Ryan Hunter-Reay makes late pass to win Indy 500
INDIANAPOLIS - -- Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves traded the lead during the final six laps of the Indianapolis 500 like a pair of rush-hour commuters Sunday en route to the second-closest finish in the race's 98-year history.
Hunter-Reay became the first American to win the world's biggest auto race since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006, passing Castroneves with a bold move on the inside of Turn 3 on lap 197 of the 200 and holding off the three-time event champion by a margin of 0.0600-seconds. That capped a six-lap sequence during which the pair traded the lead three times. It's Hunter-Reay's first Indy 500 win.
"My dream has come true today and I'm a proud American boy, that's for sure," Hunter-Reay, a 33-year-old resident of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said during his Victory Lane celebration. "This is everything I've worked for. I've watched this race since I was in diapers sitting on the floor in front of the TV. My son [Ryden] did it today. He watched me here. I'm thrilled. This is an American tradition."
Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, prevented Castroneves from becoming the fourth four-time winner of the Indy 500 as well as denying team-owner Roger Penske of a record 16th event win.
The closest margin of victory in race history belongs to Al Unser Jr., who edged Scott Goodyear by 0.043-seconds in 1992.
"As expected, this race was ridiculously close," said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Dallara/Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport. "I'm just so proud of this race, because I grew up as a fan of this sport. This is where drivers were made, history was made. When I was a kid I looked up to the Andrettis, the Unsers, the Mears. Being an American boy, this is a very international sport with the best drivers from around the world coming here to do battle. The Verizon IndyCar Series is a true driver's series. Having a shot at this race -- just being in the field -- is a privilege."
Michael Andretti -- winless in 16 Indy 500 attempts as a driver -- won the race for third time as a team-owner.
"Ryan drove a perfect last six laps for the win. We're so proud to have him on our team," said Andretti, who scored previous Indy 500 wins with the late Dan Wheldon (2005) and Dario Franchitti (2007).
The dramatic finish unfolded after the race was red-flagged to a stop on lap 193, two laps after the day's fourth yellow flew for debris in Turn 2. Seconds after the race went yellow Townsend Bell spun and made hard contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2. IndyCar officials stopped the race to clear the accident scene and repair the damaged barrier.
Hunter-Reay was working on a lead of 0.4678-seconds over Team Penske's Castroneves when the field was directed to pit road for what turned out to be 10 minutes, 27-seconds of downtime.
"Well, certainly, the stop kind of broke the rhythm, but congrats to Andretti [Autosport] and Ryan Hunter-Reay," said Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Dallara/Chevrolet. "They did an outstanding job. It's a shame it was so close, but today it's Ryan Hunter-Reay's day. It doesn't take away [from] the performance we had. I did everything I could to stop Ryan today, but great job."
Marco Andretti -- Hunter-Reay's teammate, son of Michael and grandson of 1969 Indy 500 champion Mario -- finished third. Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz, runnerup to Tony Kanaan here last year as a rookie, finished fourth.
Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the 2000 Indy 500 as a rookie, logged a fifth-place finish in his return to IMS with Team Penske.
Hunter-Reay led 56 laps, most of any driver, after starting from the 19th position in the 33-car field. His winning average speed of 186.563 mph is the second-fastest in Indy 500 history. Kanaan won last year's race at a record average of 187.433 mph.