Race Report: Indianapolis 500
The 100th Running of the Indianapolis 100 lived up to its tremendous hype. The temperature was hot and so was the action on the track. The overflow crowd saw close racing, 54 lead changes among 13 drivers including Alex Tagliani in the No. 35 Alfe Heat Treating Honda, and Alexander Rossi, a 24-year-old rookie from California, win the Indy 500.
The race began with A.J. Foyt standing on track, giving the signal to the 33-car field to roll out, and receiving a “thumbs up” from honorary pace car driver Roger Penske. Foyt saluted the drivers as they drove past.
Takuma Sato, who started 12thin the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda, spent the first half of the race dialing in his car. He dropped to 20th by lap 12 and by lap 80 he found himself battling with his teammates Tagliani and Jack Hawksworth, who started 31st in his ABC Supply Honda.
After the fourth pit stop, Sato began to move to the front as the car was balanced to his liking. He moved into 16th by lap 114. After the fifth stop and a gain of two spots due to his team’s quick service, he moved his way up to sixth by making passes on track. An untimely caution on lap 150 came a lap too early for Sato who was due to pit that lap. When he did pit, he dropped to 10th because others in the field pitted the lap before. On the restart, he lost four more spots and then he brushed the wall coming out of Turn 4. The hit was hard enough to damage his suspension and he was done for the day.
“Tough race,” a dejected Sato said afterwards. “In the beginning we needed to work on the car quite a lot because it was getting very difficult in traffic. We added downforce and then tried to compensate on the balance but it didn’t work. So I just wanted to go to the opposite and it picked up some pace in the end finally so that was good. The ABC Supply boys did a great job in the pits—very fast pit stops and we made up a couple places. At the one stage we looked really strong but unfortunately the yellow caught us and then I got behind in the shuffling around. Then there was a big washout and I ran wide in turn 4. Very tough one. I’m very thankful to be given the opportunity to run the 100th Indy 500, it was a very special one. It’s just a shame we couldn’t produce a good result. I’m sorry.”
Meanwhile, his teammate Tagliani had made it to the top spot through pit strategy, which after starting 33rd, was significant. He took the lead under caution on lap 117 and kept it under green, leading for 11 laps as he battled eventual winner Rossi before pitting on lap 135.
He made it back to the top 10 again just past the three-quarter mark but he had to pit for fuel with 12 laps to go. He went from eighth to 17thwhich is where he finished.
“After Carb Day, our car was quite good. I had a really solid car that my A.J. Foyt Racing team gave me today,” Tagliani said. “Thanks to all of the guys for their hard work the whole month. I think it was a really fun car to drive today, and we got some awesome restarts. Somehow, we ran out of luck in some places; we really needed track position when we trimmed. We went back to P20 when we trimmed and that was a bit difficult, but nevertheless I was really happy I had a car I could fight with for the whole race. There were a few things we missed on pit stops when changing wing that weren’t correct, but with the group of guys we had for the short time we worked together, we had a solid race. We just never had track position with a bit of luck on fuel that we could’ve showcased. When we were up front, we needed to save fuel so we could push, and when we were in the back, we were pushing but we were too trim. Again, I’m still really happy with the car. Thanks to Alfe. I’m really honored to represent the Ft. Wayne company here [in Indianapolis]. Given the right circumstances, we could’ve fought for a win today.”
Hawksworth was in the same situation as Sato had been; Hawksworth had to adjust his car throughout the 200-lap race. He made his way into the top half of the field by lap 135. He continued to pass cars and by lap 160, he was 11th at the time his teammate hit the wall.
Then a slight miscue on a pit stop—Hawksworth slid past his marks—cost him seven spots. He slipped to 18th but he did manage to climb back to 14th. Unfortunately, a vibration in his right rear tire forced him to slow down. He crossed the finish line in 16th for his best finish in the 500 in three tries.
“I thought the no. 41 ABC Supply Honda was pretty good considering that we missed a lot of practice early on in the month,” Hawksworth said. “Throughout the race we kept making it better, chipping away, chipping away after starting at the back. I had a moment coming into the pits in the last stop–so sorry to the guys for that. It cost us some track position. In the end the left rear tire was delaminating (degrading). It was down to the cords so I was hanging on and the car was sliding all over. Not a bad day overall considering the circumstances. Hopefully we can come back in the future and prepare to not have the same issues. Being able to start up front and staying up there is key.”
Rossi became to the 10th rookie to win the 500. Stretching his final fuel stint to 36 laps and running on fumes, he crossed the yard of bricks over 4 seconds ahead of his teammate Carlos Munoz who had to pit for fuel with three laps to go. Rounding out the top five were: Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball.
The teams head to Detroit next week for a doubleheader, racing on both Saturday and Sunday. Both races will be broadcast by ABC-TV starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on both days.