Pole Sitter HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske said he’s had the best month of May, ever! He won his third Indianapolis 500 race Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Castroneves won the Pit Stop Challenge Friday on Carb Day. His team owner, ROGER PENSKE, had said earlier this week that there were three races at Indy in the month of May and he wanted to win them all. Penske got his wish. He now can change his vanity license plate to I Won 15.
Castroneves did his signature fence climb, and was highly emotional in Victory Circle. He said “This is incredible. I think my tears speak for everything.” He thanked his team, owner, sponsors, everybody including the fans. “You guys kept me strong. Thank you so much. Let’s celebrate now!”
Castroneves had radio issues and problems with his gearbox in the pits. His two spotters were RICK MEARS, former Penske driver and four-time winner of the Indy 500; and CLIVE HOWELL. TIM CINDRIC, President of Penske Racing, was the Race Strategist for Castroneves, who is the second straight pole sitter to win the race. Penske did the Race Strategy for teammate, RYAN BRISCOE/No.6.
The other obstacle facing Castroneves this month was the remaining conspiracy charge in his federal tax evasion case. That was dismissed Friday, just before the Pit Stop Challenge, which Castroneves and his team won, with a record-breaking time.
The Margin of Victory was 1.9819-seconds ahead of runner-up DAN WHELDON/No.4 Panther Racing, who won the 2005 Indy 500. All four former Indy 500 race winners in Sunday’s race finished in the top seven: Castroneves, Wheldon, and the two Chip Ganassi Racing drivers, SCOTT DIXON/No.9-sixth and DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10-seventh.
Franchitti turned the fastest lap of 222.044 mph on Lap 187. He also now leads the standings with 122 points, five points ahead of Castroneves in second place.
The third place finish of DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Andretti Green Racing is the best-ever finish for a female driver in the Indy 500.
Nineteen drivers finished on the lead lap, a record for the Indy 500. Twenty cars finished.
The weather was hazy and hot – upper eighties F. The lethargically-waving flags were barely making an effort.
Dixon led twice for 73 laps, the most of any of the four leaders. Winner Castroneves led first and last, for 66 laps. Franchitti led once for fifty laps and RYAN BRISCOE/No.6 Team Penske led once for 11 laps. Briscoe got a bad set of tires, which set him back, and he finished fifteenth.
There were eight cautions, all for contact. Sixty-one of the 200 race laps were under caution. There were no penalties assessed.
I misspoke regarding the top Rookie. It was ALEX TAGLIANI/No.36 Conquest Racing, who started last and finished eleventh. It was the cherry on the sundae for the Canadian, who had been bumped, missed a chance to retry when time ran out, and was so dejected. Then he was put in the car, at the expense of BRUNO JUNQUEIRA, who had qualified the car in thirty-third place. This is the third race this season for Tag, all with the Conquest team. He missed the oval race at Kansas.
There were several crashes, into the walls at Turn Four and Turn One. The most severe involved VITOR MEIRA/No.14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Rookie RAPHAEL MATOS/No.2 Luczo Dragon Racing. They touched wheels on Lap 173, and both hit the wall in Turn One. Matos had severe damage to his car and stopped on course. Meira spun and hit the wall again backwards, sliding up the wall and shooting backwards down the wall, until it flopped back onto the track. He was awake and alert when he was transported to Methodist hospital with back pain. Meira has been admitted for fractures of the L1 and L2 vertebraes. The plan of DR. MICHAEL OLINGER, medical director for Indy Racing League, is non-operative management. Noted racing orthopedic surgeon, DR. TERRY TRAMMEL fitted Meira with a back brace. Meira will remain in the hospital at least two days.
Meira and Matos were running nineteenth and twentieth at the time of the accident. Earlier Meira’s car caught fire in the pits, but it was extinguished and he was able to get back to racing.
The Turn One SAFER barrier had to be repaired, with welding of the injured areas.
Matos said “I feel OK. I hope Vitor is OK. It was just an unfortunate incident.” He was checked and cleared to drive.
Several other drivers didn’t have good luck. JUSTIN WILSON/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing spun and hit the Turn One wall on Lap 162 while running nineteenth. He finished twenty-third.
Rookie ROBERT DOORNBOS/No.06 Newman Haas Lanigan Racing hit the wall at Turn Two on Lap 126, but was not hurt. He finished twenty-eighth.
NELSON PHILIPPE/No.00 HVM Racing hit the Turn Four wall hard on Lap 132. He wasn’t hurt, and finished twenty-fifth.
E.J. VISO/No.13 HVM pitted after his rear tire came loose twice. He couldn’t get the car up to speed. “It was too shaky.” Viso finished twenty-fourth.
Some of the Indy-only drivers had their moments. Canadian PAUL TRACY/No.15 KV Racing Technology ran as high as fourth before finishing ninth after starting thirteenth. He will run the two Canadian IRL races with KVRT.
TOMAS SCHECKTER/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing finished twelfth after starting twenty-sixth.
SCOTT SHARP/No.16 Panther Racing started twentieth and finished fourteenth.
JOHN ANDRETTI/No.43 Richard Petty Motorsports/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing finished nineteenth after starting twenty-eighth.
The celebrating and prize giving happens Monday night at the Indy 500 Awards Banquet.