Helio Castroneves Makes History, Wins Fourth Indianapolis 500

7 Mins read
(Photo Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Al Unser Sr., A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears were all in attendance today as Helio Castroneves became the fourth four-time winner of Indianapolis 500, the first in thirty years, giving Meyer Shank Racing their first win as a team since joining the sport in the 2017 edition of this event.

With two laps to go, Castroneves made his move around the outside of Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Alex Palou into turn one, and with the threat of lap traffic ahead on the final lap Castroneves held firm with the crowd of over 140,00 people coming unglued for the forty-six year old Brazilian as he crossed the yard of bricks and subsequently climbed the catchfence on the front stretch post-race.

In a celebration that will long be remembered in NTT IndyCar Series history, Castroneves worked his way through the entire grid coming and offering him congratulations, from old teammates like Will Power, other folks from Team Penske like Tim Cindric and many many more on his way to the podium, where he drank the ice-cold two percent milk and even a bottle of strawberry milk to match his bright pink firesuit.

Scott Dixon led the field to green after claiming his fourth Indy 500 pole last weekend, only holding the lead until turn three where Andretti Autosport‘s Colton Herta took the lead to a massive crowd ovation. Dixon was then passed for second by Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Rinus Veekay in the same place on the next lap, before Veekay took the fight to Herta for the lead on the front stretch to lead lap two.

Veekay went on to lead the rest of that stint, before being one of the first drivers to hit pit road on lap thirty-one. The very next lap, Stefan Wilson crashed in the pit lane after coming in too fast and locking up the rear tyres, leading to the first caution of the day. The location and timing of the wreck left drivers like Dixon right on the edge of their fuel window, with Dixon actually running out of fuel and was forced to pit for emergency service. While in the pits he could not get re-fired and the team had to take off the engine cover to try and get the engine cooled off a bit and re-fired. Alexander Rossi also had ran out of fuel and both favorites for the win were put a lap down and sent to the back of the field. Dixon finished the race in seventeeth, while Rossi’s bad luck continues with a twenty-ninth place finish.

Ed Carpenter also had issues on pit road, stalling during his stop on lap thirty-two. At the end of the pit cycle, Herta took the lead from Veekay, with the Dutchman’s teammate Conor Daly jumping to third place after pitting just before Wilson’s wreck.

There were a significant amount of caution laps as the field needed to be reset, with Tony Kanaan being assessed a penalty for needing emergency service while the pit lane was closed, and Max Chilton was given a pit road speeding penalty. The race went back to green on lap forty-seven, and Herta was immediately swallowed up by Veekay, returning him to the lead. A few laps later Daly was able to pass Herta, and launched his Tuskegee Airmen tribute car past his own teammate to take the lead. Herta slipped as far down as fourth after that start, conceding the last podium position to a hard-charging Castroneves.

Daly led for the majority of the next stint, the first laps he’s ever led at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while Veekay was the first to pit on lap sixty-eight. Daly was next on lap seventy-one, with Veekay easily putting the undercut to good use to take the lead again. They held their positions as Castroneves lost out on positions, dropping to seventh, while Alex Palou shot up to fourth after stops cycled out.

(Photo Credit: Karl Zemlin / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Daly regained the lead in turn three on lap eighty-three and dominated the stint. The two ECR drivers held the lead until lap 103, where Veekay took the lead once again before they both dived into the pits for their third pit stops of the day. Veekay was able to get away clean, but a small hiccup on pit road for Daly cost him time and he was lapped on pit exit by Patricio O’Ward.

Palou, Castroneves and O’Ward cycled out in the top three spots, but didn’t get far before the second caution flag flew on lap 119 for Graham Rahal, who buried his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda nose-first into the turn two wall. Rahal, who was exiting the pits, did not have his left rear tyre secure on the car and it flew off after he exited the pits. Rahal slid up the track right in front of the leaders and was lucky to not collect anyone, but Daly got a nose-full of that loose tyre as it bounced off of his nose cone in a scary moment. Luckily, everyone was okay. Daly struggled with handling after the damage and finished thirteenth, but led the most laps of any driver today at forty.

Palou led the field back to green on lap 126, and was soon swallowed up by Castroneves and O’Ward by turn three. The very next lap, O’Ward took the lead on the backstretch, and the three continued to jockey for position for the rest of the race, swapping the lead, second and third every few laps. Through the next pit stop cycle, Palou kept the lead once again. Some, however were not as fortunate. On lap 153 while making his pit stop, Power found himself backwards in his teammate Simon Pagenaoud‘s pit box, stating that the brakes went straight to the floor. This was a race-ruining issue for not only Power, but his teammate Scott McLaughlin, Simona De Silvestro, Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay who all cited issues with the brakes.

The trio of Palou, Castroneves and O’Ward continued to jockey for the lead, swapping it multiple times as they headed for the final pit stops. On lap 172 Castroneves came in, followed by Palou, O’Ward and many others on lap 173. Palou blended out into the lead, before dueling with Castroneves once again for the lead back and forth. As drivers like Felix Rosenqvist and Takuma Sato began to drop off in the last ten laps after trying to stretch fuel, it was left down to the veteran Castroneves and the young gun Palou, and on the third overtake in the last ten laps Castroneves made the victory-sealing move in turn one to cement himself in IndyCar history.

Palou led thirty-five laps of the race, the second most in the field, and after Dixon’s issues at the start of the race took him out of contention, the twenty-four year old finds himself once again at the top of the series points standings. While he will be disappointed to miss out on his first Borg Warner trophy, he drove like a veteran and should be very proud of the show he put on today. A fantastic drive for the young Ganassi star.

Pagenaud quietly worked his way up from starting twenty-sixth to finish third, passing O’Ward on the backstretch on the final lap. He was able to back up his comments last Sunday that he had a “hot-rod”, and Penske as a whole showed great pace, but with Power and McLaughlin’s issues on pit road knocking them both out of potential top ten finishes, Pagenaud kept it clean and quietly became a threat for the win. Power, McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden finished the race in thirtieth, twentieth and twelfth respectively.

O’Ward showed why he is one of IndyCar’s brightest talents once again today, leading seventeen laps and hanging tough with the leaders. His teammate Juan Pablo Montoya quietly put together a top ten finish as well, coming home ninth. Felix Rosenqvist was not as lucky, having to deal with two pit-road penalties to finish twenty-seventh, but he did lead some laps trying to stretch the fuel at the end of the race.

Issues on pit road couldn’t stop hometown driver Carpenter, who fought through the mistake on the first pit stop as well as being stuck in a gear to finish fifth, his third top five in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

After a scary crash in turn two during practice, Santino Ferrucci was the highest-finishing RLLR car with a quiet sixth place finish, his second top ten in as many years. He also set the fastest lap of the race. Another surprise in the top ten was Nazareth, Pennsylvania’s Sage Karam for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, who went from the last row of the grid to seventh place, his career best finish in the Indy 500.

(Photo Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar)

After leading much of the first stint, Veekay just couldn’t save enough fuel to stay competitive, but he was able to come home with an eighth place finish. After his win at the GMR Grand Prix, front-row starting spot and top ten finish, the flying Dutchman truly made a statement this month of May to prove that he is a star in this sport. Rounding out the top ten was Kanaan, who fought back from that pit road penalty for emergency service to finish tenth place.

It was a day to forget for Andretti’s Herta and Hunter-Reay, who finished sixteenth and twenty-second respectively. Herta struggled after starting second, falling off at the end of the race, and Hunter-Reay had a top ten finish locked in before he locked up and was handed a pit road speeding penalty on lap 173.

The story of female-led Paretta Autosport did not go as planned, as De Silvestro spun on lap 145 in pit lane with the same brake issues so many other drivers, finishing the race in thirty-first place. Though it ended in disappointment, the team have plenty to be proud of, and plan for this to be the first of many races in the IndyCar Series.

After such an exciting race, the teams and drivers get a much needed break and return for the double-header Detroit Grand Prix on the streets of Belle Isle on 12-13 June.

2021 Indianapolis 500 Official Results

16Helio CastronevesBRAMeyer Shank Racing02:37:19.384
210Alex PalouESPChip Ganassi Racing+ 0.492 sec
322Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske+ 0.562 sec
45Pato O’WardMEXArrow McLaren SP+ 0.940 sec
520Ed CarpenterUSAEd Carpenter Racing+ 1.242 sec
645Santino FerrucciUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 9.087 sec
724Sage KaramUSADreyer & Reinbold Racing+ 13.435 sec
821Rinus VeeKayNEDEd Carpenter Racing+ 14.241 sec
986Juan Pablo MontoyaCOLArrow McLaren SP+ 14.880 sec
1048Tony KanaanBRAChip Ganassi Racing+ 15.442 sec
118Marcus EricssonSWEChip Ganassi Racing+ 16.516 sec
122Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske+ 22.304 sec
1347Conor DalyUSAEd Carpenter Racing+ 22.692 sec
1430Takuma SatoJPNRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 23.295 sec
151JR HildebrandUSAA.J. Foyt Enterprises+ 23.527 sec
1626Colton HertaUSAAndretti Autosport+ 28.802 sec
179Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing+ 38.641 sec
1860Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing+ 40.157 sec
1998Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Herta-Haupert w/ Marco & Curb-Agajanian+ 40.359 sec
203Scott McLaughlin (R)NZLTeam Penske+ 40.833 sec
2129James HinchcliffeCANAndretti Autosport+ 40.846 sec
2228Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport+ 41.576 sec
234Dalton KellettCANA.J. Foyt Enterprises– 1 lap
2459Max ChiltonGBRCarlin– 1 lap
2551Pietro Fittipaldi (R)BRADale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing– 1 lap
2614Sebastien BourdaisFRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises– 1 lap
277Felix RosenqvistSWEArrow McLaren SP– 1 lap
2818Ed JonesUAEDale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan– 1 lap
2927Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport– 2 laps
3012Will PowerAUSTeam Penske– 3 laps
3116Simona De SilvestroSUIParetta AutosportCrash
3215Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan RacingCrash
3325Stefan WilsonGBRAndretti AutosportCrash
(R) = Rookie
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Lifelong sports junkie, currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Lead writer for Indycar at The Checkered Flag.
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