IndyCar Newsflash: Helio Castroneves clinches fourth Indy 500 win

IndyCar Newsflash: Helio Castroneves clinches fourth Indy 500 win
Joe Skibinski

Helio Castroneves takes fourth win at the “Brickyard” – Scott Dixon loses championship lead after dismal result – Aeroscreen prevents tragedy in incident between Graham Rahal and Conor Daly

Helio Castroneves (Meyer Shank Racing) sensationally scored the win at the 105th edition of the Indy 500 ahead of Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske). After 2001, 2002 and 2009, it is the fourth victory for Castroneves in the most important IndyCar race of the year. The “Spiderman” – who lived up to his name by climbing the track fence to celebrate his victory – thus equalled A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears in the all-time Indy 500 wins record.

Will Castroneves become the Indy 500 record winner next year? – Credit: Joe Skibinski

Castroneves and Palou engaged in an electrifying battle for the eventual win after their final two pit stops – in what had been a rather strategic Indy 500 up to that point. Fans of thrilling oval racing got their money’s worth thanks to numerous overtaking manoeuvres by the drivers. In the last quarter of the race alone, there were 15 lead changes.

In the end, it was the 46-year-old’s vast experience that won the race for Castroneves, who cleverly fended off youngster Palou’s final attack on the last lap. Nevertheless, the Spaniard, who is only in his second IndyCar season, confirmed his stunning form with second place. Thanks to the double points scoring at the Indy 500, the 24-year-old jumps to the top of the table in the current season.

Third-placed Pagenaud made the comeback of the day. Starting from 26th place, the Penske driver made an impressive recovery drive. In the process, the 2019 Indy 500 winner snatched third place from McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward only on the final lap. Texas winner O’Ward was nevertheless pleased with fourth place and another top-five result. Fifth place was achieved by a strong Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing).

Dixon endures misfortune and loses championship lead

At the race start everything was still going to plan for Dixon (#9) – Credit: Dan Boyd

Pole setter Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), on the other hand, had an Indy 500 to forget. The championship leader only finished in 17th place and lost 49 points to Palou. The Kiwi’s points cushion was enough to keep him in second place in the overall standings. However, the gap to Palou is now 36 points.

Dixon was initially unlucky to have delayed his first pit stop due to an aggressive fuel strategy. When the first caution was called on lap 34, the six-time IndyCar champion, unlike his rivals, had not yet pitted. Due to the closed pit lane, Dixon was obliged to stay out on track at first.

A few laps later, however, he had used up the last of his fuel and rolled into the still-closed pit lane with an empty tank. The Honda engine momentarily gave up the ghost as a consequence and was only brought back to life with great efforts by the pit crew. When Dixon returned to the track after seemingly endless work by his crew, he had lost almost two laps to the leaders. 17th place at the finish appears to be a good result under these circumstances.

Aeroscreen prevents tragedy

In the 105th edition of the IndyCar classic, apart from the thrilling battle for victory, there was also a real moment of shock. Conor Daly (Ed Carpenter Racing) caught the left rear wheel of the crashed Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) after Turn 2. The Firestone tyre was thrown towards the cockpit as it hit Daly’s nose before bouncing off the protective structure and eventually coming to a stop on the infield lawn.

Thanks to the aeroscreen, Daly was uninjured. Rahal also came through his wall impact without any injuries. Daly even finished the race in 13th place, despite a damaged nose. The trigger for Rahal’s loose wheel was his previous pit stop. The left rear tyre was not bolted down properly, which made it come loose on the pit exit and disaster took its course.

Next stop of the IndyCar fleet: Detroit

The next double-header event of the IndyCar Series is coming up on June 12-13. The demanding street circuit of Belle Isle returns to the racing calendar after a year’s break due to the pandemic. Since the 2013 season, the event has traditionally been held as a double header against an idyllic backdrop.

Two years ago, Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) and Dixon drove into Victory Lane on the streets of Detroit. This year – after six different winners from the first six races – at least a handful of drivers are among the favourites.

Chris Liemann