It is tough to write the story for this year’s Indianapolis 500 with so many storylines. This was my 36th race and several things that occurred during the day were unique. I will start with the trip into the track. We were less than five miles from the track but it took almost two hours to get to the parking lot. This is the most traffic we have seen since the early 1990’s. The weather was almost perfect. The day was overcast with temperatures in the high 70’s at race time. The crowd was estimated at 300,000, the most since the 100th running of the race. There were 9 previous race winners could there be a fifth win for Helio Castroneves or a third win for Takuma Sato? How about team owner AJ Foyt just losing his wife in April could the 88-year-old Foyt’s Team win for him? Then there is track owner Roger Penske. Penske going into the race had 18th wins as team owner could this be his 19th? Could fan favorite Tony Kanaan win for the second time in his final race? The final storyline could last year’s winner Marcus Ericsson be the first repeat winner since Helio (2001/2002). Stick with the story you will get answers!
This year’s pole winner was Alex Palou. He set a four-lap track record of 234.217 just beating out Rinus Veekay for the honors to start the race in the number one spot. Palou led the first two laps before Veekay passed him on lap 3. No one really dominated with many lead changes during the race. The race was green flag for the first 92 laps before the first caution flag came when Sting Ray Robb hit the wall in turn 1. The race returned to green flag racing at lap 100. The next yellow flag did not come out until lap 150 when Romain Grosjean hit the wall in turn 2. The race returned to green until lap 184 which brought out a red flag stopping the race. This crash involved Felix Rosenquist and Kyle Kirkwood. Kirkwood went upside down with a terrifying upside-down ride through the short chute. A tire for Kirkwood’s car came off and flew into a parked car in the parking lot. Luckily no one was hurt, only the parked car. The safety crew was able to flip Kirkwood’s car back on the remaining wheels. Kirkwood was taken to the care center and was able to walk away from the incident.
After the safety crews cleaned up the accident the race resumed for two laps. A second red flag occurred when Pato O’ward , Simon Pagenaud and Augustin Canapino collided in the third turn and into the beginning of the fourth turn. Luckily all of the drivers were ok. The fans were excited with less than 9 laps to go but just two laps later the third red flagged came out stopping the race. Ed Carpenter and Benjamin Peterson tangled on the front straight away near the start finish line. Marcus Ericsson was the race leader at the time of the crash. It appeared that there would not be enough time left to finish the race with only two laps remaining. There is no overtime at Indianapolis. But race official decided to do a one lap yellow/white and a final lap for the win.
Josef Newgarden passed Ericsson on the final lap and then held off a charging Ericsson at the finish line. Herald Photographer, Greg Junge took a shot just seconds before he won the race. The 32-year-old Newgarden was like a kid getting his first hit in baseball. He crawled under the fence, jumped into the stands and celebrated with the fans. “I started out as fan in the crowd when I was young and this place is amazing, regardless of where you are sitting,” said Newgarden as he was pouring a bottle of milk over his head for the victory celebration. “I just want to thank Mr. Penske and my team for giving me a chance to win. We did not win in our first 11 tries but the day was today. It takes a lot of luck and everything has to fall into place to win here,” added Newgarden.
Ericsson finished second but was not happy. “I think it was not enough laps to go to do what we did. I don’t think it is safe to race on cold tires for a restart when half the field is sort of still trying to get out on the track when we go green. I can’t agree with that,” said Ericsson. Ericsson has a logical argument maybe this will bring about changes and overtime in the future. From the fan’s perspective it is a big disappointment to see the race end on a yellow caution. The fans enjoy seeing the race end as it did.
AJ Foyt’s driver did not win but his team had something to celebrate with a third-place finish with Santino Ferrucci. The final story line is Roger Penske. It was his first win since 2019 and the 19th career win as a car owner. His parking spot at the track marked simply 18 for the last four years. While Newgarden was still doing the post-race interview the sign had been changed to 19. This race will be talked about for years to come. Next year the crowd could be even bigger. This is the Month of May and Indy is “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing!”