Photo by Karl Zemlin, Indycar
We needed to have the 500 Mile Race, and we needed to have the race that happened. It was one of the best 500s ever- one of top three I have witnessed. Many eyes were on Indianapolis yesterday with the pandemic slowing. It was a test to see if a large crowd could safely gather without any health issues. We will know in two weeks. We got what we needed.
I thought history would be made yesterday at the Indianapolis 500. I didn’t think it would the history that happened. Helio Castroneves won his fourth Indianapolis 500, joining an exclusive club of three other legends, A.J,. Foyt, Al Unser, Sr., and Rick Mears. Castroneves won the race in a thrilling down the stretch duel with Alex Palou, a 24 year old from Spain who won his first Indycar race just two months ago.
The 105th 500 had so many layers, and it played out almost perfectly. There was youth vs. veteran, pit performance, one off drivers vs. regulars, and just darn good racing.
The Over 40 Group vs. The 20s Crowd
The final margin of victory. 0.04928 seconds, sums up the difference between the two groups. The top ten has five drivers at least 35 years old, and five drivers aged 26 or younger. The veteran won this round, but the race easily could have gone to a youngster. The young guns led the majority of the 200 laps.
It was safer to be on the track than in the pits yesterday.
Of the 15 penalties assessed during the race, 14 were for pit violations. There were three spins on pit lane, Stefan Wilson’s spin knocked him out of the race. Will Power’s spin was just one part of arguably his worst career day ever. Simona De Silvestro’s spin cost her a credible run in Paretta Autosport’s debut.
The worst uit error may have cost Graham Rahal a shot at victory. A loose left rear tire came off as he was on the exit lane in turn 2, putting him into the outside wall. The loose tire hit Conor Daly’s car, effectively removing another contender from a chance at victory.
Pole winner Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi also had early pit problems when their cars stalled after refueling. Dixon recovered to finish 17th, and Rossi ended up in 29th.
Drivers who aren’t series regulars took five of the top ten spots in yesterday’s race. Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter, Santino Ferrucci, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Tony Kanaan, all had top 10 finishes. None had competed in more than two 2021 races before Sunday. Castroneves is the first non regular driver to win the race since 2011, when Dan Wheldon won in a one off effort. I don’t think we are seeing the start of a trend of Indy “specialists,” but these experienced drivers returning to the race sure helped the racing.
Some Last Words
From my observations and based on comments from some other people present yesterday, the 135,000 fans limit was exceeded. From my seat in G Stand the Southeast Vista looked packed, and the Southwest Vista looked pretty full as well. I hope we hear how many people actually attended, but at 135,000, there should have been more space in the stands, and there should not have been the traffic issues after the race.
After the race my group usually leaves the speedway at the first open gate. I walked all the way to gate 1, wanting to linger at he track as long as possible. After 2020, I will never again take my time at IMS for granted. I felt the need to spend as many stolen moments there as I could. The 106th Indianapolis 500 is just 363 days away. I can’t wait.