A Finish Befitting This Month Of May
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.
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