hoping to see a final duel between Newgarden, Munoz, and TK. There was a lot of edge-of-the-seat passing that was fun to watch. TK said he drove this race better than the one he won. Now I am just sitting here reading everything I can find about the race I just watched and feeling that the air has been let out of my balloon. The ABC coverage was good IMO. Thanks to you and Susan for your coverage. Now to muddle our way through that filler that is the rest of the year.

  5. that the first NAPA car to victory lane this year would have been in IndyCar instead of NASCAR?

  6. Yannick Says:

    Isn’t it amazing that the #98 car of Bryan Herta Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian won both the 100th running (congrats to Alexander Rossi) and the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500?
    What a story.

    When Rossi gets back trackside to F1 in his reserve driver role, it’s fairly certain that reporters are going to ask him about winning the Indy 500. What better international TV promotion for IndyCar could there be?

    Thank you George, Susan and John for your coverage, as always. Here’s looking forward to your post-Indy edition of “One Take Only”.

  7. I tell you, it was hard to watch those last laps, I even told my buddy who was watchign with me “I hate it when some scrub wins after not leading at all going half speed” with about 3 to go, I was a little let down at first but I really do think it was a great win for everyone involved so I guess I changed my mind!

    Thanks George for the month of May coverage, I know you are probably a bit let down right now, with it being over for another year, but this is by far the best blogger Indycar site! Keep it up!

  8. With 50 laps to go, my friend and I figured Rossi needed one more stop and everyone else would need 2. I still didn’t expect that ending. Great race. I thought Id seen every possible finish in 50 races before Sunday. I was wrong.

  9. Thanks for blogging. Enjoy a safe drive to home.

  10. EDGAR Emmitt Says:

    We ask ourselves why are there only 3 four time winners at the Indy 500 over the past 100 years.Today we saw why.Congrats to Rossi on his 1st.My hope is that he stays with Indy Car.
    Perhaps my last 500 due to health.
    My 2 grandkids saw their 1st 500.Happy to say grandpa hooked 2 kids on how special the Indy 500 is and has been to me over the past 50 years.My how time flies.
    Thanks to the oilpressure folks for the half month of May and the wonderful forum you have.

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