INDIANAPOLIS—Masterfully managing his fuel in a white-knuckle final two laps, IndyCar rookie Alexander Rossi won the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 before a gigantic crowd of 350,000. It was only his second race on an oval track. His first was on Phoenix's one-mile track in April. He'd been racing in Europe’s Formula One development series for the past seven years and drove in five F1 races at the end of last year.
"I have no idea how we pulled that off," he said in Indy's Victory Lane. "I can't believe that we've done this."
I live blogged the race, which saw constant lead changes, a slew of pit road mishaps and four crashes, throughout the day. To see how it all unfolded, scroll to the bottom and read your way up. My colleague Tim Tuttle will be filing a full recap. Here's the official order of finish.
3:37 p.m. — If there was any doubt that Rossi was out of fuel, he sputters to a stop just short of victory circle then gets pushed the rest of the way. What a super finish. We told you this would be one for the history books. Simply, a sensational finish. And after slipping into a laurel and sipping some milk, Nevada City, California boy Alexander Rossi, 24, is officially the winner of the 100th Indy 500.
Carloz Munoz takes second. Josef Newgarden was third with Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball right behind. James Hinchcliffe, our guest columnist and dramatic human interest story after his near fatal crash here last year, came in seventh after frequently leading in much of the early going. Helio Castroneves, who was bidding to join the exclusive four-time winners club, ended up 11th. Defending champion Juan Pablo Montoya never made it to the finish line, his day ended by a crash.
3:30 p.m. — And on FUMES, it's Alexander Rossi across the line! What a sensational run and totally unexpected. Not seven months ago, that kid was steering a backmarker Manor machine in F1. His claim to fame was as the only American to hold an FIA super licence. Now he can add an even greater distinction to his Wikipedia page: Indy 500 winner. Holy cow, the rookie did it!
3:29 p.m. — Two laps to go ... here we go... white flag is waving... can Alex Rossi, a rookie castoff from F1 win his second race on an oval? He's going for it!
3:27 p.m. — With five laps to go, Newgarden, Hinchcliffe and Munoz pit. This is make or break for the leaders. Munoz out in four seconds. Could Castroneves stay out? His earlier service, for damage repair, has left him in second now. His tour for four is still alive!
3:25 p.m. — Meanwhile, Dixon heads to the pits and the leaders follow. This could be huge. Kanaan taking on fresh tires and fuel...and peels out in 7.3 seconds. Newgarden and Munoz dueling for the lead with seven laps to go.
3:23 p.m. — Ten to go, and now it's Muñoz, Newgarden and Kanaan. Talk about high drama.
3:22 p.m. — The upshot is that everyone behind Newgarden will have to pit with 11 laps to go. The trouble is Muñoz, a runner up here not long ago, is picking up spots.
3:20 p.m. — Josef Newgarden leading with 14 laps to go. He's done 22 laps since his last pit stop. Carlos Munoz closing fast and .75 seconds behind...
3:18 p.m. — Kanaan and Newgarden dueling on the lead with 18 laps to go...Throw the Andretti Herta rookie Rossi into the mix of possibles too. What an upset that would be.
3:12 p.m. — With 26 laps to go, fuel strategies coming into play at this juncture now. It seems as if none of the front runners will be able to go the distance without a yellow. For my money, Dixon and Pagenaud are the guys who could surprise, though Pagenaud has reportedly been battling an intermittent engine misfire all day. He's likely got his fingers crossed at this point.
3:09 p.m. — On the restart, Kanaan retakes the lead with Newgarden and Hinchcliffe bidding to shuffle the second-place man JR Hildebrand further down the pack. Hildebrand came so close to winning the Indy 500 in 2011, hitting the wall in turn four on the 200th and final lap. He had the presence of mind to drive the car off the wall and finish second. His career stumbled after that and after crashing on the opening lap of the 2013 Indy 500, Panther Racing fired him and he hasn’t had a full-time job in the indyCar Series since then. But he finished eighth at Indy last year and is running fifth with 29 laps to go and a top-five finish might banish the demons and bring him back to a full-season ride. He’s only 28 years old, so the potential for a productive career is still there.
3:07 p.m. — We've restarted. Incidentally, the guy who caused that damage to Castroneves's car, JR Hildebrand (maybe the star crossed Indy runner-up since Mario Andretti lost on the spin and win) leads the pack.
3:05 p.m. — There are 34 laps to go. Sato was on a fantastic run. Castroneves, too, until he suffered damage to his right rear sidepod. Could that spell the end of the drive for four, or can Team Penske replace that rear wing assembly quickly enough to not give up too much track position?
2:59 p.m. — Green flag waves, and Kanaan rockets to the lead, followed by Newgarden, Hinchcliffe and Castroneves. We're on lap 162...Castroneves' car has its left rear wheel guard hanging off...but suddenly Sato hits the wall, bringing out the caution and giving Castroneves a most fortunate break.
2:55 p.m. — So with 44 laps to go, Castroneves will restart with Kanaan, while Newgarden and Hinchcliffe will trail just behind. The surprise fifth place car is KVSH's Sebastian Bourdais, a fine racer who doesn't get talked about enough. He's certainly good enough to win this thing.
2:50 p.m. — The timing of the yellow throws a wrench in the grid, figuratively. This all sets up nicely for Scott Dixon, who's lurking in third and threatens to take this thing over.
2:48 p.m. — Carlos Munoz is our leader as we await restart. On-track temperature is now 120 degrees...
2:45 p.m. — With 49 laps to go, Castroneves pits under green, then the yellow comes out for a tire rolling acoss the track. Buddy Lazier, who failed to launch with the pack, rolls to a stop just before the pit lane entrance with a missing left front tire. After all the scraping his car all that distance, Lazier's day appears to be done. It's still a Chevy race—with the Brazilians Castroneves and Kanaan up front, followed by Carlos Muñoz, the Andretti car that has endured the least drama today.
2:39 p.m. — As for the Andretti cars, the one driver whose last name matches the one on the shop door—Marco—is sinking quickly. Reports ascribe his difficulties to a right front tire pressure issue. Now into the pits—which opens the door for Scott Dixon, who's been quiet all day but is now up to sixth. Meanwhile, Castroneves takes the lead back, with Kanaan and Hinch behind him.
2:36 p.m. — Hunter-Reay and Bell might be stuck at the back of the grid, but they have fast cars and are working together. If they can pick up a few positions and, maybe a timely yellow flag, who knows? They could easily put themselves back in position for the checkered flag by the last 20 laps. If you're just joining us, four drivers are through for the day: Aleshin, Karam, Montoya and Daly.
2:30 p.m. — Alexander Rossi is our new leader. Hunter-Reay and Bell bring up the rear, while Graham Rahal moves into the top nine with the two other Andretti cars in front of him. He is racing this place exactly the way you're supposed to—with patience.
2:29 p.m. — We've completed 127 of the 200 laps. Again, can't stress enough how terrible this is for Bell. All day long, he refused his crews' attempts to change up his car, it was that good. And now they're working furiously to get it back into the track—where, who knows how it'll handle now?
2:26 p.m. — Back under green. On the restart, it's Tagliani and Rossi, on off-strategies, up front with Castroneves (who was not penalized) third in front of Hinch, Kanaan and Andretti—who, very quietly, is keeping himself in the game. Hunter-Reay back in 25th. Bell also being penalized.
2:22 p.m. — Right as TV was lauding Bell's heroic run, he gets taken out along with Hunter-Reay in our third serious incident on pit road. Looks like Castroneves, who was drifting down in the far lane, pushed the exiting Bell into Hunter-Reay, disabling both cars. All three will head to the back of the line, with a soon-to-be-penalized Castroneves likely bringing up the rear. We have 80 laps to go.
2:20 p.m. — Hunter-Reay and Bell collide hard in pit road. Both had been in contention all day.
2:19 p.m. — Aleshin climbs out, seemingly OK, but his car is scrap. It looks like he looses control going into turn two and hits the wall. Rahal, the great beneficiary of all this, dodges him, but Daly gets collected, clips Aleshin and hits the wall—suffering front and rear end damage. It's too bad for Daly, another promising young American driver who saw his '15 race end before it even had a chance to begin.
2:17 p.m. — With 87 laps to go, Aleshin and Conor Daly come together, bringing out the yellow flag for the fourth time today. In case you missed it earlier today, the great Mario Andretti took Lady Gaga for a spin around the track:
2:15 p.m. — Tony Kanaan drew a big cheer from the crowd as he took his place among the leaders. But Hunter-Reay ended that ovation, and takes Kanaan back. TV is making TK's run out to be even more remarkable. Says in addition to the hit he took from Power in the pits, he also was smacked by debris from Karam's crash. Yet with 80 laps left, he's running fifth and still the only Ganassi car to show any life out on the track today.
2:11 p.m. — Lap 110. Hunter-Reay dueling with Tony Kanaan and an extremely persistent Townsend Bell, who is now in the lead. Sage Karam released after being checked out. Says he hurt his knee. "I'm going to have to live this one down," he said, referring to his aggressive but unfortunate attempt to pass Townsend Bell, who did not "back down" as Karam thought he would.
2:10 p.m. — So much for Bryan Clauson's bid. He came in to the pits before the restart. He’s had his moment in the sun. Marco Andretti made his first charge in the last green-flag string, climbing from 13th to fifth. He must have been saving fuel and being patient. — Tim Tuttle
2:08 p.m. — Back under green on lap 105. Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay restart and continue their conspiratorial ways as they put distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. Now Hinchcliffe slides back to fifth as Castroneves makes another bid for the lead.
2:07 p.m.—Bryan Clauson stayed out when the rest of the field pitted on lap 96 and took the lead on the next lap. He’s carrying the hopes of midget and sprint car drivers who would love to get a shot at Indy someday. Clauson is a multi-tune dirt track national champion and is attempting to run 200 events this season. This is his third Indy 500 and he completed 46 laps in 2012 and 61 laps in 2015. He’s 26 years old from Noblesville, Indiana. It will be interesting to see how he handles the lead when it goes green. — Tim Tuttle
2:01 p.m. — Caution is extended to allow for repairs to the SAFER barrier, which means the race reaches its halfway point under yellow. Surely, we could all use the extra time to catch our breath.
1:59 p.m. — Still under caution as debris from Karam's crash is cleared up. The field pits, and Castroneves stays out front to control the restart with Hunter-Reay. How great would it be if this race came down to those two again?
1:56 p.m.— Under caution on lap 94. The good news is that Karam's run lasted longer than it did last year. The bad news this hurts his chances of picking up a fulltime ride in the near future. Most authority figures on a team would expect him to bail out of that pass attempt. The fact that he didn't suggest he still may have more maturing to do.
1:51 p.m. — And it's Castroneves to the lead. And then, a revolution later, a big shunt. Sage Karam, while battling with Townsend Bell for fifth, doesn't give ground on the outside and hits the wall hard. He's OK but his day is over. Juan Pablo Montoya (below) also done after an earlier wreck.
1:47 p.m. — At the 90-lap mark Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe swapping leads...Don't look now, but Graham Rahal is running in 12th—or eight positions up from where he started. If he makes it past Aleshin (11th) and Andretti (10th), watch out.
1:45 p.m. — Helio Castroneves making a charge in his bid for a fourth Indy 500 win. He's now in third after a tight pass of Townsend Bell, trying to catch James Hinchcliffe, who is holding second. Helio is finding some extra gears in that Yellow Submarine and reeling in the leaders ...
1:43 p.m. — On lap 84 now. While I was writing, I completely lost track of Will Power, whose alternate pit cycle has him up to second—which means Team Penske's not quite as out of it as it had seemed. Hunch and Hunter-Reay restart and continue the conspiratorial ways as they put distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. Power is sixth. Castroneves up to fifth.
1:38 p.m. — We're back under green. James Hinchcliffe leading in lap 77.
1:35 p.m. — Still under caution due to a surprise rain shower. The forecast is predicting showers for the area, and the clouds over the front stretch are thickening. The plot, too.
1:32 p.m. — Re-start is waved off. We're at lap 72. Pagenaud was in 10th position, but now at the back of the queue as light rain starts to fall——which means, for the moment, Team Penske's hopes will have to rest with Castroneves, who's on a quest for his fourth Indy win. Replays show Pagenaud smacking into Aleshin as he exited that last pit stop.
1:30 p.m. — The field dives into the pits. Hinch and Hunter-Reay are the first ones out again and will control the restart. The big winner is Helio Castroneves, who's ace pit crew services him up to fourth position. Was just a matter of time. Man, are his guys good...Simon Pagenaud involved in pit contact. Stewards investigating for possible penalty. We're still under caution.
1:25 p.m. — Hinchcliffe still leading. Montoya's title defense is finished. Looks like his No. 2 machine got light in the rear heading into Turn 2, and he couldn't save it. He's fine and heads into the medi van under his own power. No other cars were caught up in the wreck. TV is saying Montoya reported that something on the car broke, but it's very likely the oversteer crash could be the result of an in-car adjustment. Either way, Team Penske's bad day continues.
1:22 p.m. — Juan Pablo Montoya hits the wall on the backstretch during lap 64...spinning in a shower of sparks...debris everywhere...we're under caution...field hitting the pits...
1:20 p.m. — Scott Dixon hasn’t made much progress to the front. He started 13th and he’s 12th at 50 laps. Is the 2008 Indy 500 winner just being patient or is he having handling problems from the turbulence of running behind 11 cars? There’s a lot more clean air the closer you get to the front. — Tim Tuttle
1:19 p.m. — Will Power comes in for Stewards penaty for an unsafe pit exit that resulted in his collision with Kanaan. He restarts at the back of the pack. Schmidt Peterson's Orval Servia was hit with the same violation. Meanwhile, Pagenaud is immediately eaten up by Newgarden and Bell and drops all the way back to sixth. And just like that, Team Penske's rough day continues...
1:17 p.m. — Hinchcliffe making up the time he lost to a refueling error and is now leading in lap 59...The rally further underscores just what a strong car he's had underneath him all month. If he stays out of trouble, I don't see how he loses this. Kanaan reporting steering issues since his minor accident with Power. Keep an eye on that situation.
1:10 p.m. — Stewards looking into the Power-Kanaan collision in the pits...penalties may be coming up. We're 53 laps in and awaiting a re-start. Hunter-Reay leading...
1:06 p.m. — Under caution on lap 47...for debris on Turn 2. Everybody ducks into the pits, and Hunter-Reay will control the restart followed by Pagenaud—who has jumped all the way up to second. The biggest losers are Kanaan and Power, who had quick stops but collided on their way out of their stalls and will surely have to go back around if the damage winds up disturbing their setups.
1:03 p.m. — Townsend Bell in front after overtaking Hunter-Reay and becoming the sixth different driver to lead so far...
12:58 p.m. — Attendance today is 350,000. We've hit the 100-mile mark...Hunter-Reay still leading...Bell running well in second...
12:57 p.m. — Meanwhile, Graham Rahal is still circling with the back markers. Think he'll bide his time and maybe let that crowd thin out before taking some adjustment chances in the pits....
12:53 p.m. — Pit stops over as we hit lap 34...with Hunter-Reay leading followed by Josef Newgarden and Townsend Bell...Hinchcliffe back in sixth nearly five seconds back. Pagenaud the big winner, though. He jumped to second...
12:48 p.m. — We're 28 laps in with Hunter-Reay leading Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe...pit stops coming up under green...Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe in first...Hinch's crew trying to correct an understeer...precious time (four seconds) lost to a fueling glitch
12:39 p.m. — After 13 laps, Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay have swapped the lead nine times...Castronves (10th), Dixon (11th) and Pagenaud (12th) remain stuck in traffic behind young pups Mikhail Aleshin (of Schmidt Peterson) and Carlos Muñoz, but don't expect that trend to hold. Their pit crews rate among the best in the business. (Castroneves's won the annual pit crew competition a couple days ago.) If they can't get by those young'ns on the track to start, they'll surely overtake them when we reach our first stop.
12:34 p.m. — Seven laps in with Hinchcliffe dueling with Hunter-Reay for the lead, followed by Townsend Bell. Honda power definitely making quite an opening statement.
12:30 p.m. — And we have the green! We're underway... Hunter-Reay takes the lead from Hinchcliffe...
12:29 p.m. — About to start, but Buddy Lazier is still in the pits. Stuck throttle. He'll miss the green flag.
12:26 p.m. — Temperature on the track today is 112 degrees with highs in the neighborhood of a brain-frying 120 expected.
12:22 p.m.— The famed command, "Gentlemen, start your engines!" has been given.
12:10 p.m. — As race time draws near, the excitement is building. The speedway is jammed.
12:02 p.m.— James Hinchcliffe is one of the remarkable stories in today's race. Nearly killed in a practice crash here a year ago, he recovered fully and won the pole the Indy 500. "Be safe and kick some ass," he was told by his father, with whom he shared a pre-race hug on the grid after the drivers were introduced.
11:15 a.m. — And now, a few words on our 33-car starting grid as they attempt a most critical launch. The second row, to me, is about as intriguing as the first. You have to figure Penske's Will Power—on the far outside line, in sixth position, is going to find his way to the front. The question is whether the Andretti cars of Carlos Muñoz (fourth) and Townsend Bell (fifth) can be factors as well.
Then there's Ganassi's Scott Dixon—who's stuck on the fifth row (in 13th) after a late-stage engine rebuild bogged down his time trial attempt. No doubt he has the power and skill to move up. The question is whether he can dodge the cars on the row just ahead, a volatile group that includes Schmidt Peterson's Oriol Servia (the 10th-position man who's a fine racer, but a part timer), Foyt's Takuma Sato (who's 12th, and a year removed from causing a massive crash on the first lap of last year's race) and Andretti-Herta's Alexander Rossi—the 11th starter, and an Indy immigrant from F1. This is only his second oval race. Gulp.
Any slip up from those fourth row guys could trickle down to the guys on row six, which would be devastating. Ganassi drivers Charlie Kimball (16th) and Tony Kanaan (18th) ran up front last year. And of course the 15th-position man, Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya, won the whole danged race.
Row eight, which features a younger group of relatively unpredictable drivers—Ganassi's Max Chilton (22nd), Dreyer & Reinbold's Sage Karam (23) and Coyne's Conor Daly (24th, and arguably the best racer in this group—is just as ripe for trouble as row four. RLL's Graham Rahal, the 26th starter, will have his work cut out for him getting through all this traffic. He's been one of the faster Hondas all season and will need all the power he can summon to break away from the rest of the backmarkers.
10:44 a.m.—The Camaro pace car that will be Roger Penske's ride today.
10:30 a.m. — If there's a big race, you can always expect big names in attendance. Among a few who walked the red carpet:
- Angela Brown, of "Community" fame
- Chris Pine, the younger James T. Kirk and our honorary starter
- Darius Rucker, aka Hootie and the performer of the National Anthem
- Florence Henderson, a native Hoosier and our beloved Ma Brady. In years past, she sang "God Bless America." This year, she's the race's Grand Marshal.
- Indiana Pacers guards George Hill and Glenn Robinson III, native Hoosiers both.
- Ice T and Coco. Yes, that Ice-T and Coco—who, among other things, claim maybe the most unlikely friendship ever, with 14th-position starter Marco Andretti.
- Two Kevins: Sumlin (the Texas A&M coach) and Sorbo (TV's Hercules).
- Nickelodeon patriarch Marc Summers, who surely will still matters to spectators of a certain generation. (Try not to get slimed out there, buddy.)
- And Colts punter Pat McAfee, who's put his mouth—and actual sponsorship money—behind 24th-position starter Conor Daly.
10:25 a.m. — Speaking of parties, this year's 33-car grid is a fun crowd. The front row in particular could be the life of the party. I'm speaking, of course, of Captain America, 2014 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (who'll start third), Nashville predator Josef Newgarden—the second place car, who'll be hunting down the man who just beat him to the pole. That's Canada's James Hinchcliffe, the Mayor and our guest columnist for the season. If you were looking for his latest opus this week, that wait is about to end. He'll be checking in with us just before green flag with a very special episode. I'll have a few more change-ups for you as well. So, please, stay strapped in. It's gonna be one heckuva ride.
10 a.m. — Greetings from the happiest place on Earth, where the weather as of this writing is 70 degrees and bright. The outlook beyond is even sunnier. For today, the Greatest Spectacle in racing will get rolling for the 100th time (Noon, Eastern; ABC, SN 360, Sirius: 212, XM: 209). Forecast permitting (and be advised: there's a threat of some rain, but that's eased considerably over the past two days), this show should be one for the history books.
Morning at Indy Speedway:
Fans are in the mood: