Indianapolis 500 heroes and zeroes

Takuma Sato took his maiden Indianapolis 500 victory in a frenetic finish to the 101st running of the iconic event. Dicing with 3-time winner Helio Castroneves in the closing laps the Japanese gave Michael Andretti back-to-back Indianapolis 500 wins.

2017 Indianapolis 500 heroes

Hero –Takuma Sato

This was not a lucky win. It was not down to fuel mileage or being in the right place at the right time. Sato was running near the front all race and unlike most of his fellow Honda runners, his engine stayed strong all the way to lap 200.

Takuma Sato Indy 500 winner
(c) IndyCar

Shaking off his reputation as a hot-head, the former F1 driver was cool and clinical throughout the 500 mile epic. The manner in which he kept Helio Castroneves – the undeniable master of the Brickyard – was supremely impressive. It was a deserved win – the first by a Japanese driver – for the charming and utterly fearless Andretti Autosport driver.

Hero – Helio Castroneves

So close but yet again Helio came up just short in his quest to take a 4th Indy 500 victory. With 50 laps to go the Brazilian looked like the man to beat working his way comfortably through traffic.

Castroneves looked to be in pole position to take another historic win with 5 laps to go. Sitting in the preferred second place at the white flag the Penske driver could not get back on terms with Sato. Post-race Helio remarked that he thought he had bent the throttle pedal after mashing it to the floor in the closing laps.

He might not have won his race but the legend of Helio Castroneves at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continues to grow.

Heroes – Dallara

I hope the team at Dallara have a couple of drinks tomorrow morning as they start a new working week. Scott Dixon’s accident with Jay Howard was stomach churning. Thankfully the safety cell on the DW12 worked like a dream, keeping the Kiwi reasonably intact.

Scott Dixon is still with us and should be racing in Detroit next weekend thanks to the work of Dallara and IndyCar. A doff of the cap to the whole team.

Hero – Fernando Alonso

What else can be said about Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 adventure that has not already been written? The Spaniard was majestic all day leading laps, passing on the outside and rarely out of the top 10.

Fernando Alonso IndyCar Indy 500 helmet

Alonso was undoubtedly in with a chance of a sensational maiden win. Whether he could have followed Castroneves to the front is a moot point. Nevertheless the double World champion demonstrated his immense talent and proved – even without taking victory – that he is one of the best racers of his generation and perhaps all time.

Related article – Should IndyCar ‘invest’ in Fernando Alonso? 

Hero – Ed Jones

We all focused on Fernando Alonso in the build up to the 500. Ed Jones did a great job reminding us that Alonso was not the only rookie show in town.

Quiet for the majority of the race, Jones turned the wick up in the closing stages of the 101st Indy 500. At one point Jones looked like a potential contender – alongside Sato and Castroneves – for a shock victory.

When Sebastien Bourdais had his horror crash in qualifying it looked like Dale Coyne’s chances of victory at the Brickyard (and a strong IndyCar season) were bust. Jones’ performance on Sunday suggests  Dale Coyne team might have less to worry about than he originally thought.

2017 Indianapolis 500 zeroes

Zero – Jay Howard

The Englishman was lucky to be in one piece after the mother of all shunts with Scott Dixon. Howard threw Ryan Hunter-Reay under the bus by trying to pin the blame on the former Indy winner. It was however very difficult to see how the former champion was complicit in one of the biggest shunts in Indianapolis history.

This was simply a nasty combination of factors: a rusty driver, the pressure to perform on a one-off run, and over driving as a result of an earlier bad fuel call.

Zeroes – Team Penske

A strange pick you might say given that Castroneves was close to sealing a fourth Indy 500 win. True but the rest of the Captain’s drivers never got close to being in contention. Power, Pagenaud and Newgarden were all conspicuous in their absence from the leading pack.

It was veteran Juan Pablo Montoya who looked most likely to finish in the top 10. By contrast the rest of the Penske Racing stable were mired in the midfield all afternoon. Perhaps one to forget for Team Penske.

Zeroes – Honda

Several engine failures throughout practice for the Indy 500 left every Honda team feeling nervous. When Ryan Hunter-Reay’s engine gave up it was a bitter blow for the former Indy 500 champion. The American was one of the fastest and most consistent drivers over the opening 130 laps of the race.

For the neutral spectator Hunter-Reay’s retirement was a big disappointment. The quartet of Hunter-Reay, Alonso, Rossi and Castroneves looked set to give us a grandstand finish to the 101st running.

Shortly after Kimball’s Honda engine detonated itself which made anyone with a Honda badge on their nosecone exceptionally anxious. Things seemed to have settled down until – in a perfect piece of motor sport irony – Alonso’s engine let go as well.

The quest for performance gains is fruitless in any form of motor sport if it comes at the cost of reliability. Honda got away with it this time, but only just.

Race rating – 8 out of 10

The 101st Indianapolis 500 had everything. Multiple storylines, massive but thankfully non-threatening shunts, two outstanding rookies and a genuine race to the finish line on the last lap.

Thanks Indy. See you again next year for more of the same.

101st Indianapolis 500 – final race result

1 #26 Takuma Sato Andretti Autosport 4 200 17 Running 137 1
2 #3 Helio Castroneves Team Penske 19 200 9 Running 96 1
3 #19 Ed Jones Dale Coyne Racing 11 200 0 Running 93 0
4 #8 Max Chilton Chip Ganassi Racing 15 200 50 Running 86 3
5 #10 Tony Kanaan Chip Ganassi Racing 7 200 22 Running 91 1
6 #22 Juan Pablo Montoya Team Penske 18 200 1 Running 73 1
7 #98 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport 3 200 23 Running 91 1
8 #27 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport 8 200 0 Running 76 0
9 #88 Gabby Chaves Harding Racing 25 200 0 Running 53 0
10 #14 Carlos Munoz A.J. Foyt Enterprises 24 200 0 Running 50 0
11 #20 Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing 2 200 5 Running 79 1
12 #15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 14 200 2 Running 57 1
13 #7 Mikhail Aleshin Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 13 200 0 Running 55 0
14 #1 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske 23 200 0 Running 43 0
15 #17 Sebastian Saavedra Juncos Racing 31 200 0 Running 33 0
16 #21 J.R. Hildebrand Ed Carpenter Racing 6 200 2 Running 61 1
17 #63 Pippa Mann Dale Coyne Racing 28 199 0 Running 32 0
18 #11 Spencer Pigot Juncos Racing 29 194 0 Running 29 0
19 #2 Josef Newgarden Team Penske 22 186 0 Running 34 0
20 #18 James Davison Dale Coyne Racing 33 183 2 Contact 21 1
21 #16 Oriol Servia Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 12 183 0 Contact 40 0
22 #5 James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 17 183 0 Contact 33 0
23 #12 Will Power Team Penske 9 183 2 Contact 41 1
24 #29 Fernando Alonso Andretti Autosport 5 179 27 Mechanical 47 1
25 #83 Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing 16 166 5 Mechanical 29 1
26 #40 Zach Veach A.J. Foyt Enterprises 32 155 0 Mechanical 12 0
27 #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport 10 136 28 Mechanical 35 1
28 #24 Sage Karam Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 21 125 0 Mechanical 23 0
29 #44 Buddy Lazier Lazier Partners Racing 30 118 0 Contact 14 0
30 #4 Conor Daly A.J. Foyt Enterprises 26 65 0 Contact 18 0
31 #50 Jack Harvey Andretti Autosport 27 65 0 Contact 17 0
32 #9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 1 52 5 Contact 53 2
33 #77 Jay Howard Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 20 45 0 Contact 24 0

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