INDIANAPOLIS—Against all odds the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is now in the books. But the 2020 edition of the world’s most famous race will be remembered as the Indy 500 run without spectators. The color and energy generated by over 350,000 fans in the grandstands of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was indeed missing…until the engines roared to life!
New owner Roger Penske gave the command, “Drivers, start your engines!” When 33 brightly colored cars roared into action, the energy of the race took over the historic venue.
Starting 29th, Charlie Kimball and his team used an alternate fuel strategy–pitting early with the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet. For the first two fuel stints, Kimball vaulted into the top 10 when the leaders pitted. However, back-to-back cautions (the first for his teammate and rookie Dalton Kellett’s crash on lap 83 followed by Conor Daly and Oliver Askew’s crash on the ensuing restart) saw the entire field pit during the 15-lap caution periods which nullified the alternate fuel strategy.
Kellett’s crash occurred while he was trying to pass Ben Hanley in Turn 3. Hanley cut down on Kellett as they entered the turn and the move took the air off Kellett’s front wing. He slid up the track in the short chute and eventually made contact with the SAFER barrier and skidded through to the exit of 4. He wasn’t injured.
Tony Kanaan, who started 23rd in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, was running in the top-15 by the time of Kimball’s second pitstop on lap 47. After Kanaan’s third pitstop, he climbed into the top 12 where he ran until the next stop came under caution on lap 123 for Alex Palou’s crash in Turn 1. Following quick pit work, ‘TK’ climbed to eighth for two laps before settling into ninth.
Meanwhile Kimball, who struggled with his car during the middle stints of the race, had been enjoying fast pit stops all race long only to have the final stop slowed down when he stalled the car upon exiting the pitbox. He dropped from 15th to 22nd. He would climb back up to 18th.
In the final fuel stint, Kanaan had to drop off his pace because he wasn’t getting the fuel mileage he needed. By going slower, he avoided having to pit for a splash of fuel to make it to the end of the 200-lap race. He placed 19th.
Earlier, Kimball passed Kanaan as the 2013 Indy 500 winner went a lap down to leader Takuma Sato on lap 194. A lap later, Sato’s teammate Spencer Pigot had a violent crash when he spun in Turn 4, hit the outside SAFER barrier and ricocheted into the end of the pit wall barrier. Awake and alert, he was being evaluated at Methodist Hospital.
The accident sealed the victory for Sato, who had been battling Scott Dixon during the final laps of the race. The race finished under caution. It is the second Indy 500 victory for Sato and he became one of only 20 drivers to have won the race more than once. He won his first 500 in 2017. Following Sato and Dixon under the double checkered flags was Sato’s teammate Graham Rahal. Santino Ferrucci finished fourth and Josef Newgarden took fifth.
Kanaan was deeply disappointed when he climbed out of his cockpit.
“I don’t know what to say,” Kanaan said. “We had a solid car, made a lot of positions on track and also in the pits. We went from 23rd all the way to 8th, I believe, but at the end I had to match a fuel number to make it to the checkered without a splash, and in order to do that I had to let a lot of cars go. I truly believe that we had a Top-10 car. We ran up there most of the race and it’s just disappointing that we had to settle for 19th.”
Like Kanaan, Kimball was disappointed with his finish.
“It was a tough fighting day for the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet team,” Kimball said afterwards. “Starting in the back on the tenth row, we just had to pick our way through and we did. We were making forward progress. The car was quite a handful there in the middle of the race. We found something, we made it better, I think we were probably going to finish in the top 15, but it was such a track position race today. It was so hard to pass out there. The nice thing is the AJ Foyt Racing boys gave me a few spots in pit lane and then unfortunately I made a mistake in that last stop in pit lane and gave it all back, but they were great and I could always count on going forward when I was coming into pit lane so that’s a big positive out of today. We’ll go back and look at how we make the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet better when we come back here next year and also what we look to learn to carry into Gateway next weekend.”
Commenting on the aeroscreen in hot conditions, Kimball said, “It was definitely a hot day, maybe not the hottest 500 that I’ve ever been a part of but at the same time I felt like the ventilation in the Stilo helmet with the forced air was really comfortable. Under yellow when the airflow slows down, you notice a little more so, you know, you could see some of the drivers, we were having our hands up to get some air into the cockpit, but at speed it was pretty comfortable. I didn’t have a big issue. Just kind of settled in to sweating our way through 500 miles.”
Kellett, who had impressed his team owner A.J. Foyt by not putting a wheel wrong through practice and qualifying, was disappointed by not being able to finish the 500 mile race.
“It’s obviously a different 500 experience without the fans, having the national anthem and flyover without the energy of our great race fans and it was bit sad to see that,” said Kellett, who hails from Canada. But the start felt pretty good. I thought I was going to get the jump on Tony [Kanaan] and Will [Power] but they showed my rookie status and got the jump on me. So now I know where to go next time. The car felt really good the first stint, we were just chipping away at it, working with the tools and dealing with a bit of understeer with the tailwind in Turn 2. The car felt really good in 3 and 4, making moves in traffic and was able to pass guys. On the second stint, the wind shifted a bit so I was getting a run out of 2 into 3 but got stuck behind Hanley who was running a bit off the pace. I kept trying to draft and get by him going into 3. I went pretty late and I didn’t know if his spotter didn’t let him know I was pretty low or he didn’t think I was going for it. I kind of popped and he came down almost immediately so I didn’t have time to back out of it and he skimmed my front wing and took all the air off it. After that I was just trying to save it and couldn’t quite get it turned enough to miss the wall. Pretty disappointed that was how it ended. We were having a really good month up to that point.”
“It was a disappointing race day for us,” Larry Foyt summed up. “It had been a decent couple of weeks, the cars were handling really well and the drivers were happy, but on race day, anything can happen. We had a tough qualifying and the Hondas did a really good job in qualifying so we were starting towards the back of the field and it’s just very tough to pass at Indy right now with all the turbulence. The guys were doing a good job and moving up, Tony was in the top ten and Charlie was in the top fifteen, and unfortunately Dalton had an accident. It just all unraveled late in the race on that last stint. Tony really struggled and Charlie stalled in the pits and that sealed our fate for the rest of the day. I think we learned a lot as a team, and overall, it was a good couple of weeks but we didn’t get the results we wanted. We’ll keep working at it and be back next year.”
Kellett returns to action in the No. 14 Chevrolet when the NTT INDYCAR Series stages a double header at the IMS road course Oct. 2-3.
Kimball and Kanaan will compete next weekend in the doubleheader at World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis. It will be Kanaan’s final drive in the No. 14 this year. Last year he posted a third place finish there—his best finish of the 2019 season. The Bommarito Auto Group 500 races will be broadcast on NBCSN August 29-30 starting at 3 p.m. ET each day.