In what might have been the most intense start to finish 500 in recent memory, Takuma Sato from Japan won the 101st Indianapolis 500 after passing Helio Castroneves with 3 laps to go.
The race started without incident and the lead was traded by the frontrunners until the first round of pit stops. After some trouble with Jay Howard running out of gas and then trying to gain pace to rejoin the mix, he got high off the groove and smacked the wall which sent him back down into the racing line where polesitter Scott Dixon had no where to go which produced one of the scariest crashes in Indy 500 history.
Both drivers walked away totally fine. Absolutely unreal how far safety has come in this sport in just the last few decades. Dixon called the crash a “wild ride” and was upbeat and all smiles after being checked and cleared from the medical center. Crazy MF’er.
This crash caused a red flag while they repaired the inside catch fence. After the 30+ minute delay, we were back to racing.
2-time Formula 1 World Champion, Fernando Alonso showed his skill by leading and staying near the front for much of the race. He escaped many tense situations and showed his patience by being conservative for much of the race. He was very impressive.
After another stint of some passes at the front, an incident with Conor Daly in Turn 3 started a string of yellows. The incident also took out Jack Harvey ending Michael Shank Racing’s terrible month of bad luck. Everybody hopes his group comes back next year and eventually joins the series full time.
The next big crash came on lap 122 when Buddy Lazier lost it in Turn 2.
Ryan Hunter-Reay with his teammates, Alonso, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato looked extremely strong and were all near the front for much of the day until the Honda engine reliability issues that have plagued the manufacturer throughout the month finally came. Hunter-Reay’s engine let go on the backstretch ending his day. Charlie Kimball’s engine blew up not long after. And then, what Honda feared the most, disappointing millions of fans around the world, Fernando Alonso’s engine expired on the front stretch while he was running solidly in the top 10 with 21 laps to go.
Alonso was great all month and looked to genuinely enjoy himself in IndyCar so it would not be a surprise to see him around the series or at least the Indy 500 for years to come.
When the racing resumed with many non favorites hovering around the top of the leaderboard, the intensity and boldness ratcheted up quite a bit which led to this after the restart on lap 184.
James Davison, who took over for Sebastien Bourdais after his vicious qualifying crash, had climbed from last to first and looked very strong with limited aero capabilities due to the prior crash before making contact with veteran Oriol Servia triggering this pile up. Will Power and James Hinchcliffe were also collected in the incident.
The race restarted with 11 to go and Max Chilton, Helio Castroneves, and Ed Jones battling for the lead. Sato joined the mix and tried to make up for his last lap crash in 2012. After separating from the rookie Jones, Castroneves and Sato finally gobbled up Chilton and made it a two horse race to the finish with 7 laps to go.
Sato got Castroneves at the line with 5 laps to go and drove brilliantly in defense for the final few laps and took the checkered flag in front by a couple car lengths.
It was the first victory by a Japanese driver in the long history of the race and it was the third win in the last four years for Andretti Autosport.