Helio Castroneves joined elite open-wheel racing company on Sunday, winning his record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 after a late move to the lead.
Castroneves went to the front for the final time with just two laps to go then held off Alex Palou to the checkered flag. He joined Al Unser, Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt in the Indy 500’s four-win club.
The victory, in the No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda, came by 0.4928 seconds over Palou for Chip Ganassi Racing. Immediately after crossing the finish line with the victory, Castroneves flashed four fingers in the cockpit of his car and put his hand on his helmet.
Castroneves also won the race in 2001, 2002 and 2009. As of now, he is not scheduled to enter any other IndyCar event in 2021.
The victory allowed the 46-year-old from Brazil to climb the fence on the front stretch one more time and share the moment with the fans at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. An estimated crowd of 135,000 was announced after last year’s delayed race was run without a crowd.
It was considered the largest crowd for a sporting event since COVID-19 restrictions began in March of 2020.
Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske finished third, Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP was fourth, while Ed Carpenter of Ed Carpenter Racing was fifth.
Over the final 25 laps, Palou and Casotroneves traded the effective lead. Two other drivers were in front of them but needed pits stops to finish. O’Ward right behind the duel for the lead with Pagenaud moving in toward the leaders with 12 laps to go.
With 16 laps remaining, Palou passed Castroneves and with seven to go Castroneves moved back in front. Two laps later, Palou took the lead.
With two laps remaining, Castoneves blew past Palou once more while approaching the first turn, while successfully contending with a crowd of cars in front of him.
Scott Dixon, who started on the pole, saw his dream-like May turned into a nightmare on the first series of pit stops.
During those stops, which began on Lap 31, young driver Stefan Wilson spun and crashed on pit road. That closed the pits, leaving a handful of drivers struck out on the track with fuel all but gone.
Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Honda, which was in the lead, was one of those cars unable to pit. By the time he was able to join his crew, Dixon’s fuel cell went dry, the car stalled and would not restart, forcing him off the lead lap. Dixon had been fastest in practice throughout the month.
The same fate occurred for 2016 winner Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport, who started in the 10th position.
Graham Rahal, of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, pitted from the lead on Lap 118. He was getting efficient fuel mileage, but his crew failed to secure a rear tire and it came off the car as the car headed back onto the track. He slammed the wall, ending a shot at winning a race his father Bobby won in 1986.
The loose wheel was struck at speed by Conor Daly, causing damage to the Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet that had led number laps earlier.
“Famous last words but we had ’em,” Rahal said on the NBC broadcast of his chance to win. “We had ’em. The fuel saving that we were doing. We were in the perfect spot. We were cruising. We had them today.”
-Field Level Media