Sunday marked the 98th running of the Indy 500 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The weather was absolutely beautiful (76 degrees Fahrenheit, not a cloud in the sky), and for the first three-quarters of the race, it was business as usual. Despite the absolutely insane speeds (in excess of 200 miles per hour, constantly), some find it easy to write off a race on an oval track as being less exciting as events that involve both left and right turns, as well as elevation changes. But Sunday's race proved to be a truly thrilling affair – especially the last quarter.
This year's 500 started without issue, and the first 150 of the 200-lap race were caution-free. Out of the gate, places one, two, and three were held by Chevy driver Ed Carpenter in the No. 20 car, Honda driver James Hinchcliffe in the No. 27 car, and Will Power in the Chevy-powered No. 12 car. However, it was Brazilian Helio Castroneves, in the Chevy-powered No. 3 car, who led the majority of the first half of the race – 36 of the first 100 laps.
American driver Charlie Kimball spun in Turn 2, creating the day's first yellow flag, 150 laps in. Following that, it was an all-out battle for first place, right up to the very last lap.
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The 500's second yellow flag was waved when Scott Dixon, in the No. 9 car, hit the wall with just 40 laps to go (pictured above, top), taking him out of commission for the rest of the race. Almost immediately after restarting, Hinchcliffe made a risky, three-wide maneuver that caused him to get tangled up with pole-sitter Ed Carpenter, resulting in a crash (above, lower right). Carpenter was seen throwing his hands in the air on the track, as he confronted Hinchcliffe, reportedly calling it an "amateur" move, according to ESPN. "The moment when Hinch decided to make it three-wide was more than any of us could handle," Carpenter said. "Let's just say it was good thing he already had a concussion last week."
Kimball spun in Turn 2, creating the day's first yellow flag, 150 laps in. Following that, it was an all-out battle for first place.
A red flag was flown after Townsend Bell in the No. 6 Chevy crashed into the wall at Turn 2 (above, lower left), bringing the cars to a halt in pit lane with just eight laps remaining. This, folks, is where things got interesting.
Upon restarting, Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28, Honda-powered car was leading the pack, with Castroneves right on his tail. Marco Andretti in the No. 25 Honda also danced in the top three, but couldn't keep up with Hunter-Reay and Castroneves, who exchanged the lead spot several times over the last couple laps, including a particularly daring maneuver by Hunter-Reay, almost going off into the grass while darting left of Castroneves, allowing him to take the lead on the inside of the turn.
Hunter-Reay passed Castroneves for a final time as the two cars flew under the white flag, and it would be the American driver who would ultimately kiss the bricks (and drank the milk, as is tradition) when the race came to a close. Castroneves took second place with the second-tightest gap in Indy 500 history, Hunter-Reay only edging him out by 0.060 seconds. Andretti rounded off the top three, 0.257 seconds behind Castroneves.
"I've watched this race since I was sitting in diapers on the floor in front of the TV," Hunter-Reay said while celebrating in Victory Lane, according to ESPN. "My son did it today. He watched me here. I'm thrilled. This is American history, this race, this is American tradition."