After a nearly flawless race in which limited cautions occurred, the 98th Indianapolis 500 went to Ryan Hunter-Reay, who dominated throughout the race and pulled out a career-changing victory at the Brickyard.
SportsCenter shared the final result:
American Ryan Hunter-Reay wins the Indianapolis 500! This is Hunter-Reay's 1st Indy 500 victory. pic.twitter.com/34P9DDTf45— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 25, 2014
With the win, Hunter-Reay becomes the first American driver to win the race since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006, ending the longest drought in Indy 500 history, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Ryan Hunter-Reay: 1st American-born driver to win Indy 500 since 2006 (Sam Hornish Jr.)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 25, 2014
After claiming his first-ever Indy 500 win, Hunter-Reay put its importance into perspective, via NASCAR on ESPN:
The 33-year-old overcame demons from last year after failing to win the race late in the running, per Phillip B. Wilson of The Indianapolis Star:
A year after he lost @indy500 late, Ryan Hunter-Reay holds off three-time winner Helio Castroneves for biggest win of his career.— Phillip B Wilson (@pwilson24) May 25, 2014
Three-time winner Helio Castroneves finished second in the race, narrowly missing out on making history. The Brazilian closed in on Hunter-Reay multiple times near the end of the race but couldn't overtake the American on the final stretch.
Greg Rakestraw of 1070 The Fan noted the final push by Castroneves:
Ryan Hunter-Reay wins the #Indy500. Helio couldn't pull of the final pass in time. First American-born winner of the 500 in 8 years.— Greg Rakestraw (@gregrakestraw) May 25, 2014
Ray Wert of TinyToyCar.com also shared just how close the margin of victory was for Hunter-Reay:
With a margin of victory of just .0060, this was the second closest finish in #Indy500 history!— Ray Wert (@raywert) May 25, 2014
Just behind Castroneves was Marco Andretti, who claimed his fifth top-four finish—the most among active drivers. Hunter-Reay, by virtue of his win Sunday, took over the IndyCar points lead.
|5||Juan Pablo Montoya||1.3233|
|7||Juan Pablo Montoya||152||0|
On a sun-splashed Sunday at the Brickyard, Hunter-Reay was clearly the best driver on the course near the end of the race. But he was far from the only story.
As the race officially got underway, one of the early storylines to watch was how well Kurt Busch would perform. The 2004 Nextel Cup champion in NASCAR made his first start in the IndyCar series and is scheduled to also start in the Coca-Cola 600 later Sunday night.
Before the drivers took to the track, fellow NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. wished Busch luck:
The Sprint Cup racer would struggle early, falling as low as 22nd, but he rose into the top 10 late. Busch would eventually finish sixth in a formidable run during his IndyCar debut.
As for the regulars in IndyCar, a few drivers experienced early adversity that would keep them from taking the checkered flag. One of those racers was Graham Rahal, whose engine shut down completely in the early going.
Rahal explained the scenario, via Wilson and Christopher Estrada of NBCSports.com:
Graham Rahal: "First race with National Guard here on Memorial Day (weekend). We wanted to make them proud. ... Today was just not our day."— Phillip B Wilson (@pwilson24) May 25, 2014
Graham Rahal to ESPN: "I don't even think the car ran right from the start. It was just slow and sure enough, the engine kept shutting off."— Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting) May 25, 2014
Issues weren't limited to Rahal, as defending Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan would also fall behind the pack. Kanaan visited the pits multiple times during the early going and couldn't recover from those setbacks.
Nate Ryan of USA Today explained the situation for the 2013 winner:
Tony Kanaan apparently has a battery problem. Four minutes and counting on pit road, four laps down. No repeat Indy 500 winner. #indycar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 25, 2014
Another former champion also saw his chances to take the checkered flag seemingly dashed later in the race. Juan Pablo Montoya, who was running in just his second Indy 500 after winning the 2000 race, received a black flag for speeding down pit road.
The former NASCAR and Formula One racer had a similar issue in the past, per Wilson:
Juan Pablo Montoya pit speeding beyond 60 mph @indy500. Shades of 2009 Brickyard 400, same violation in last stop denied him NASCAR victory.— Phillip B Wilson (@pwilson24) May 25, 2014
Montoya would eventually rally from the penalty and earn a top-five finish, and his future in IndyCar continues to look bright, especially at the Brickyard.
While a few drivers experienced issues in the pits, there was no caution on the track for nearly three-fourths of the race. That would all change when Charlie Kimball spun out on Lap 149, triggering the first yellow flag of the day.
Wilson provided a breakdown of the first caution:
Yellow finally waves. Charlie Kimball spun out in Turn 2, on lap 149. Not a bad hit. Slid along wall. @indy500— Phillip B Wilson (@pwilson24) May 25, 2014
Once Kimball wrecked, the floodgates opened as several notable drivers would see their fates sealed in late wrecks.
2008 Indy 500 winner and three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon spun out and wrecked hard into the wall, ending his chances to win his second 500. The next wreck collected another contender, as pole-sitter Ed Carpenter exited after a crash with James Hinchcliffe.
NASCAR on ESPN broke down the wreck after it happened on Lap 175:
Hinchcliffe and Carpenter wreck as they try going three-wide into the turn.— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) May 25, 2014
Tony DiZinno of NBCSports.com provided some commentary from the American following the wreck:
Ed on Hinch: "It’s a good thing he already had a concussion last week." Shots. Fired. #Indy500— Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) May 25, 2014
Needless to say, Carpenter was none too pleased with Hinchcliffe's decision-making.
Yet another caution would occur later in the race as Townsend Bell lost control of his car and slammed into the wall. The debris was so intense that officials waved the red flag to remove it and fix the SAFER Barrier, as Wilson explains:
Red flag with 9 laps to go after Townsend Bell crashes into Turn 2 wall. @indy500 folks want to see a sprint. I like the call.— Phillip B Wilson (@pwilson24) May 25, 2014
With just eight laps remaining, the cars remained on pit road while the debris was cleared. Going into the restart, Ryan Hunter-Reay held the lead with hopes of earning his first Indy 500 win.
As the open-wheel machines took back to the track, Castroneves and Hunter-Reay traded the lead multiple times throughout the final laps, but it would be Hunter-Reay who ultimately prevailed.
Many of the participants in the Indy 500 move on in the IndyCar series with the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit Race 1 on May 31, followed by Race 2 on June 1.
As for Busch, the day simply continues after running all 500 miles at the Brickyard. While he still has a chance to complete the huge 1,100-mile feat, Bob Pockrass of Sporting News points out one reason why it may be more difficult to nail down a top-10 finish in Charlotte:
With Kurt still in Indy 500 he will miss driver meeting at CMS and start in back.— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) May 25, 2014
On a huge day for Hunter-Reay, the outlook for his season is once again bright heading into Detroit. With his first win at Indy, a great finish to the season might mean more to his team in the IndyCar Series.
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