Rahal, Sato and Ferrucci Each Lead the Indy 500 But Faced Separate Challenges; Ferrucci Finished Sixth, Sato 14th and Rahal 32nd

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

105th Running of the Indianapolis 500
RACE NOTES/QUOTES – May 30, 2021     


GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 United Rentals Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “The Indy 500 ends in disappointment. A little more so today because I really think we had them today, I really do. We were good on one more stop and everybody else needed two. I can’t tell you how bad this one stings, but we win as a team, we lose as a team. From a strategy standpoint we saved the fuel, we were kicking their butts on the fuel save, we were looking really good at the end to maybe even do just one more stop. I know there’s a long way to go but the fuel numbers we were getting; we actually short pitted the last time and could have gone a little bit further but these day. These (to do this well in the Indy 500) don’t come around very often. Definitely, today I thought we had ’em. I’m glad I’m okay.  The boys did an excellent job all month – I’m not disappointed in them. I know there is a lot of pressure on their shoulders. Everyone’s trying hard but I think this one’s going to sting. It’s great (to have fans at the race), the fans make this whole event and without them last year it was a real bummer. To have them this year is just amazing. I really wanted to see that United Rentals car in Victory Lane, but we came up just short – that’s the way it goes sometimes.” 

FAST FACTS: Rahal appeared to be one of the most legitimate contenders to win what was the fastest Indy 500 in history, but a pit error negated his excellent fuel savings and race strategy and his day ended when he lost his left rear tire after he pit from the lead and made contact on Lap 119/200.  He led two different times for a total of eight laps and was poised to be a contender for the win in the last stint. He started 18th and during the first stint, Rahal set out to conserve fuel and was able to stretch it through a caution that came when some leaders were needing to pit when the first of only two caution periods came out for Wilson and closed the pits. The cars of Dixon and Rossi were fuel-starved and would not restart immediately once they took on fuel. Rahal went into extreme fuel savings mode and made his stop when the pits opened on Lap 38 while ninth. He returned to the track in 10th place and briefly moved up after passing McLaughlin on the restart on Lap 46. He held 10th and continued to stretch his fuel and as others made their stops, he cycled into the lead on Lap 79 for three laps before his second stop on Lap 81. He returned to the track in eighth place. His fuel-savings continued to enable him to gain valuable track position and after a six-lap position swap with his teammate Sato, he regained eighth then moved up over the next 11 laps as others made their stops. He reclaimed the lead on Lap 114 and held it for five laps before he made his next stop on Lap 128/200. The inside rear tire was not completely installed when he left the pits and once he was getting up to speed and back on track, the wheel came off and he spun and made contact with the Turn 2 wall. He was checked and released from the infield care center. The way the race was playing out, he was on target to be able to go three laps longer than the drivers that were determined to be the contenders at that point… It was his 14th Indy 500. His best qualifying position in the Indy 500 is fourth in 2009 with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and best finish is third with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing in 2011 and RLL in 2020. Detailed Indy 500 information available upon request. Has SIX IndyCar Series wins (2008 – St. Pete street course; 2015 – Fontana Super Speedway, Mid-Ohio road course; 2016 – Texas Super Speedway; 2017 Detroit Race 1, Detroit Race 2) and THREE poles (2009 – St. Pete street course, Kansas oval; 2017 – Detroit Race 1 street) and his highest series season-ending standing is fourth place in 2015… Due to the double points awarded for this race, he dropped from a pre-race rank of fifth place to 11th with 148 points, 100 points back from leader Palou, with 248.

TAKUMA SATO, No. 30 Panasonic / PeopleReady Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “First of all, huge congratulations to Helio Castroneves. That’s a living legend, winning four times. It’s incredible. It was great to share the spectacular time with him, and with the fans too. Today, the atmosphere is just incredible. Same as what it used to be. The race was bitter and sour for us. Its was really a tough decision to go through the final stint to save the fuel. We had to rely on a miracle for a yellow, which didn’t happen. Before that we were P6-P7, actually just behind Helio. The team tried really hard to pull off the win but today wasn’t the day so it’s a huge disappointment of course but we need to learn and move on.”

FAST FACTS: Sato started 15th and gained two spots at the start. He later settled into 14th place and stretched his fuel. Right before he was preparing to pit in the next few laps he had to go into extreme fuel-save mode to stretch it through a caution that came out for Wilson and closed the pits. The cars of Dixon and Rossi were fuel-starved and would not restart immediately once they took on fuel but fortunately for Sato, that was not ultimately a problem. He made his first stop from ninth place on Lap 38 and came out eighth. On the restart, he passed Hunter-Reay and O’Ward for sixth and the race was starting to look pretty good. He stretched his fuel and pitted on Lap 79 from second place behind teammate Rahal. He was 10th by Lap 82, had a six-lap battle for position with Rahal and cycled into second place for three laps before his third stop on Lap 116. Rahal brought out a caution for six laps when he crashed after a tire came off and this yellow-running was taken into consideration for the fuel strategy. Sato never ran below ninth on the next stint and cycled into the lead for six laps by going further than others before the fourth stop on Lap 157. A very conservative fuel strategy saw Sato drop to 18th at one point on the next stint while trying to save fuel but the team had to abort it and go full-rich and make a stop-and-go after he led Lap 193. He pit on Lap 194/200 and rejoined the race in 14th and took the checkered flag there… Sato is the only active, fulltime, two-time Indy 500 Champion.  The 2021 race was his 12th Indy 500 and fourth with RLL. In 2012 with RLL, he was alongside eventual winner Franchitti in Turn 1 on the final lap but his race ended due to contact after he was squeezed down on the apron and lost control of his race car. He finished third for RLL in 2019 and was a contender in the final laps… Has SIX INDYCAR SERIES wins (2013 – Long Beach street course, 2017 – Indy 500 oval, 2018 – Portland road, 2019 – Barber road, Gateway oval; 2020 Indy 500 ) and 10 poles (2011 Iowa oval, Edmonton street; 2013 Houston Race 1 street; 2014 St. Pete street, Detroit Race 2 street; 2017 Detroit Race 2, Pocono oval; 2019 Barber road, Texas oval; 2020 St. Louis – Race 2).  He moved from 12th to 11th in series standings with 131 points.

SANTINO FERRUCCI, No. 45 Hy-Vee Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “It feels incredible. We had a great race! We were really quick, we just couldn’t get lucky on the starts and restarts. Strategy played a big part in this race, and we were able to save enough fuel to run as hard as we could at the end there. We were slowly reeling in the lead group, just needed a few more laps.”

FAST FACTS: Ferrucci added another top finish at the Indy 500 with sixth place after he recovered from a penalty on his first stop when he had to enter a “closed pit for emergency service” (fuel) that dropped him as low as 26th place.  The caution for Wilson, who crashed in the pits, came out during a pit cycle that also impacted many others including polesitter Dixon and frontrunner Rossi.  At the start of the race, Ferrucci moved from 23rd into 20th. He stretched his fuel and was in 13th when the caution came out for Wilson. The caution came out on Lap 34 and the pits weren’t opened until Lap 38 but Ferrucci, and many others, had to stop to take on a splash of fuel on Lap 36. When the pits opened, he came in again to complete the stop on Lap 38 but before the field went green, he had to drop to the back of the field in 26th due to entering a closed pit. Skillful driving, track position and good strategy worked in his favor and Ferrucci took the checkered flag in sixth place… He has competed in three Indy 500’s with his best finish of fourth in the 2020 Indy 500 and his seventh-place finish in the 2019 Indy 500 earned him Rookie of the Year. 

NOTES: This was the fastest Indy 500 in history and also the largest sporting event worldwide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with 135,000 fans.

NEXT UP: The series will take next weekend off before returning to action on the streets of Detroit for a doubleheader on June 12-13 double-header Detroit Grand Prix race weekend, with races both Saturday and Sunday on the Belle Isle street circuit in Detroit, Michigan.