Helio Castrovenes Wins Fourth Indy 500.

AP Photo

SPEEDWAY, IN - RIS -Helio Castroneves won the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday for the fourth time in his career.  By beating Alex Palou in the final laps of the 105th running of the Indy 500, Castroneves now ties A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser for the most all time first-place finishes. Castroneves has 31 Indy car victories in his career.

The 46-year-old Brazilian, who was driving for Meyer Shanks Racing, also won the Indy 500 in 2001, 2002 and 2009.

Castroneves is known as "Spiderman" for climbing the fence to celebrate his wins, and that’s just what he did for the largest motorsports crowd in history.  According to unofficial reports, 135,000 people were in the stands.

“You know, you see Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl, Phil Mickelson winning the P.G.A. Championship, now me winning Indy — the old guys are still kicking it,” Castroneves said. “The young guys aren’t getting us yet.”

Castroneves passed Palou, who was competing in just his second Indy 500, with a gutsy move on the outside while entering Turn 1 with two laps left. He managed to keep the lead as they came up on slower traffic in the final lap, with Palou dogging his every move. Third place went to the 2019 winner, Simon Pagenaud, who was followed by Patricio O’Ward and Ed Carpenter.

Released last season after 21 years with Team Penske’s Chevrolets, Castroneves revived his career with this one-off gamble in an untested Honda-powered racer for Meyer Shank Racing.

“I love Indianapolis, and the fans — their love for me gives me energy,” said Castroneves, whose every move to the front was met by raucous cheers, waving arms and standing fans. “I could see them. I could hear them, even through my helmet, and I knew we could do it together. I knew it was going to be a fight to the finish, and I was going to have to put my elbows out.”

Castroneves traded the lead with Palou, O’Ward, Rinus VeeKay and Colton Herta for much of the race.

“I knew I had the race to win, but the whole race was so intense,” Castroneves said. “From the drop of the green flag, it was a fight.”

The race’s first critical incident came during the initial round of pit stops, starting at Lap 30. Half the field had made their regular stops, while the other half tried to stretch their fuel economy to the limit. That strategy backfired when Stefan Wilson crashed on pit road, closing it. Those still on the course, like the former Indianapolis 500 champions Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan, Pagenaud and others, were unable to make their planned pit stops — and ran out of fuel. Before they could get restarted and refueled, they each lost more than a lap, knocking some prerace favorites, including the pole-winner Dixon, out of contention.

If there was a youth movement, even with their raw speed, another key factor, fuel mileage, was starting to come into play. Veterans like the 2014 winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay; Castroneves; the two-time winner Takuma Sato; and Graham Rahal were wisely stretching an extra lap or two, or more, out of every tank. Thinking of the end of the race, they hoped to make one fewer fuel stop than the rabbits up front. That would be a savings of as much as three-quarters of a lap.  The Hondas seemed to be getting better fuel mileage.  At the 300-mile mark, that advantage lessened.

“We had ’em,” a dejected Rahal said afterward. “I mean, we had it figured out.”

His teammate Sato, however, was still on the same strategy and hopeful of benefiting from it. He was leading when he pitted on Lap 158, meaning he would need only a short splash-and-go fuel stop around Lap 190 to go for the win. Ultimately, however, pace of the front-runners decided the race, and the fuel-savers were left frustrated.

The race took 2 hours 39 minutes 50 seconds; the record had been 2:40, set in 2013. But in the end, none of them could match the pace of the three in the lead.

When Castroneves was asked on Sunday if this was enough, to finally, after 12 winless years, join Foyt, Unser and Mears as four-time winners, he said, “No, let’s go for five — next year.”

1. (8) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 200 laps, Running.

2. (6) Alex Palou, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

3. (26) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevrolet, 200, Running.

4. (12) Pato O'Ward, Dallara-Chevrolet, 200, Running.

5. (4) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevrolet, 200, Running.

6. (23) Santino Ferrucci, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

7. (31) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevrolet, 200, Running.

8. (3) Rinus Veekay, Dallara-Chevrolet, 200, Running.

9. (24) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevrolet, 200, Running.

10. (5) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

11. (9) Marcus Ericsson, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

12. (21) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevrolet, 200, Running.

13. (19) Conor Daly, Dallara-Chevrolet, 200, Running.

14. (15) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

15. (22) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-, 200, Running.

16. (2) Colton Herta, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

17. (1) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

18. (20) Jack Harvey, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

19. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

20. (17) Scott McLaughlin, Dallara-Chevrolet, 200, Running.

21. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

22. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running.

23. (30) Dalton Kellett, Dallara-Chevrolet, 199, Running.

24. (29) Max Chilton, Dallara-Chevrolet, 199, Running.

25. (13) Pietro Fittipaldi, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running.

26. (27) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevrolet, 199, Running.

27. (14) Felix Rosenqvist, Dallara-Chevrolet, 199, Running.

28. (11) Ed Jones, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running.

29. (10) Alexander Rossi, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running.

30. (32) Will Power, Dallara-Chevrolet, 197, Running.

31. (33) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Chevrolet, 169, Did not finish.

32. (18) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 118, Did not finish.

33. (28) Stefan Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 32, Did not finish.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 190.690 mph.

Time of Race: 02:37:19.3846.

Margin of Victory: 0.4928 seconds.

Cautions: 2 for 18 laps.

Lead Changes: 35 among 13 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Herta 1,VeeKay 2-30, Herta 31-32, Dixon 33-35, Castroneves 36-38, Herta 39-48, VeeKay 49, Daly 50-70, Castroneves 71-76, Palou 77, O'Ward 78, Rahal 79-81, VeeKay 82-83, Daly 84-102, O'Ward 103-113, Rahal 114-118, Palou 119-124, Castroneves 125-126, O'Ward 127-130, Palou 131-157, Castroneves 148-149, O'Ward 150, Sato 151-156, Rosenqvist 157, Dixon 158-161, Palou 162-168, Castroneves 169-171, Palou 172, Pagenaud 173-175, Karam 176-177, Ferrucci 178-179, Rosenqvist 180-192, Sato 193, Castroneves 194-195, Palou 196-198, Castroneves 199.

Points: Palou 248, Dixon 212, O'Ward 211, Pagenaud 201, Veekay 191, Newgarden 184, Herta 154, Rahal 148, McLaughlin 143, Ericsson 138.

Ron Fleshman

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2021, Issue 5, Posted 8:52 PM, 05.30.2021