Ryan Hunter-Reay overcame a 33-racer field on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to win the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 in what was a clean affair until late in the proceedings.
Plenty of racers, both underdogs and favorites alike, put together strong performances throughout. In a perfect illustration of how wild the race was, Ed Carpenter—who won the pole two years in a row—was close to the lead throughout until a crash with about 20 laps to go ended his outstanding run.
Here is a look at how the final order shook out after 200 laps:
|5||Juan Pablo Montoya||1.3233|
* Full finishing order available at IndyCar.com
With victories in 2001, 2002 and 2009, it should come as no surprise that Helio Castroneves was a main player for 199 laps—right up until the bitter end. However, it was an end that was 0.060 of a second too late.
Or, as Ray Wert of Jalopnik.com notes, a historically close finish that goes down in the record books:
With a margin of victory of just .0060, this was the second closest finish in #Indy500 history!— Ray Wert (@raywert) May 25, 2014
Castroneves did not notch Indy 500 win No. 4, but he did stay in contention throughout and make the 98th running have one of the most memorable endings the sport has seen in quite some time.
Exchanging the lead late with Hunter-Reay, Castroneves used good defensive positioning until he gave up the lead on the final lap. It was a classic end for one of the sport's top competitors, who will surely be back in contention next year.
As Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch noted when Hunter-Reay took the lead early in the race, the 33-year-old's ascension to first place was a bit of a surprise given his starting position:
Ryan Hunter-Reay started 19th. Now leads Indy 500, getting by Castroneves on lap 118.— Tim May (@TIM_MAYsports) May 25, 2014
After a thrilling final nine laps following a restart, Hunter-Reay solidified his status as the first American to win the 500 in almost a decade.
He almost clipped the grass at one point while taking the lead on an inside pass with about five laps to go. He then surrendered the lead and pulled off more daredevil tactics on the home stretch to secure the thrilling finish.
After the fact, Hunter-Reay was cognizant of the implications of his victory, as captured by Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press:
"I'm a proud American boy, that's for sure," RHR— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) May 25, 2014
A year removed from being in serious contention, Hunter-Reay pulled some of the riskiest maneuvers out of his bag to seal the deal this time around in a performance fans won't soon forget.
Along with Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti was also attempting to become the first American to win the race since 2006, as ESPN Stats & Info details:
Ed Carpenter, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti are all trying to be 1st American Indy 500 winner since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 25, 2014
Perhaps more importantly, Marco was on the hunt to be the first Andretti to take home an Indy 500 win since 1969.
Marco did not become the first since his grandfather, Mario, to drink the milk, but he did remain in contention and at some points even passed teammate Hunter-Reay.
It's yet another experience for Andretti to build upon as he continues his hunt to revive the family name.
For an IndyCar "rookie," a sixth-place finish for Kurt Busch was quite the accomplishment.
Busch had little time to savor the moment, though, as his bid for a Memorial Day weekend double was only halfway done. He quickly hopped on a plane to travel the more than 500 miles to Charlotte, North Carolina, to partake in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600.
As Fox 29 muses, Busch's impressive performance is sure to garner some hardware:
Expect Kurt Busch to be named Indy 500 Rookie of the Year with his P6 finish. Busch attempting double duty off to race NASCAR Coke 600— NEWS4_Photogs (@FOX29_Photogs) May 25, 2014
Busch's day is of the historic variety for the sport as a whole, but his performance in Indianapolis was something many were unable to see coming given his unfamiliarity with IndyCar. Like any elite athlete, Busch answered the call in a major way.