What An Unbelievable Finish!

The 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was almost two races in one. The first three-quarters of the race was run completely under green. It was a frenetic pace as the first few rounds of pit-stops were all done under green conditions. This long stretch of green caused the field to really stretch out. By the time Charlie Kimball crashed on Lap 150, there were many cars that were several laps down.

Not that I wished Kimball or any other driver any ill will, but it was nice to finally have a break. I’m sure the drivers felt that way also. They never had a chance to catch their breath from the drop of the green flag. For almost two hours, they never let up.

Surprisingly, there were few passes for the lead in the first three-quarters of the race. Nothing resembled the record-setting amount of lead changes from last year. Once the race re-started however, that suddenly changed. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti all took their shots at leading.

During the first yellow, I mentioned to Susan’s son that there would probably be another yellow within ten laps. It was actually twelve before Scott Dixon crashed on the main straightaway. I was following the semi-logic of Darrell Waltrip that “yallers breed yallers”.

After the Dixon crash, the subsequent re-start was perilous. Hunter-Reay, Helio, Marco, Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe were all trying to make it into Turn One first. Carpenter and Hinch didn’t make it. As they went by my seats, you could tell there was going to be trouble. There was. I’ll have to see a better replay to know exactly who was at fault, but there didn’t seem to be any doubt in Ed Carpenter’s mind as to who to blame.

When Townsend Bell clouted the wall in Turn Two, he damaged the SAFER barrier – but none of us in my area knew it at the time. When the red flag came out, I thought the Indianapolis 500 had sunk into a NASCAR mentality. When I heard it was to fix the SAFER barrier, I felt better about it. It gave the drivers a chance to ponder the remaining eight laps once they got going.

When the engines were re-fired, what happened next will be remembered for years to come. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves dueled for the lead. Helio took the lead on Lap 196, but Hunter-Reay re-clamed the lead on the next lap with an unbelievable pass for the lead on the backstretch. Helio mounted a charge from the final turn, but it was not to be. Ryan Hunter-Reay won the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

It’s no secret that I was pulling for Helio Castroneves. Longtime followers of this site know that Helio Castroneves is one of my favorite active drivers. But that doesn’t mean I came away bitter or disappointed. Ryan Hunter-Reay was a very good series champion in 2012 and he will be a great Indianapolis 500 champion. He is the first American to win since Sam Hornish in 2006 and Buddy rice in 2004. He is the first American driver with a personality to win, since Buddy Lazier in 1996. He will represent this race and this series very well as the reigning champion.

Congratulations also go to Michael Andretti and his Andretti Autosport team They came prepared as they did last year. But this year, not only did they come away with the big prize – three of the top-four cars came from the Andretti Autspsort stable. Hunter-Reay won the race, Marco Andretti finished third and Carlos Muñoz finished fourth. Even more impressive is that Kurt Busch finished sixth. James Hinchcliffe was running near the front when he crashed in Turn One.

A tip of the hat also goes to Tony Kanaan and Pippa Mann. Both drivers developed problems early in the race. Their teams could have easily called it an early day and headed for the garage, but both drivers chose to go back out while several laps down and claw their way back to decent finishes. Kanaan finished 26th and Pippa wound up 24th. Both drivers should be proud.

Kurt Busch should also be proud. After starting twelfth, he dropped like a stone. At one time I saw him as low as twentieth. He could have been lower, but that’s as low as I saw him. But whatever caused his drop – he also fought his way back into contention and was there at the end for a sixth place finish.

But obviously, the biggest congratulations go to Ryan Hunter-Reay. Those final eight laps were some of the most exciting I’ve ever seen at this place – and I’ve been coming to races here for a long time. He drove an loutstanding race and he deserved the win. RHR
So, it’s now all over for another year. Yes, there are more races. In fact, there is a double-header this weekend at belle Isle in Detroit. But there won’t be another Indianapolis 500 for another 364 days. As for my blogging this week, there will be some “random” thoughts posted tomorrow and a couple of other items, before taking a coulpe of days away from here before Belle Isle. o check back tomorrow after I’ve had a little more time to digest this latest installment of The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

George Phillips

6 Responses to “What An Unbelievable Finish!”

  1. Well, I couldn’t be happier about the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500! If it were Hinch or Marco I think that Helio would have carved them up. Not RHR. Those two had it over everyone those last 50 miles.

  2. Looked like a good crowd, nice day. Real good race–like you, once the yellows started, I figured there were more to come.

    Sounds like Hinch made the major mistake in turn one and could’ve cost Ed the race, although I’m sure that’s a point that will be debated for awhile. Good on Sage Karem and real impressed with Kurt Busch. Like to see Hildebrand and Bell get a full-time rides.

    As for the red flag, don’t mean to be argumentative, but I’m glad they threw it, broken Safer barrier or not. I know I don’t speak for traditionalists but had they not thrown it what was an amazing ending would have likely been an uneventful 6 laps of yellow to the end. So I don’t care if was because of the race or the accident, I’m glad they did it. I just think they need to be consistent in how the yellow or red flags are applied at the ends of races. I’m not really a green-white-checker guy but I do like to see races end under competition.

    Thanks for the reporting this weekend, George. Until I actually make it back to the race, reading your columns is the best.

  3. Ron Ford Says:

    WOW! If you did not like that race, go watch golf.

    Safer barrier repair or not, I liked the red flag stop. I doubt if they can ever make a hard and fast rule on when that should be thrown.

    I was impressed with Kurt Busch, Sage Karem, and Hildebrand. Can anyone explain the fuel mileage that Montoya seemed to be getting?

    It looked to me that Townsend Bell triggered the accident between Carpenter and Hinchcliffe, although maybe Hinch should have backed out.

    Sooner or later Marco has to win one of these. Please!

    So long JIm Nabors. Thanks for the memories.

    Isn’t Darrell Waltrip and logic an oxymoron?

    Thanks for the reporting George.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    Tremendous race. The action was more like the 2012 race than the 2013 race and no one had the draft figured like Hunter-Reay did. Smart of him to defend the inside of the straights and force Castroneves to pass him outside where Helio was not as comfortable as he and Marco were.

    On the Hinch/Bell/Carpenter incident, the only one of the trio not at fault was Carpenter. Hinch’s move was too ambitious, but he would have gotten away with it had Bell backed out (which is what Hinch assumed would happen). Bell didn’t back out because he did not realize it was 3-wide, and moved down in turn 2 as if Hinch wasn’t there, expecting Carpenter to move to the white line. He was fortunate to avoid the wall that the other two found.
    Common racing incident, 3 cars trying to fit into space for 2, and really unfortunate for Carpenter, who had no where to go in a car capable of winning.

  5. Gut wrenching how Montoya through a golden opportunity away with yet another IMS Speeding penalty.

  6. dzgroundedeffects Says:

    Belated regrets and apologies. I think my paw is the one featured partially covering RHR’s mouth. 99.875% sure. I think he is also looking down at my son who is just out of frame to the lower left for his high-5. Great to see you again as always and may the sun shine on you until we meet again..

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