This year’s Indianapolis 500 will go down in the record books as one of the most eventful in recent memory.
Team Penske’s Will Power won this year’s 102nd running of the “greatest spectacle in racing” after looking strong all day. With just four laps to go, race leaders Stefan Wilson and Jack Harvey were forced to pit to refuel, handing Power the race lead.
In Victory Lane an ecstatic Power made it clear just how important a 500 victory is for the 37-year-old’s career. Up until today Power had seemingly won everything an IndyCar driver could, except the Indianapolis 500.
“Man, I just can’t believe it. I changed my attitude a lot after Barber. Very positive, I had a great month. I just can’t believe it. I’ve got to thank Roger Penske, Verizon and my parents for allowing me to get to this point,” said an emotional Power in the winner’s circle.
Crossing the yard of bricks in second place was pole sitter Ed Carpenter, who held the lead in the race’s opening stages, but fell behind in a later pit cycle.
“We had everything we needed. The guys were great in the pits. Will got us on one of the pit sequences. I don’t know if it was on an out lap or fuel,” Carpenter said after the race. “In hindsight, with how many yellows kept coming in, we went away from a fuel race, so we needed to take the opportunity to get it when I could.”
In previous years Carpenter likely would have been able to challenge for the race win if in the same position. This year’s new aero kits provided a rather critical advantage to the cars in the lead, making it easier for the first-place driver to open up a large gap over the rest of the field.
Finishing the race in third place was veteran Chip Ganassi Driver Scott Dixon, whose car struggled throughout the race.
“We got a little bit lucky there with the caution with the 14 (Tony Kanaan), but we struggled on the restarts,” said Dixon after the race. “First and second gear just seemed to be out of sync with what the others were and the speed they were restarting at, and it was just kind of kill the momentum at the start and probably being a little overcautious in Turn 1.”
Throughout the 200-lap race several top drivers were taken out of contention as a result of a car many found difficult to adapt to. The race’s first caution came on Lap 48, when Takuma Sato came up on a slow James Davison taking the two out of the race.
The storied career of Danica Patrick came to an end on Lap 68 when her #13 GoDaddy Chevrolet made contact with the Turn 2 wall.
“Definitely not a great ending,” Patrick said from the Indianapolis press room after being cleared from the track Medical Centre. “Today was a tough day, a little bit of it was ok, a lot of it was tough to drive. But I thought we were making it better.”
Another fan favourite, Helio Castroneves, was taken out of the running on Lap 147 when his #3 Pennzoil Chevrolet spun on the exit of Turn 4 making contact with the inside wall on pit-in.
Once again Castroneves came up empty handed in his attempt to win his 4th Indianapolis 500. It remains unseen if he will get another chance with Penske in 2019, though early signs are positive.
The drivers and teams of the Verizon IndyCar Series will have to put all of the pomp and circumstance of the 500 behind them rather quickly, as the series races to Detroit for a double-header next weekend.