Alexander Rossi picked a great time to collect his first win as an IndyCar driver. The 24-year-old rookie prevailed Sunday in the Indianapolis 500.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Rossi is just the third driver in the last 50 years to win the Indy 500 on his first try.
Andretti Autosport couldn't have envisaged a better result, as Rossi and teammate Carlos Munoz occupied the top two spots. Here's a look at the top 10 finishers Sunday, with the full results available at ESPN.com:
|Indy 500 Results: Top 10 Finishers|
Rossi and his crew decided to go for broke and gamble that his car would have enough fuel to finish the race. While other drivers near the top of the leaderboard opted for a quick stop on pit road to refuel, Rossi stayed out in hopes that he had enough left in the tank.
Munoz, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan were among those who had no choice but to pit inside the final 10 laps, and their hopes of winning evaporated as a result.
Team owner Michael Andretti knows how costly the strategy can be. His dad, Mario, famously ran out of fuel with six laps remaining in 1972. His son, Marco, met a similar fate in 2010, when he had to ease up in order to have enough fuel to finish the race.
Rossi's fortunes were different, and credit must go to his race strategist, Bryan Herta.
"I have no idea how we pulled that off," Rossi said, per CBS Sports' Brandon Wise. "Bryan came up with an awesome strategy on pit road."
He added his nerves were frayed following the dramatic finish, per Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press: "I need to see a psychiatrist after this."
Taking nothing away from his winning combination of perfect in-race tactics and impressive driving, Rossi undoubtedly benefited from a pair of accidents that claimed three of the strongest drivers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Defending champion Juan Pablo Montoya's day was over after 63 laps. He hit the wall coming around the second turn and was unable to return to the race. The IndyCar Series shared a replay of the crash:
Montoya tweeted about the wreck after the race:
Ryan Hunter-Reay led more laps than any other driver (52), but his day changed drastically after he and Townsend Bell, who had led 12 laps, made contact on pit road. Bell got bumped, and it caused a chain reaction that included Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay, via the IndyCar Series:
The Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer offered a look at the aftermath:
Both drivers returned to the race but were unable to get back on the lead lap. Bell completed 199 laps and finished in 21st, while Hunter-Reay finished in 24th and two laps down.
Sometimes, the Indy 500 can turn into a war of attrition, and when that happens, risk-taking and the right game plan can often trump whoever has the strongest car on the track. Rossi went for broke in hopes of capturing the checkered flag in Indianapolis, and the gambit ensured he etched his name in racing history.