INDIANAPOLIS -- The 98th Indy 500 is in the history books. It was spectacular race, with Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay exchanging the lead twice in the final five laps of a race that ran mostly green and finished green with record speeds as well as a couple of crashes that took out some notable drivers. Hunter-Reay verified today that he is the top American driver of this generation and a world-class talent who has won the IndyCar championship and Indy 500 title in less than two years. Castroneves proved that at age 39, he's still got plenty left and a fourth Indy 500 win is within his reach. Marco Andretti has yet to reach 30 and he's going to have 10 to 15 more chances to win the race. And NASCAR's Kurt Busch was impressive in his first outing, the opening half of his grueling double that will conclude with tonight's Coca-Cola 600.
To get a better sense of how the day and the Indy 500 unfolded, scroll down to the bottom and read up.
Indy 500 starting grid | Kurt Busch on the double | Local hero Carpenter wins pole
Tony Kanaan gears up | Kanaan's legendary inspiration
Return of ex-winners spices Indy 500 field
Life, death and the heart of American racing
GALLERY: Greatest Indy 500 moments
3:41 p.m.: Ryan Hunter-Reay's comeback from not having an IndyCar job a decade ago to champion has been well chronicled, but winning the Indy 500 is the fulfillment of his life's dream. He drove in the Champ Car Series and had two wins, but when the teams he drove for didn't have the finances to keep going, he was out of a ride and began considering NASCAR. Bobby Rahal signed him mid-season the next year and his career in IndyCar was reborn.
3:36 p.m.: Helio Castroneves on finishing second: "It's good, but second sucks."
3:34 p.m.: Kurt Busch finished sixth and almost certainly will be voted Rookie of the Year. Will it whet his appetite to come back to Indy next year? How about other NASCAR stars like Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch who have expressed interest in racing at Indy? This year's race was over in less than three hours and Kurt will have sufficient time to get to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600. It will be along day for him, but if he can complete the double with a solid performance, it will have been well worth it.
3:30 p.m.: Ryan Hunter-Reay could have left Andretti Autosport for Penske after winning the IndyCar season championship in 2012, but he showed loyalty by staying. Michael Andretti signed him five years ago without the sponsorship to run him for the full season and later built the team commercially around him. Hunter-Reay was named the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing sixth for Bobby Rahal's team in 2008, and he came in third last year after being passed on the final restart by Tony Kanaan.
3:24 p.m.: You can imagine the mixed feelings of Michael Andretti, who runs winner Ryan Hunter-Reay's pit. His driver won, but his son was an oh-so-close third. There will be great happiness in two racing families. Hunter-Reay's wife Beccy is former IndyCar and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Robby Gordon's sister and her father Bob was an accomplished off-road racer. Said Hunter-Reay in Victory Lane: "I'm a proud American boy, that's for sure." He's the first American to win since 2006.
3:17 p.m.: It's Ryan Hunter-Reay taking the checkers by less than a car length over Helio Castroneves, who had passed him on the outside in Turn One with two laps to go. Hunter-Reay passed Castroneves on the outside during the final lap entering Turn One and held on to win by .3171 of a second. Marco Andretti was third, Carlos Munoz fourth and Juan Pablo Montoya fifth.
3:15 p.m.: The race will restart on lap 195, six laps to the checkered. What are the chances for another caution that would end the race? The situation seems likely. Castroneves, Andretti and Montoya will all be willing to take big risks to win.
3:09 p.m.: With less than 10 laps to go, Ryan Hunter-Reay could become the first American to win the Indy 500 since Sam Hornish, Jr. in 2006. Helio Castroneves would join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears in the exclusive four-time winners club. Marco Andretti would give his family, which has suffered for so long at Indianapolis, its second victory at Indy. Grandpa Mario won in 1969 and came close many times after that. Father Michael, his car owner, always had the speed to lead, but was never able to close the deal. In 1992, Michael dominated the race and had a mechanical failure in the final 30 laps. His brother Jeff crashed hard that day and suffered two severely broken feet, which ended his career. Mario crashed that day and also had to take the trip to Methodist Hospital. After he fell out, Michael said, "This is such a cruel, cruel place." The so-called Andretti curse was mitigated by Dan Wheldon's win in 2005 and Dario Franchitti's in 2007 while driving for owner Michael, but only a victory by Marco will completely remove it.
3:01 p.m.: Townsend Bell's bid for an Indy 500 victory ended in a crash and the red flag has come out because of debris. The field will stop on pit lane. Nine laps remain. Ryan Hunter-Reay leads, Helio Castroneves second, Marco Andretti third, Carlos Munoz fourth, Juan Pablo Montoya fifth, Kurt Busch sixth, Sebastien Bourdais seventh, Justin Wilson eighth, Ryan Briscoe ninth and Will Power tenth. Briscoe has made a great comeback from going down a lap down early in the race.
2:56 p.m.: Red flag is out. Too much debris on the track from Townsend Bell's wreck in Turn Two...
2:54 p.m.: Ryan Hunter-Reay passed Helio Castroneves for the lead on lap 185. Nobody is holding anything back now....Townsend Bell just wrecked....yellow is out with only 10 laps to go...
2:52 p.m.: Marco Andretti passed Hunter-Reay for the lead on lap 182, Helio Castroneves is third, and the remarkable Carlos Munoz fourth. Munoz finished second and was Rookie of the Year at Indy last year.
2:50 p.m.: Juan Pablo Montoya is running eighth and you can't count him out. Kurt Busch is seventh, a tremendous drive considering that he's a stock car driver and in his first IndyCar race.
2:47 p.m.: Townsend Bell was on the outside and touched Carpenter. Hinchcliffe was committed to the far inside and he and Carpenter made contact. It was three-wide, not enough room. Bell made it through and is in second. Nobody will have to pit for fuel from here to the end in 32 laps. Castroneves is third, Andretti fourth and Takuma Sato fifth. Where did Sato come from? He must have been another of those drivers using the final-50 lap strategy.
2:44 p.m.: Notable drivers whose days are done: Ed Carpenter, James Hinchcliffe, Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon.
2:39 p.m.: Alex Tagliani stayed out and took the lead on lap 172. Ryan Hunter-Reay is second, Ed Carpenter is third, Townsend Bell fourth and James Hinchcliffe fifth. Carpenter was taking his left front wheel below the white line while running second, an indication that he had a push in the handling, and he could have balanced his car during the pit stop. Tagliani has less fuel that Hunter-Reay and that might help him stay in the lead until he has to pit for the final time. We're heading for a thrilling finish...
2:36 p.m.: Ed Carpenter pitted with the field on lap 170. Everybody should have fuel to reach the checkered flag, but it will be close as far as consumption is concerned and drivers will have to gauge when to stomp the throttle to pass and when to be patient.
2:33 p.m.: Scott Dixon hit the wall exiting Turn Four. He'd talked on the radio about taking downforce out to increase his speed prior to his last pit stop, but it also carried the risk of not having enough grip and spinning out like he did. Give Dixon credit for going for the win. He wasn't going to settle for anything less. The caution has come out for the second time today. Dixon is finished. Graham Rahal and Buddy Lazier departed earlier.
2:28 p.m.: Pole sitter Ed Carpenter, who suffered a setback with blistering on his right rear tire, caught a break with the later caution and has now gone past Hunter-Reay for the lead on lap 163. Andretti third, Dixon fourth, Castroneves fifth.
2:24 p.m.: Juan Pablo Montoya is back up to 12th and with 44 laps remaining. He's got plenty of time to challenge for the win. Sage Karam, at 16th, is the second highest rookie and Villeneuve is 18th, the best he's run during the entire race. Villeneuve may have been using the final-50 strategy.
2:22 p.m.: Most of the field including the leaders are pitting at the end of lap 153. Marco Andretti came in leading, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves. Ed Carpenter had pitted eight laps prior to the caution and inherited the lead by not pitting with the field. He could have gotten back on sequence with the leaders, but chose track position. Everybody will have to pit once more, so maybe this strategy will work for him. Hunter-Reay is now second, Andretti third, Dixon fourth and Castroneves sixth. Kurt Busch has climbed to ninth and is in position to become Rookie of the Year, which is voted upon by a group of journalists and officials.
2:16 p.m.: Charlie Kimball has spun into the outside wall in turn two and made contact for the first caution of the day at lap 150.
2:13 p.m.: Marco Andretti has passed teammate Hunter-Reay and is leading with 147 laps complete. Helio Castroneves is third, Scott Dixon fourth, James Hinchcliffe fifth. A great shoot-out is on the way...
2:10 p.m.: Juan Pablo Montoya has been penalized for exceeding the pit lane speed limit of 60 miles per hour. He'll have to drive down the length of the lane at 60 and it will put him far back in the field. Montoya also was penalized for speeding several years ago in the NASCAR Brickyard 400 he'd dominated to that point.
2:06 p.m.: The field is cycling through the fourth round of pit stops in the late 120s. Juan Pablo Montoya ran ahead longer than anyone but pitted on lap 132, Ryan Hunter-Reay now moves into the lead, followed by Castroneves, Andretti and Carpenter, who has made a tremendous comeback from his unscheduled stop. But it may still cost Carpenter later in the race because he's now out of sequence with the leaders.
2:02 p.m: The first 100 laps were the fastest in Indy 500 history at 211.871 miles hour by leader Ryan Hunter-Reay. The previous record was 177.687 in 2013 by AJ Allmendinger. The new mark is the result of no cautions and the very fast pace.
1:53 p.m.: Ed Carpenter made an unscheduled pit stop and fell out of contention, back to 24th on lap 117. Hunter-Reay has taken the lead at lap 119 with Castroneves second and Andretti third. Carpenter's pit stop was caused by blistering on his right rear tire. Other drivers have also reported the problem. It may be the result of these long, 30-lap runs without a caution plus heat the tires haven't been subjected to all year. Firestone's tires have been praised this month for their durability and speed, but there's no way simulate these long runs in practice or testing.
1:52: Still no cautions despite record average speed of 211.953 mph. Temperature on the track is a balmy 117 degrees...
1:44 p.m.: Helio Castroneves went under Hunter-Reay in Turn One to take the lead on lap 108. Maybe Hunter-Reay let him go so he could save fuel. Marco Andretti is third, Ed Carpenter fourth, Scot Dixon fifth....back to Townsend Bell 12th, rookie Sage Karam 13th, Kurt "Double" Busch 16th...
1:38 p.m.: With the pit cycle complete at 100 laps, Ryan Hunter-Reay has taken the lead, followed by Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter and Juan Pablo Montoya. That must have been some pit stop and in-and-out laps by Hunter-Reay and the Andretti team--very different from what happened to Tony Kanaan, who got stuck in the pit for 17 laps due to a starter gear failure.
1:33 p.m.: Helio Castroneves pitted from the lead on lap 92, the start of the third round of stops. The race has run caution free. The field is now cycling through its pit stops.
1:28 p.m.: My gut tells me there are some drivers who have final 50-lap strategies to go for it and are trying to save fuel and make changes to balance their cars in order to be stronger in the final quarter of the race. That was always the strategy that four-time Indy winner Rick Mears employed, but few drivers could fine tune their cars as well as he did. The lesson of last year's record 68 lead changes was that you can really put the hammer down when you need to go.
1:25 p.m.: Sage Karam, 19 years old, is in 10th after 75 laps, the top running rookie. He started 31st and came out of the Road to Indy program, the open-wheel multi-series driver development plan. Karam is from Nazareth, Pa., the same hometown as Marco, Michael and Mario Andretti, and is signed to an IndyCar driver development deal with Ganassi.
1:19 p.m.: Kurt Busch is running 19th at 73 laps. There hasn't been a caution yet. Graham Rahal's day is done due to engine failure.
1:15 p.m.: Tony Kanaan's opportunity for a second straight Indy 500 win has ended. He's been in his pit box for several laps. Came in out of fuel and then stripped a starter gear. Taking forever to replace it. Castroneves, bidding for a fourth Indy win, is leading, followed by Andretti, Carpenter, Dixon and Power.
1:11 p.m.: Marco Andretti has taken the lead on lap 58. He's always been fast at Indianapolis, second by a fraction of a second to Sam Hornish in 2006, third in 2008 and 2010, and sixth last year. His grandfather Mario won the race in 1969, and his dad had several shots at winning it including 1991 when Rick Mears passed him on the outside in Turn One for the final lead change.
1:03 p.m.: Will Power is the leader, followed by Ed Carpenter, JR Hildebrand, Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves. Carpeneter's small team is showing some real strength early, running second and third, with the Penske team leading and fifth.
12:58 p.m.: Graham Rahal has gone six down at 39 laps and pitted, likely an engine problem. It looks like his race is over. UPDATE: Rahal says his engine kept shutting off. He's disappointed about his bad luck at Indy and regrets not making a better showing for his National Guard sponsor on Memorial Day...
12:57 p.m.: Former Indy winner Scott Dixon has steadily moved up to seventh after starting 11th. Townsend Bell has driven from 25th on the grid to 12th.
12:53 p.m.: James Hinchcliffe's Andretti team crew got him out ahead of Ed Carpenter for the lead but Will Power moved up to second and took the lead on the 37th lap.
12:49 p.m.: The race has been green from the start. Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe have pitted for fuel and tires, Will Power is leading. It will be brief. The fact that Carpenter had to pit first out of the field shows that leading takes more fuel and makes for less mileage.
12:47 p.m.: There's only been one pass in the opening 25 laps, so we're not seeing the kind of overtaking that the race had last year. Maybe the engineers have made it tougher to overtake or the drivers are being more patient. It's Carpenter, Hinchcliffe, Power, Castroneves and Hildebrand running first through fifth.
12:38 p.m.: JR Hildebrand is running fifth, up from ninth. He's driving for Ed Carpenter's team. He almost won the race in 2012 but hit the wall in Turn Four on the final lap and Dan Wheldon passed him for the checkers. Hildebrand had the presence of mind to stick his foot back into the throttle and drive the car across the line in second. He was fired by Panther Racing after a crash early in last year's 500 and needs a good performance to begin rebuilding his career.
12:36 p.m.: Ed Carpenter took the lead on the 10th lap and he's followed by James Hnchcliffe, Will Power and Helio Castroneves.
12:31 p.m.: James Hinchcliffe has led the opening four laps. He suffered a concussion after being hit by flying debris at the Indianapolis Grand Prix, which was held on the IMS road course to start May, and missed several days of practice before being cleared to drive. He's running laps just short of 220 miles per hour. Ryan Briscoe bounced off the wall with his left rear tire, was forced to pit and is a lap down.
12:27 p.m.: One quick note: A.J. Foyt has a car in the Indy 500 for the 57th straight year. He raced in 35 straight, was the first to win four, and also won the race with Kenny Brack in 1999. Foyt owns the cars driven by Takuma Sato and Martin Plowman this year.
12:25 p.m.: They're rolling now, on the parade lap. The front row is Ed Carpenter on the pole, James Hinchcliffe in the middle and Will Power on the outside. Hinchcliffe is trying to become the second Canadian to win the Indy 500. Helio Castroneves is on the inside, Simon Pagenaud in the middle and Marco Andretti on the outside of the second row.
12:21 p.m.: The Indy 500 is the world's largest single-day attended sporting event with an estimated 300,000 spectators. The Indianapolis Star's Curt Cavin covertly counted seats a few years ago and said it had 257,000 and then-IMS President Tony George said that total wasn't entirely accurate, but didn't dispute that it was in the neighborhood. Infield general admission and suite tickets account for the rest of the estimate. They're all here today, the upper and turn grandstands are full, a few empty seats in the lower rows on the front straight are the only open spots. The grandstands are massive. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is really a place you have to see in person to realize how massive it is.
12:10 p.m.: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, embroiled in a national controversy regarding his feelings on race relations, will be the race's honorary starter and he'll be joined on the stand by Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who will hand him the flag. "I'm super excited," said Cuban, who also appears on ABC's show Shark Tank, and attended Indiana University in Bloomington. 'It's great to be back. I love Indiana."
Noon: Jim Nabors will be singing "Back Home in Indiana" for the final time. "There's a time in life when you have to move on," he said. "I'll be 84 this year and I just figured it was time. When it started I never dreamed I'd still be doing this 42 years later." He'll be followed by the command to start engines by Mari Hulman George, the IMS Chairman of the Board and the daughter of Tony Hulman, who saved the speedway by re-opening it for the 1946 race after four years of inactivity during World War II. The track was in a state of disrepair, weeds growing through the bricks, and faced the possibility of being razed for land development.
11:55 a.m.: It's a beautiful day in Indianapolis, blue skies, no clouds in the forecast, temperatures in the 70s and low humidity. Taps and the national anthem sung by Leeann rimes are coming up, followed by the traditional flyover, this year by the Black Diamond Jet Team. The race, following a parade lap and pace laps, is scheduled for green at 12:17.
11:40 a.m.: Good morning from the media center at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I'll be writing my thoughts and observations live from here during the 98th Indianapolis 500, a race that has some of the most interesting storylines in many years. Former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch will be driving in an IndyCar race for the first time, hoping to complete all 500 miles and then fly to Charlotte, NC, for NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600. He's been fast in practice and qualifying, very competitive, and will start 12th, on the outside of the fourth row, in the famous field of 33 cars.
Juan Pablo Montoya will be going for his second win -- 14 years after his first -- and Jacques Villeneuve will try to win 19 years after taking his first Indy 500. Tony Kanaan won the race last year and has moved to Ganassi Racing, which has won three of the last six. Ed Carpenter, raised in Indianapolis and the stepson of former IMS head Tony George, starts on the pole for the second straight year.
The field is deep in experience and talent, and the top seven qualified at over 230 miles per hour. My pick to win: Montoya. Busch is my favorite to win Rookie of the Year. It should be quite a show.