Photo: John Cole
James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport, Honda) passed pole-sitter Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevrolet) to lead Lap 1. Will Power (Team Penske, Chevy) ran third, with this order in place through Lap 9. Carpenter passed for the lead on the next lap. Carpenter pitted from the lead on Lap 29, with Hinchcliffe following one lap later, and Power a lap after that. Hinchcliffe was back out front once the cycle was complete, followed by Carpenter and Power.
Power passed both on track and ran in the lead as of Lap 38 (of 200). JR Hildebrand (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Chevy) took third from Hinchcliffe on Lap 43, settling in behind car-owner Carpenter. Marco Andretti passed first Hildebrand and the Carpenter to move into P2 on Lap 58, taking the lead from Power one lap later. Helio Castroneves (Team Penske, Chevy moved into third.
Andretti and Power both pitted on Lap 63, with Castroneves remaining on track. Power came out ahead of Andretti. Once the second cycle was complete, Castroneves ran in front of Andretti and Carpenter. Carpenter took second on Lap 78. Ryan Hunter-Reay moved into third on track during the 80s, having started P19.
Castroneves pitted from the lead on Lap 93. Andretti followed one lap later and Hunter-Reay a lap after him. Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, and Andretti ran 1-3 once the cycle was complete. Castroneves passed for the lead on Lap 108. The two swapped the lead as Andretti held station in third through the 110s.
Castroneves pitted on Lap 123, Andretti Lap 124, and Hunter-Reay next. Hunter-Reay led once the stop were complete, followed by Andretti and Castroneves. Andretti took the lead in the late 130s, as the race continued to run caution free.
The first caution flag flew on Lap 150 when Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevy) made light contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2. The record for longest stretch before a first yellow flag had been 65 laps in 2000. The race’s four total yellow flags tied the record for fewest (1990) since the Speedway started recording cautions in 1976. All the leaders came in to pit under the caution. Hunter-Reay led Andretti and Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevy) off of pit lane with 47 laps to go.
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 Robert Graham KV Racing Technology (Chevy) entry. Bell had been running fifth -- 1.8 sec behind Hunter-Reay.
Castroneves overtook Hunter-Reay on Lap 199 entering Turn 1. But Hunter-Reay led at the finish line of the penultimate lap by .0235 sec and held off three-time Indy 500 winner Castroneves by 0.0600 sec -- the second-closest margin of victory in the history of the event -- to claim his first Indy 500 victory. Andretti finished 0.3171 sec 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." There were 34 lead changes among 11 drivers.
"I did everything I could do," said Castroneves. "What a fight."
“Yeah, I mean, close but we never really dominated,” said Andretti. “You could say that Ryan and Helio did. The only way we had a shot is if those two got together. They were putting so many blocks on me that there was nothing I could do. Every time we got to the front, we got shuffled back. I think we did what we could, but congrats to Ryan, he almost took me out in Turn 3 -- I almost crashed. I think if it wasn't for the Indy 500, I was going to be pretty mad at Ryan, but it is for the Indy 500 and he's up there and I'm not. This is as competitive as IndyCar has ever been. I don't care what anyone has to say.”
Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport – HVM Racing, Honda), who finished second last year as a rookie, finished fourth, and 2000 Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya (Team Penske, Chevy) was fifth. Kurt Busch (Andretti Autosport, Honda), who had 600 more miles of racing left at NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in North Carolina, placed sixth in his first Indy car race.
Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Chevy) was the first to retire from the race with an electrical issue. Tony Kanaan (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevy), who won the race last year, 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).