By Mike Kitchel
(INDIANAPOLIS, IN) – Ryan Hunter-Reay was denied a shot at a final-lap victory in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race because of a yellow flag for a single-car incident in Turn 1. Third place was his career high in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," but the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident wanted more.
A similar situation materialized in the 98th edition, but this time Hunter-Reay was the one drinking the milk in Victory Circle.
Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 28 DHL car for Andretti Autosport, held off three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves by a hair-raising .0600 of a second, the second-closest margin of victory in the history of the event, in a six-lap shootout to claim his first Indy 500 victory. Marco Andretti finished .3171 of a second back for his third third-place finish in nine starts.
"It’s a dream come true," said Hunter-Reay, who is the first American winner since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006. "This (race) is American history; this is better than a championship. I hope the fans loved it because I was on the edge of my seat."
Hunter-Reay started 19th. There were 34 lead changes among 11 drivers.
Castroneves overtook Hunter-Reay in Turn 1 on Lap 199 of 200 entering Turn 1, but Hunter-Reay led at the finish line by .0235 of a second.
"I did everything I could do," said Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske car. "What a fight."
Carlos Munoz, who finished second last year as a rookie, finished fourth, and 2000 Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya was fifth. Kurt Busch, who had 600 more miles of racing left in North Carolina, placed sixth in his first Indy car race.
Race officials red-flagged the race on Lap 192 for seven minutes to fix the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier and clean up from the single-car incident involving Townsend Bell’s No. 6 Robert Graham KV Racing Technology entry. Bell had been running fifth, 1.8 seconds behind Hunter-Reay.
Bell was involved in an earlier contact on Lap 176 when three cars tried to go through Turn 1 at the same time.
"Ed (Carpenter) gave me the room initially. I honestly don’t think Townsend knew we were three-wide,” explained James Hinchcliffe. “From what I saw Townsend came down into Ed, who came down into me. I was the last guy there, so I have to take a portion of the blame for sure. I feel bad for Ed. 100 per cent not Ed’s fault."
Carpenter wasn’t happy about the contact in the late going.
"Hinch tried to make three wide in turn one with 25 laps to go. Not a smart move. It wrecked both of our races,” Carpenter said. “I told him if he didn’t have a concussion last week that I would have punched him in the face. I totally believe we were right in the mix with Ryan (Hunter-Reay), Helio (Castroneves) and Marco (Andretti).”
The first caution flag flew on Lap 150 when the No. 83 car driven by Charlie Kimball made light contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2. The record for longest stretch before a first yellow flag had previously been set at 65 laps in 2000. The four yellow flags tied the record for fewest (1990); the Speedway started recording cautions in 1976.
Graham Rahal was the first to retire from the race with an electrical issue in the No. 15 entry. Tony Kanaan, who won the race in 2013, developed an early suspension issue and finished 26th.
Round 6 and 7 of the Verizon IndyCar Series will be telecast live on ABC May 31 and June 1 for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix; both races at 3:30 p.m. (ET).