Once again, the Indy 500 delivered an action-packed race full of twists, turns and the inevitable cautions, seven this time! We had a new Indy 500 victor in Will Power, who now tops the championship as a result of his 100-point haul, but the likes of Ed Carpenter, Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi all put up very good fights. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, the new, lower downforce cars coupled with the higher temperatures and subsequently lower grip caught more than one notable driver out.
Starting at the top, Power may have taken the win and led a sizeable number of laps in the process however, it wasn’t until well after half-way in that he actually took the lead for the first time. After qualifying third, Power dropped back at the start but regained the lost ground at the first round of pit stops under the first caution, gaining three positions in one go and putting him back up to third. In the latter quarter of the race, Power’s win rarely looked in doubt but there was very nearly a surprise when Stefan Wilson, Jack Harvey and Oriol Servia all didn’t pit under the last caution. Wilson led the race for three laps after the restart, making him and his late brother Justin the fourth set of brothers to do so, but it wasn’t to be as all three drivers had to pull into the pits having run out of fuel. With those three out of the way, Power had a clear track ahead of him to take a dominant win, well ahead of Carpenter and Dixon. Power, along with his Penske squad, was clearly elated in victory circle and it was a win he certainly deserved after a less than great start to the season.
Super-speedway specialist, Carpenter, was tipped by many to take the victory and seemed in charge in the opening stages of the race but he was overhauled by first Tony Kanaan and then, once Kanaan had eliminated himself from the lead with a puncture, Power who went on to the victory. Carpenter had taken a few front row starts at the Indy 500 before but never a win, he was confident that he could rectify that before the race but the cautions and changes in strategy just didn’t play into his favour and he was left in a rather disappointing second. A story of what could’ve been for Carpenter who knows time is fast running out for him to get that elusive Indy 500 win.
Third on the road was Dixon who managed to not go flying this year to take a well-deserved podium. The #9 Chip Ganassi driver had a fairly quiet first half of the race, other than very nearly crashing with Sebastien Bourdais, often running within the top five but never taking the lead however, he rolled the dice under the sixth caution by pitting and trying to make the end. Once the rest of the pit stops had cycled out, Dixon found himself in the net lead and a fair amount ahead of Power however, he was soon caught on his older tyres with both Power and Carpenter blasting past, leaving Dixon to fend off Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay. That he did, taking third and propelling himself into fourth in the championship.
Rossi was, amazingly, the bookmakers favourite going into the race despite the fact that he was starting second-to-last in thirty-second. After enjoying the last row club, along with Harvey and Conor Daly, it was down to business for the #27 Andretti driver. He made up a good six positions in the first five laps, but his progress stalled somewhat, only making up a further three positions in the next forty laps. By the third caution, Rossi had made it up to twelfth before he made incredible progress on the fourth restart, going around the outside, in very brave fashion, of just about everyone in his group. This trait was continued on the fifth restart when he went high to take a further two cars, putting him into third. The last round of pit stops didn’t play into the 2016 winner’s hands with Rossi eventually having to settle for fourth but gaining twenty-seven positions in one race is nothing to be ashamed of!
Penske, despite the win, didn’t have the best of days with their other three drivers. Josef Newgarden’s off strategy gamble under the third caution didn’t really pay off and, after being as low as twentieth, he was only able to recover an eighth-place finish putting him ten points back from the lead in the championship. Simon Pagenaud went fairly unnoticed throughout the race but a long last stop quashed any remaining chance the Frenchman had of a podium, eventually coming home in sixth. The last Penske of Helio Castroneves was the most unfortunate after he was the cause of the fifth caution. He was clearly upset after losing the rear and ending up hitting the inside wall, but he wasn’t along in doing so.
First to fall foul of these oversteer-prone cars was last year’s third place finisher, and arguably Rookie of the Year, Ed Jones who ploughed into the wall, causing the second caution of the day. This crash was repeated by Danica Patrick whose fairy-tale final race at Indy was ended when she too lost the rear after struggling with her car all day. Bourdais, Sage Karam and Kanaan all had very similar crashes to Jones and Patrick with those three causing the fourth, sixth and seventh cautions respectively.
All but one of the cautions were caused by a single car crash which is very unusual for the Indy 500, usually famed for its wrecks. The only exception to that rule was the very first caution which was caused by last year’s winner, Takuma Sato, hitting the back of James Davison. Davison had been running considerably slower than the cars around him for quite a number of laps before Sato was caught out by the pace differential coming out of the corner, leaving him a passenger as he hit the side of Davison.
All drivers were thankfully ok following their incidents, with only Jones’ in slight doubt for next week’s double header at Detroit after being taken to hospital as a precautionary measure with head and neck pain.
It hasn’t been announced yet, but Schmidt Peterson’s Robert Wickens is expected to take Rookie of the Year after an impressive ninth place finish in the absence of bumped teammate James Hinchcliffe.
With the 102nd running done, it won’t be long before talk points to the 103rd running of the Indy 500 however, for now, IndyCar heads to the double header that is the Duel in Detroit next weekend before completing the second, and most valuable, triple header at Texas Motor Speedway.
Full Race Result:
- Will Power
- Ed Carpenter
- Scott Dixon
- Alexander Rossi
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Simon Pagenaud
- Carlos Munoz
- Josef Newgarden
- Robert Wickens (R)
- Graham Rahal
- JR Hildebrand
- Marco Andretti
- Matheus Leist (R)
- Gabby Chaves
- Stefan Wilson
- Jack Harvey
- Oriol Servia
- Charlie Kimball
- Zachary Claman De Melo (R)
- Spencer Pigot
- Conor Daly
- Max Chilton
- Zach Veach (R)
- Jay Howard
DNF – Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam, Helio Castroneves, Sebastien Bourdais, Kyle Kaiser (R), Danica Patrick, Ed Jones, Takuma Sato, James Davison
Featured image courtesy of media.gm.com