Ryan Hunter-Reay has survived a thrilling few final laps to claim his first Indianapolis 500 victory, beating home Hélio Castroneves by just six-hundredths of a second – the event’s second closest ever finish – in the famous 200-lap race.
The Andretti Autosport driver became the first American to win the blue-ribbon event since Sam Hornish Jr achieved the feat for Team Penske in 2006.
Townsend Bell’s late-race accident triggered a sensible call from Race Director Beaux Barfield to suspend the race so as to avoid a yellow-flag finish, setting a packed capacity crowd up for a nail-biting six-lap sprint to the chequered flag.
It proved to be a brilliant call from the people upstairs, as Hunter-Reay and long-time frontrunner Castroneves swapped positions with every lap, with the American clinching the lead on the start/finish straight just as the final lap got underway.
It was a see-sawing battle: Hunter-Reay was better through the first two turns of the 2.5-mile ‘Brickyard’, while Castroneves was stronger leading onto the main straight. His last move proved decisive, allowing him to pull just enough of a gap on the final lap. Castroneves reeled him back in through the final two corners, but just didn’t have enough in hand to overtake the former champion one last time.
Capping off a great day for the Andretti stable, Marco Andretti and Carlos Muñoz finished third and fourth, with guest driver Kurt Busch finishing a brilliant sixth ahead of his later appearance in NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 oval feature.
Just ahead, fellow NASCAR racer Juan Pablo Montoya marked his full-time return to open-wheel oval racing by finishing fifth, despite having to serve a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Penske teammate Will Power suffered the same fate and finished eleventh as Australia yet again went winless in the Indy 500.
The race ran without a single caution period for the first 149 laps – a record in the event’s near 100-year history – before Charlie Kimball broke the spell by crashing his Ganassi entry at the exit of Turn 2.
The race to that point was dominated by a thrilling battle for the lead between Andretti, his teammate James Hinchcliffe, Penske’s Will Power and pole-sitter Ed Carpenter, while Hunter-Reay was steadily working his way to the front of the field, and added his name to a long list of leaders when he assumed P1 on the 100th lap.
As is so often the case, one safety car tends to trigger more. Barely minutes after Dario Franchitti pulled his Chevrolet pace car into the pits, another accident ensued: Scott Dixon span into the wall at Turn 4 and Josef Newgarden went off in sympathy, bringing out the Holmatro Safety Crew once again.
Another restart and another accident: this time Hinchcliffe and Carpenter came together at Turn 1, for which the furious pole-winner blamed the Canadian of costing him a potential win. That being said, Townsend Bell was also a player in the two-car shunt, but he managed to continue undamaged before his accident late in the race.
Victory lane proved to be an emotional affair, with Hunter-Reay gulping the famous buttermilk, celebrating the achievement of a personal milestone and claiming the lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings, 40 points clear of Power.
Video highlights of the race can be watched here:
2014 IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 – Final Classification (200 laps):
|Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport Honda||2:40:48.2305|
|2.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 0.0600|
|3.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 0.3171|
|4.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 0.7795|
|5.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 1.3233|
|6.||Kurt Busch||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 2.2666|
|7.||Sébastien Bourdais||KV Racing Technology Honda||+ 2.6576|
|8.||Will Power||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 2.8507|
|9.||Sage Karam||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 3.2848|
|10.||JR Hildebrand||Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet||+ 3.4704|
|11.||Oriol Servià||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda||+ 4.1077|
|12.||Simon Pagenaud||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||+ 4.5677|
|13.||Alex Tagliani||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda||+ 7.6179|
|14.||Jacques Villeneuve||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||+ 8.1770|
|15.||Sebastián Saavedra||KV Racing Technology / AFS Racing Honda||+ 8.5936|
|16.||James Davison||KV Racing Technology Honda||+ 9.1043|
|17.||Carlos Huertas||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||+ 12.1541|
|18.||Ryan Briscoe||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 13.3143|
|19.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda||+ 13.7950|
|20.||Jack Hawksworth||Bryan Herta Autosport Honda||+ 13.8391|
|21.||Mikhail Aleshin||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||+ 2 laps|
|22.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||+ 2 laps|
|23.||Martin Plowman||A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda||+ 4 laps|
|24.||Pippa Mann||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||+ 7 laps|
|DNF.||Townsend Bell||KV Racing Technology Honda||190 laps|
|DNF.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||177 laps|
|DNF.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet||175 laps|
|DNF.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport Honda||175 laps|
|DNF.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||167 laps|
|DNF.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda||156 laps|
|DNF.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||149 laps|
|DNF.||Buddy Lazier||Lazier Partners Racing Chevrolet||87 laps|
|DNF.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda||44 laps|
Images via IndyCar Series Media