102nd Indianapolis 500 – heroes and zeroes

Will Power took his maiden win in the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. The Aussie dominated the final third of the race as rookies and veterans alike struggled to master IndyCar’s new, lower downforce superspeedway aerokit.

Will Power stands with the Borg Warner trophy after winning the 102nd Indy 500
Will Power with the Borg Warner Indianapolis 500 trophy. (Image: IndyCar).

Leading contenders for the win including Helio Castroneves and Sebastien Bourdais crashed, caught out by the nervous handling of IndyCar’s latest generation car. Power and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi – along with early pacesetters Ed Carpenter – were however a cut above the rest.

Rossi makes the moves but Power prevails

Rossi in particular pulled off a series of audacious overtakes on the high side. Moves that helped catapult the Andretti Autosport driver from his lowly 32nd starting position to an eventual 4th place finish.

No one could quite match Power in the end as the Aussie came home a comfortable 3.1 seconds ahead of Ed Carpenter, Scott Dixon, Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

As always, here we rate the drivers and teams that nearly tasted ice cold Indiana milk and those that ended up with hard cheese for their efforts.

Full results from the 102nd Indianapolis 500 race.

102nd Indianapolis 500 – heroes

Hero – Stefan Wilson

Finished 15th, led 3 laps – hardly the resume of an Indy 500 hero. But stop for a minute and consider that Wilson – younger brother of the late Justin Wilson – came within 4 laps of winning the biggest race in motorsport. Despite being new to IndyCar’s latest aero kit, out of a drive since 2016 and running with a hastily thrown together crew.

Granted it was fuel strategy that got him, Oriol Servia and Jack Harvey in to the unusual position of being the leading trio with only a handful of laps to run. That should not diminish the achievement. While full-timers and series veterans were shunting, Wilson kept on working his way into contention for a strong finish.

When Wilson peeled off into pit lane with 4 laps to go you had a cold heart if you did not wish he had ignored his crew chief and kept going. It almost certainly would have resulted in his Honda powered Dallara coasting to a halt, out of gas. But Indy is about rolling the dice and gambling sometimes, and there might just have been a quart of fuel hiding in there somewhere for what could have been one of the most bittersweet Indy 500 wins in history.

Hero – Alexander Rossi

The wicked combination of a green track, reduced downforce and unseasonably high temperatures left us wondering if the 102nd running of the 500 might be a complete snooze.

Fans and commentators were looking on anxiously as cars struggled to run in close proximity and passes were few and far between. Step forward Alexander Rossi who threw caution to the wind in his quest to get to the front from 32nd on the grid.

Alexander Rossi 102nd Indy 500
Alexander Rossi was one of a select few drivers willing to pass on the high side during the 102nd Indy 500. (Image: IndyCar)

On restarts the Andretti Autosport driver was absolute dynamite – using the high side to great effect as his rivals stuck nervously to the white line. On a day when the list of crashed cars included 3 former Indy 500 winners, Rossi’s overtakes were even more impressive.

Hero – Will Power

2018 was the year Will Power finally put it all together at Indianapolis. Early in his IndyCar career Power struggled to replicate his scintillating road/street course form on to ovals.

Speed was never an issue at Indy – Power has never qualified lower than 9th since his Indy 500 debut – but managing the myriad challenges the Indy 500 throws at drivers was. 2015s runner-up finish to teammate Juan Pablo Montoya was sandwiched by top 10 finishes, hinting that the Australian might finally be putting all the pieces together.

While this edition of the 500 may not go down in history as memorable, Power’s reaction in victory lane certainly will.  Sunday was the culmination of 10 years of work refining a rapid driver into one capable of winning a 500 miler. And 10 years of frustration and near misses were released as Power awaited the world-famous Borg Warner wreath and Indiana milk.

Hero – Robert Wickens

This was not a day for a rookie to win the Indy 500. The cars and the conditions conspired to offer 2018’s standout performer no real chance to emulate Alexander Rossi’s win in his sophomore season.

Again it cannot be overstated how difficult the 102 running of the 500 was. Castroneves, Kanaan, Bourdais and Ed Jones – 2017s stand out performer – all shunted on their own. Caught out by understeer turning to snap oversteer. Wickens by contrast looked like a Brickyard veteran, holding his own, leading a brace of laps and claiming his 4th top 10 finish of the season.

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Robert Wickens pits for fuel and tires during the 102nd Indianapolis 500. (Image: IndyCar)

The absence of Wicken’s teammate James Hinchcliffe – unceremoniously ‘bumped’ from the field during qualifying – only serves to further emphasise the standard of the Canadians performance. A future 500 winner in the making.

102nd Indianapolis 500 – zeroes

Zeroes – Foyt/Byrd Racing and IndyCar race control

James Davison should have been parked by his team prior to his lap 45 shunt that ended his race and that of defending champion Takuma Sato. Failing that, IndyCar should have black flagged the Australian for his dangerous lack of pace as he wrestled with a complete pig of a car.

Neither did the right thing and the result was an accident that could have been a whole lot worse.

There were echoes of Scott Dixon’s terrifying shunt in last year’s Indy 500 as Sato ran over the back of the slowing Davison. Thankfully the Japanese did not get airborne but the accident was a timely reminder.

There is romance about the history of the Indy 500 and the ‘run what ya brung’ philosophy but it has no place in modern IndyCar. 35 entrants made for a welcome return of Bump Day but it could have been at a significant cost. IndyCar should be more demanding in terms of which ‘Indy 500 only’ teams it does and does not allow to participate. Even if that means losing Bump Day once more.

Zero – Marco Andretti

Sunday was another cut and paste job for Marco: potential, completely unfulfilled. Andretti once more was fairly anonymous in the Indy 500 field, finishing in the no-man’s land of 12th place.

While Andretti was mired in the midfield, Ryan Hunter-Reay was running at the sharp end of the field for most of the race. Alexander Rossi was of course going back to front with his high-side, high-wire balancing act and part-timer Carlos Munoz was reminding everyone how good he is.

Perhaps next year’s 50th anniversary of the last time an Andretti drove to victory lane – Mario’s 1969 win – will be when Marco finally gets his act together. Or we might just dig this back out the archive and repost it in 12 months time.

Race rating – 3 out of 5

The 102nd Indy 500 is unlikely to gain a place amongst the most memorable editions of the greatest spectacle in motor racing. Nevertheless there was enough intrigue over varying fuel strategies, whether Rossi could become the lowest qualifying winner in history or if Carpenter or Power would take the checkered flag.

102nd Indianapolis 500 – final result

1. (3) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running

2. (1) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
4. (32) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
5. (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
6. (2) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
7. (21) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 200, Running
8. (4) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (18) Robert Wickens, Honda, 200, Running
10. (30) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
11. (27) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (12) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
13. (11) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 200, Running
14. (22) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (23) Stefan Wilson, Honda, 200, Running
16. (31) Jack Harvey, Honda, 200, Running
17. (26) Oriol Servia, Honda, 200, Running
18. (15) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 200, Running
19. (13) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 199, Running
20. (6) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 199, Running
21. (33) Conor Daly, Honda, 199, Running
22. (20) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 198, Running
23. (25) Zach Veach, Honda, 198, Running
24. (28) Jay Howard, Honda, 193, Running
25. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 187, Contact
26. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 154, Contact
27. (8) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 145, Contact
28. (5) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 137, Contact
29. (17) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 110, Mechanical
30. (7) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 67, Contact
31. (29) Ed Jones, Honda, 57, Contact
32. (16) Takuma Sato, Honda, 46, Contact
33. (19) James Davison, Chevrolet, 45, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 166.935 mph
Time of Race: 2:59:42.6365
Margin of victory: 3.1589 seconds
Cautions: 7 for 41 laps
Lead changes: 30 among 15 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Carpenter, Ed 1 – 30
Newgarden, Josef 31
Pigot, Spencer 32 – 34
Carpenter, Ed 35 – 50
Claman De Melo, Zachary 51 – 55
Carpenter, Ed 56 – 62
Kanaan, Tony 63 – 64
Carpenter, Ed 65 – 72
Kanaan, Tony 73 – 89
Carpenter, Ed 90 – 91
Power, Will 92 – 94
Servia, Oriol 95
Bourdais, Sebastien 96
Rahal, Graham 97 – 105
Claman De Melo, Zachary 106 – 107
Power, Will 108 – 128
Hunter-Reay, Ryan 129
Bourdais, Sebastien 130 – 132
Newgarden, Josef 133 – 134
Rahal, Graham 135 – 137
Munoz, Carlos 138 – 140
Power, Will 141 – 170
Carpenter, Ed 171 – 172
Rossi, Alexander 173
Pagenaud, Simon 174
Munoz, Carlos 175
Servia, Oriol 176 – 177
Wickens, Robert 178 – 179
Servia, Oriol 180 – 192
Wilson, Stefan 193 – 195
Power, Will 196 – 200

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings:
Power 243, Rossi 241, Newgarden 233, Dixon 218, Hunter-Reay 186, Rahal 183, Wickens 178, Bourdais 168, Pagenaud 155, James Hinchliffe 144.

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