We got to the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday with a couple of story lines. And we’ll probably leave Indy with even more storylines.
Here are some of the highs (and lows where appropriate):
Stripes at the Indy 500
Josef Newgarden’s victory in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 had several points of note:
• He is the first American driver to win the biggest spectacle in racing since Alexander Rossi succeeded in his rookie effort in the 100th Running of the 500 in 2016.
• Chevrolet executives are clearly delighted as the Chevy-powered Newgarden broke Honda’s dominance by winning the last three editions of the 500 and six of the previous 10. In addition, Honda won every episode of the 500 from 2004 through 2012.
• Newgarden’s winning margin of 0.0974 seconds was the fourth closest finish in 500m history.
• There were 52 lead changes, the third most in race history.
• 14 different drivers led at least one lap, which ranks second in the 500 annals.
• By not repeating his win from last year, Ericsson extended a streak where there hasn’t been a repeat winner of the Indianapolis 500 since Helio Castroneves won his first two Indy 500s in 2001 and 2002. If Ericsson had doubled, he would have had a won bonus payout that has steadily increased over the last 21 years and now reaches $420,000.
• Last but not least, the three red flags thrown during the race were a 500m record.
Thanks for the memories, Tony
It’s never easy to say goodbye, but it’s even harder when it’s a gentleman and fan favorite like Tony Kanaan.
The Brazilian driver raced in his 22nd and final Indy 500 on Sunday, finishing 16th. He said it was “not the result we wanted.”
While some may think it was a disappointing end to an illustrious career at Brickyard, which included a win in the 2013 edition of the 500, Kanaan embraced his career on the world’s most famous race track.
“Grateful, relieved, happy and sad at the same time,” Kanaan said of his emotions now that his last race is over. “There are so many emotions right now. But one thing is for sure. I think I was sitting here three years ago and I said I’m not retiring because I don’t want to race in an empty grandstand, and what they did for me today, ends my return here.
“Because of that experience there, I don’t think I’ll ever have it again. In a way, finishing 16th will take away everyone’s idea, oh, you finished third, you should do it again. Kyle Larson will be driving that car next year. Hopefully I’ll be there.”
Kanaan also made the 389th and final start of his storied 25-year IndyCar career. While he will continue to race stock cars in his native Brazil, he said he plans to hold talks with Arrow McLaren, for whom he raced on Sunday, to stay with the team, perhaps as an advisor going forward.
“That was something we’re talking about, that’s a plan,” Kanaan said. “I talked to team owner Zak Brown and Gavin Ward a little bit and I said let’s go through this first.
“I’ll be in Detroit next week (for the next IndyCar race), so I’m not going to the beach drinking margaritas and you’ll never see me again. Yes, the desire is there. I think there is a place in the team so hopefully we talk and you don’t get rid of me.”
Kanaan ends his career with 17 wins, 79 top-5 finishes and 13 poles. He also earned the 2004 Indy Racing League championship.
Graham Rahal’s Not-So-Magical Month
Graham Rahal’s emotional rollercoaster during the month of May continued on Sunday. After failing to qualify last Sunday and then being chosen to replace the injured Stefan Wilson, when it came time for Sunday’s race, Rahal was unable to fire his No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet on the first parade lap, allowing cars to drive around him in the front lane.
Rahal’s team pushed the car behind the wall and the initial diagnosis was a battery failure. The team eventually resolved the issue and Rahal returned to the track, two laps down, having missed the green flag drop.
Rahal worked his way back to 22nd, but also finished five laps behind the leaders.
Andretti still looking for Indy Glory
Like almost every year, there was great hope that the infamous “Andretti curse” would finally be broken and that third-generation driver Marco Andretti would finally bring victory to the most famous family in racing.
Unfortunately Andretti, who qualified 24th, didn’t fare much better in the overall standings, finishing 17th, the last driver on the first lap.
But that wasn’t the worst news. Andretti Autosport had an extremely difficult day overall on Sunday.
Of the five Andretti drivers entered, Colton Herta was the driver with the highest finish, finishing ninth. Devlin DeFrancesco was 13th followed by Marco Andretti, Kyle Kirkwood was 28th and Romain Grosjean was 30th, both saw their days end prematurely due to crashes.
Kirkwood’s crash was as frightening as it was spectacular. Arrow McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist made contact with the wall at Turn 2. The wreck caused a broken control arm in his car that left him out of control, leading to a spin and Kirkwood was unable to miss Rosenqvist’s car.
Kirkwood lost the left rear wheel on impact, spun into the wall, went upside down and slid down the wall. He hung upside down until security workers got to him, turned the car around and took him away.
He was able to climb out of the wreckage on his own, waving to the fans before being taken away in an ambulance. Rosenqvist was unharmed. The race was briefly red-flagged while workers cleaned up the damage.
“Something broke in the back and Kyle couldn’t avoid me. I’m glad he’s okay,” Rosenqvist said.
Added Kirkwood, “Everything happened so fast. I just hit the gate. Thank goodness for the AMR security team. That was the scary part of it. I’m glad we’re okay, but the car was super fast.”
And speaking of crashes, when the team has its post-race debrief on Monday, team owner Michael Andretti will not be a happy camper.
Herta and Grosjean got into a tangle on the pit lane. Herta left his pit box and turned right into Grosjean’s car. The damage to both cars was limited and they were able to continue their way. However, on lap 150, Grosjean lost control of his car coming out of turn 2 and hit the wall hard, ending his day.
Chances and endings…
COMMENTS: Three of the four rookies were involved in wrecks that ended their days, while the fourth rookie failed to finish due to mechanical issues. Technically, he was the highest-finishing rookie, even though he only completed 196 laps Benjamin Pedersen (21st), followed by Augustine Canapino (26th), Stab Ray Robb (31st) and R. C. Enerson (32nd), who had mechanical issues that ended his day after 125 laps. … Katherine Legge was a little scared when she left her pit area after a service on lap 37. After pulling away and moving into the middle of the pit lane, she appeared to step on the gas too hard, spin her cold tires and run over the pit lane wall to slide. Fortunately, there were no other cars or team personnel in the stable where she ended up. She was able to get on track, but apparently the contact was more serious than first thought, as she was brought back into the pits after three laps. later on. She would eventually retire two laps later and finish last. … If people attending Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 thought they could have imagined there being more law enforcement officers in attendance than usual, they weren’t. According to reports, a record number of more than 1,100 local, state, state and federal police officers were on hand, from directing traffic to searching every car that entered the interior. Dozens of dog units were also present. … One and done? Singer Jewellery rendition of The Star Spangled Banner drew quite a bit of negative social media reaction from fans for her interpretation of the national anthem.
Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski