May has culminated in the conclusion of the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 and Roger Penske can now change his license plate from “1 INDY 14” to “1 INDY 15”. Helio Castroneves climbed the fence and drank the milk as he and his team took home the top honors and a record paycheck of $3,048,005 as Helio chalked up his third victory at the famed Indianapolis oval.
Helio has been embattled since the close of last season as Federal tax evasion charges had been filed against him and he was replaced in the interim at Team Penske by Will Power. Power started the first race of the season at St. Petersburg, but Helio was found not guilty on 6 of the charges and the jury was hung on the 7th charge and was able to start at Long Beach for the second outing of the season. On Friday, the US Government announced that they would not be pursuing the last charge against him.
But Helio is not the only story to emerge from this 500. Dan Wheldon brought Panther racing back to glory this year by finishing a very strong 2nd from starting 18th. Panther was able to perform miracles in the pits by gaining positions on every pit exchange. In the end though, they lacked the ultimate pace to pull off the win.
Danica Patrick finished in third place, but lamented a late race caution brought out by a major incident between Raphael Matos and Vitor Miera. More on that later, but Danica felt like she could have ran to the end with her fuel load, while the rest of the field would have had to pit. If the race would have stayed green, Danica may have been able to take victory home for the AGR crew.
Alex Tagliani brought home rookie of the year honors by finishing 11th from his starting position of 33rd. Much ado was made of the fact that Bruno Junquiera qualified the car but was pulled in favor of Conquest’s primary driver when they failed to have enough time left on Bump Day to get Alex into the show. Hopefully that criticism will now die down a little with Alex’s performance. Regardless, Conquest picks up the TEAM money for the car that didn’t qualify, the purse money for the car that finished 11th and then the bonus money for rookie of the year. Conquest had made it known that they were dependent on good results in May to allow them to compete at Milwaukee this weekend. Hopefully Tagliani’s performance keeps them in the show.
The Target Chip Ganassi juggernaut proved to be quick all day long, leading most of the race. But pit gaffes proved to be their undoing and they were only able to finish 6th and 7th. Solid pit stops proved to be the most valuable commodity of the day since passing on track was more reminiscent of an F1 race at Monaco than an IndyCar race.
Continuing by last year’s example, there were no green flag pit stops. The majority of the field was able to pit under cautions throughout the day.
The first incident occurred on the start of the race. Mario Moraes squeezed up into Marco Andretti who was pinned up against the short chute wall between Turn 1 and Turn 2, ending both of their days. Mario and team owner Kevin Kalkhoven both tried to blame Marco wholly for the incident saying that it was clear that Mario was hit from behind. But clearly, Mario was the one who moved up the track into Marco. That doesn’t take all the blame off of Marco’s head though. He put himself in an awful position and should have known better on the first lap of the race.
Ryan Hunter-Reay’s disappointing month of May came to an ingracious end as he made contact with the Turn 4 wall and slid across the track into pit lane on lap 20. He was attempting to pass AJ Foyt IV who was having handling problems at the time.
Graham Rahal imitated his performance from last year as he slid wide in Turn 4 while attempting to lap Milka Duno. He ended up impacting the wall and ended his day early. If anything, you would hope that Graham would have at least learned from his mistake last year. He had a fast car and could have finished at the front if he kept it together, but his impatience to pass Milka proved to be his undoing. He gave her a wide berth in his pass attempt, due to how erratic her lines were, but clearly he gave her too much room.
Tony Kanaan made heavy contact on the backstretch and into the Turn 3 wall on lap 98. Tony’s car took a hard right into the backstretch wall when presumably a piece from his suspension broke. The car then slid head on into the Turn 3 wall. Tony was bruised and beaten up, and has some problems with his ribs, but he is confident that he will be in the car for Milwaukee.
In the closing laps of the race, Raphael Matos was on a tear. He pitted at the end of the caution with 35 laps to go, topping off his fuel tank and potentially being the only car that could make it to the end without stopping. On lap 174, in his haste to get by Vitor Miera, he made an overly optimistic pass attempt going into Turn 1. Miera ended up flipping so that the bottom of his car contacted the wall and proceeded to slide along the wall. Matos walked away, but Vitor was taken to Methodist Hospital complaining of severe back pains. He later was diagnosed with two broken vertebrae and will no be driving for 4-6 months. Earlier in the race, Miera was victim to a fuel issue which saw his entire car engulfed in flames, but the team was able to put it out and get Vitor back on track.
Also making contact with the wall, ending their day’s were Nelson Philippe, Davey Hamilton, Robert Doornbos & Justin Wilson.
Here are the final results:
1 Helio Castroneves (3)
2 Dan Wheldon (4)
3 Danica Patrick (7)
4 Townsend Bell (8)
5 Will Power (12)
6 Scott Dixon (9)
7 Dario Franchitti (10)
8 Ed Carpenter (20)
9 Paul Tracy (15)
10 Hideki Mutoh (27)
11 Alex Tagliani (36)
12 Tomas Scheckter (19)
13 Alex Lloyd (99)
14 Scott Sharp (16)
15 Ryan Briscoe (6)
16 AJ Foyt IV (41)
17 Sarah Fisher (67)
18 Mike Conway (24)
19 John Andretti (43)
20 Milka Duno (23)
21 Vitor Meira (14) Contact
22 Raphael Matos (2) Contact
23 Justin Wilson (18) Contact
24 EJ Viso (13) Mechanical
25 Nelson Philippe (00) Contact
26 Oriol Servia (17) Mechanical
27 Tony Kanaan (11) Contact
28 Robert Doornbos (06) Contact
29 Davey Hamilton (44) Contact
30 Marco Andretti (26) Handling
31 Graham Rahal (02) Contact
32 Ryan Hunter-Reay (21) Contact
33 Mario Moraes (5) Contact