On Sunday, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway held the 98th running of the Indy 500 and it was an amazing race. After emotional pre-race ceremonies – this was Jim Nabors’ last year singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” and Dario Franchitti, who retired in November due to injuries from a crash, drove the pace car – the green flag waved and the race began. Graham Rahal, driver of the National Guard car, was the first to retire from the race on lap 44 with electrical issues. Buddy Lazier was also forced to retire from the race on lap 87 when he experienced mechanical issues with his car. Both Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya were both penalized for pit speed violations during stops on laps 128 and 133 respectively. Power was penalized again on lap 180 for contact with Josef Newgarden.
However, the yellow flag did not come out until lap 150 when Charlie Kimball spun and hit the outside wall, eventually coming to a rest near the apron, or the area underneath the white line closest to the infield. The green flag period between lap 1 and lap 149 became the longest in Indy 500 history, beating the previous record of 133 laps in 2013. The next time the yellow flag came out was lap 168, when Scott Dixon made contact with the SAFER Barrier and eventually hit the inside wall as well. On lap 176, the yellow was waved for contact between James Hinchcliffe and Ed Carpenter, which caused both to hit the wall. The last caution of the day came on lap 191 when there was debris spotted in turn 1. While the race was under caution, Townsend Bell made hard contact with the SAFER Barrier in turn 2. This caused the race to be red flagged for about ten minutes while the track was cleared and the barrier was repaired.
After a hard fought battle during the last five laps, Ryan Hunter-Reay won the race by .06 seconds over Helio Castroneves. Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz, and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top five. Kurt Busch, who was attempting the “double” of the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600, finished 6th while nineteen-year-old rookie Sage Karam finished ninth.
I’m sad that Jim Nabors will no longer be singing before the Indy 500. This was the end to one chapter of such an amazing tradition. I think it would be cool, at least for a couple years, if they use versions from different years. For example, they could use one from a race in the early years of the tradition one year, then use one from the early 2000s the next, and keep going like that. If they choose to get a new singer right away, though, I hope it’s a good one that has the right range and sound for the song.
I also think it was amazing that Dario Franchitti was asked to drive the pace car for this year’s Indy 500. If he hadn’t been injured as badly as he was in the crash in last season’s race in Houston, or if the crash hadn’t happened, he would have been in this year’s Indy 500. Having him drive the pace car was a great way to honor his career and success at the Indy 500 and a great way to allow him to drive at least a couple laps during the race.