Sunday was all about returning to normalcy. For the first time in two years, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was littered with fans on Memorial Day weekend. All 135,000 spectators were treated with a familiar sight; Helio Castroneves climbing the fence. The popular Brazilian finally did it, joining the four-time winners club on Sunday with his victory in the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves was quietly lurking throughout the afternoon, and knew exactly when to turn it up. Making his 21st Indy 500 start, Castroneves did so with a different team for the first time in his career. After two decades of driving for Roger Penske, Helio was making his first ever start for Meyer Shank Racing. It turned out as well as they could have ever imagined. They put Castroneves in the seat because he knew his way around the 2.5-mile oval, and proved it once again on Sunday.
105th Indianapolis 500 Box Score
The cooler temperatures made for ideal track conditions for the drivers, and they could maneuver anywhere they needed to. There were only two cautions during the race for 18 total laps, both of which are new records. It was also the fastest 500 in history, as the 2 hour and 37-minute race saw an average speed of 190.690 mph. Castroneves led 20 laps on the day, all towards the end of the race when it mattered most.
The late-race dual with Alex Palou was breathtaking as both drivers swapped the lead multiple times. In the end, it was the experience of Castroneves that proved to be most valuable. Palou had to settle for runner-up, a spot that Helio has found himself in three times. Palou led 35 laps on Sunday, has a 36-point lead in the championship, and is the only driver in the series that has led laps in all six races this season.
Known to race fans as Spider-Man, Castroneves scaled the fence for his trademark victory celebration at the largest sporting event since the start of the pandemic. The 46-year old became the fourth-oldest driver to win the race and the first to do it in the No. 06 car. The last time a new four-time winner was crowned was 1991 when Rick Mears joined AJ Foyt and Al Unser. A fourth chair has now been added to the table.
“I love Indianapolis! You guys don’t understand it! The fans, you give me energy,” Castroneves said. “I’ve run two races this year and won two races, I’d say that’s pretty good.” Helio was part of the winning Rolex 24 Daytona sports car team in January, taking the prestigious sports car event for the first time. Castroneves has a six-race schedule in IndyCar with Shank’s team for this season.
There was a 12-year gap between Helio’s fourth win today and his third win in 2009. That’s the second-longest gap between victories in Indianapolis 500 history, behind only Juan Montoya’s 15-year gap between victories in 2000 and 2015. It is his 31st career IndyCar win and his first since Iowa in 2017.
It was a heart-breaking day for Chip Ganassi Racing, with Palou coming up just short and the rest of the team being a non-factor. The team dominated the entire month of May, with Scott Dixon claiming pole position. His race was ruined early after an ill-timed yellow flag caught the team out when Stefan Wilson crashed in pit lane. Dixon did tie his teammate Tony Kanaan for the most Indy 500 races led, with 14.
A trio of Chevrolet cars rounded out the top five on Sunday, with Simon Pagenaud improving 23 positions to finish 3rd, Pato O’Ward moving up eight spots to finish 4th, and Ed Carpenter claiming 5th. Santino Ferrucci started 23rd and finished 6th while Sage Karam came all the way from 31st starting position to finish 7th on Sunday. Rinus VeeKay, Montoya, and Kanaan rounded out the top ten.
What appeared to be a promising day for Conor Daly quickly vanished when the left-rear tire on Graham Rahal’s car came off after making a pit stop. Rahal went into the Turn 2 wall while his stray tire struck the front of Daly’s Ed Carpenter Racing machine while in the lead.
Daly managed to continue and led a race-high 40 laps but ended up with a disappointing 13th place finish. Rahal was gutted at the way his day ended after he too was running up front. His teammate and defending race winner Takuma Sato did not have enough fuel at the end to hang on and came home 14th.
Andretti Autosport was once the dominant team around this event but struggled mightily in this race. None of their cars finished inside the top 15. It was really a difficult day for Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Alexander Rossi. The 29th finishing position for Rossi only worsened his probability of getting back into the championship hunt this season.
The month of May concluded with fans back in the stands, an exciting battle for the win, and an unforgettable record-breaking win for one of the sports’ most iconic drivers. The only thing left to do is begin the countdown for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500, which is only 364 days away.