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Featured Alexander Rossi shocks the world, wins 100th Indianapolis 500

Discussion in 'Motorsports' started by R.J. O'Connell, May 30, 2016.

  1. 2016 indy500 report header.jpg
    The dream of winning the Indianapolis 500 didn't really enter the mind of Alexander Rossi three months ago. On Sunday, this unlikely dream became a reality for the 24-year-old Indycar rookie, when he won the 100th running of the greatest spectacle in motorsport on a miracle run of 36 laps on his last tank of fuel.

    “This is the greatest day of my life,” an emotional Rossi said with tears in his eyes.

    And even as he stood in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's famous Victory Circle, surrounded by his family, teammates, and loyal fans, adorned with the victor's wreath and doused in the traditional celebratory milk, there was a sense that it still hadn't sunk in for him.

    Alexander Rossi, who only signed with Andretti Autosport in Indycar weeks before the start of the 2016 IndyCar Series season, led a total of 14 laps - including the one that counted the most - to become just the ninth rookie in the history of the Indianapolis 500 to win the race on their first attempt. Rossi joins some very elite company with his first-year triumph, joining the likes of Ray Harroun, Graham Hill, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Helio Castroneves.

    Just three months ago, Rossi was denied a chance to race full-time in Formula 1 after breaking in with Manor in late 2015, following nearly a decade filled with trials and setbacks just to break into F1. He'd scored only one top-ten finish in the 2016 season before his Indy 500 victory, one that skyrockets him to sixth in the Drivers' Championship.

    The crucial strategic call came from Rossi's co-owner Bryan Herta on lap 164, when the field came in under caution to pit for tyres and fuel - putting the field just beyond the expected 32-lap fuel window.

    Rossi took the lead of the race with four laps remaining as both Josef Newgarden and Carlos Muñoz had to pit from the lead within the last ten laps. With the help of some slipstreaming off of teammate and former 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Rossi was able to stretch the tank in his #98 NAPA Auto Parts Honda just long enough to where he could coast out of the final corner and still win the race by 4.498 seconds - the largest margin of victory at the Indianapolis 500 in over 20 years.

    After setting the fastest lap of the race at an average of 225.288 miles per hour on lap 106, Rossi's final lap was run at an agonizingly slow average of 179.784 mph - but it was just fast enough to secure one of the most improbable victories in recent Indy 500 memory.

    Rossi said after the race:

    “I have no idea how we pulled that off. I didn’t know (if I could make it to the finish). … I’ll cherish the fact that at one point we were (in 29th place) and that we rolled the dice and we came through and we made it happen. It’s phenomenal. I’m at a loss for words but it will change my life, for sure.”

    For co-owner Michael Andretti, it is his fourth victory as a team owner (2005, 2007, 2014), and for partner Herta, it is his second after winning on the very last lap with Dan Wheldon five years ago. For Honda, whose 2016 season has been fraught with deficits to their rivals at Chevrolet, this is their first win of the year.

    "Man, it was so close at the end," Herta said after the race. "For a rookie to drive with the poise he did in such a tough situation - I was telling him, 'Don't let anybody pass you but save fuel' - and he did it."


    Indeed, Andretti Autosport took a 1-2 finish at the 100th running of the Indy 500 as Muñoz finished second, his second runner-up berth in four starts at the Brickyard. Hendersonville, Tennessee's Josef Newgarden came home third for Ed Carpenter Racing - his career-best. 2013 winner Tony Kanaan finished fourth for Chip Ganassi Racing, one spot ahead of teammate Charlie Kimball in fifth. J.R. Hildebrand, the runner-up five years ago, finished sixth in a second ECR entry.

    Polesitter James Hinchcliffe couldn't quite close the deal on an emotional victory of his own, as he finished seventh after leading 27 laps. 2008 Indy winner Scott Dixon finished eighth, Sebastien Bourdais finished ninth, and Will Power was the best finisher for Team Penske in a relatively dismal tenth.

    A sell-out crowd of over 350,000 spectators took in a race that saw a whopping 54 lead changes (second-most all-time). It was by far the Brickyard's biggest crowd in a generation, for a very special running of the Indianapolis 500.

    After a trouble-free first quarter of the race, the Speedway's hand of fate denied defending Indy 500 champion Montoya a chance at his third Indy 500 victory, when his Verizon Chevrolet spun in turn two and crashed out on lap 64. It's the first time that Montoya has failed to finish the race in four starts.

    From there, the hits slowly kept coming: Sage Karam crashed on lap 93, ending his emotional return to the Indycar circuit. Mikhail Aleshin's breakout month of May ended in a spin that also collected Rossi's longtime friend Conor Daly on lap 115. And the man who was so nearly the hero in 2012, Takuma Sato, bounced off the turn 4 wall on lap 163 to trigger the pivotal late-race caution that sent everyone into the pits for fuel.

    2014 champion Hunter-Reay lost out on his chance to win on lap 94, when he was caught up in a pitlane accident involving his teammate Townsend Bell. Hunter-Reay led 52 laps, best of all drivers in the race, but could finish no better than 24th.

    Helio Castroneves' bid to join A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser as the only four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500 was undone when he was forced to replace his rear wing under the final caution. The repairs were enough to relegate Helio to finish in eleventh, after leading 24 laps. Combined with Montoya's early exit and a frustrating 19th place finish for championship leader Simon Pagenaud, the cards didn't fall for Team Penske on their silver anniversary at the Brickyard.


    Instead, all the stars aligned for the newest hero of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Alexander Rossi, now and forever, a champion of the Indianapolis 500.

    For more discussion of the Indycar Series and the Indianapolis 500, be sure to visit our IndyCar sub-forum at RaceDepartment.

    Image Credit: Indycar / Photographers: Matt Fraver, Chris Jones, Walter Kuhn, David Yowe
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  2. Frank

    Administrator Staff Premium

    The race was amazing, enjoyed every second of it.
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  3. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    Sim Racing News Editor Staff Premium

    Epic result for Rossi, well pleased for the lad. Quality driver and looks to be a down to earth good bloke too.

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  4. I was disappointed to see him lose his seat at Manor Racing, but this is so much better for his career now. Another chance for Formula 1? Probably not necessary anymore.
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  5. He hasn't really lost his seat. He is still their reserve driver.
  6. The rumor going around F1 right now is that Rio Haryanto's sponsor has been late with payments to Manor, and he may not be in the car very much longer. We might see Rossi back in F1 sooner rather than later.
  7. Michael Watts

    Michael Watts
    XB1 Gamertag: michaei watts Premium

    Very good race to watch. The F1 and Indy race both put on amazing performances topped off with a NASCAR Blahhhhhhhh!
  8. After the 500 I always put the nascar race on as something to fall asleep to. Wake up to racing with Monaco, go to the 500, come home and sleep to nascar. That day is always the best.
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  9. Wow... And people call formula 1 boring :O_o: most exciting part was the 3 car pile up in pit lane :whistling:
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  10. Tim.E


    First Indy race I've watched from start to finish and damn what a race! This just shows that Rossi doesn't even need F1 to be succesful.
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  11. Jake Fangio

    Jake Fangio
    Please don't rain pleeaassee don't rain

    Well done to the lad,he always came across well on the telly.I'd like to see him back in F1,and he has plenty of market value now.But the funny thing is,he may see it as a step back to race for Manor again.He's a big name in the racing world now,and just won the 500,why should he race at the back of the grid in F1,when he could be in the thick of things in the states.
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  12. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    Rossi has made comments to the effect that ovals are more dangerous. Probably because they are. :laugh: However, once you drive one and win, it's like crack. There are so many ways to win on ovals, and despite being misunderstood (it's hard to "see" air) by much of the world, any oval driver will tell you that the adrenaline rush is threefold over a road course, Their heart rate monitors are pegged for 2 1/2 hours. And they get out of the car like they just had seven double shots at Starbucks. That's why Rossi remaining cool (granted, his cool down lap was lap 200) told me this kid may be another Arie Luyendyk, who looked like he had just come from the boardroom after the race. :confused: Oval racers are born, not trained.

    As for being afraid of ovals, that was gone after Phoenix (a blisteringly fast oval that will sober up anyone). This quote should have tipped me off that he was a threat, but I missed it at the time:

    "I'm excited about it," (Phoenix) said Rossi, who is competing for Andretti Herta Autosport this year. "I was a bit more concerned prior to the test [earlier this year] because I didn't know what it was all about.

    "The first 10 laps I drove around an oval I was a little bit timid about it, but I enjoyed the experience. It's a very unique set of circumstances you have to understand and appreciate. That comes into play even more on the larger tracks as you are adjusting the car as the lap goes on.

    "They are all very different but it's like any other racetrack – you find the limit, you find what works and what doesn't and you go from there."
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2016
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  13. It was lap 200. If the 500 was ran with 500 laps that'd be suicide XD
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  14. fortyfivekev


    Rossi can (and should) trade this success into a decent Indycar career but I'd be surprised if it makes much long-term difference to his F1 prospects. There aren't many drivers who go from a back of the grid F1 team to one of the big guys and those that do are usually already under contract to one of the top teams.
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  15. SakL

    Black flagged in a club race! Premium

    Yeah even if he raced for Manor this year and beat Wehrlein 10-0 I doubt he would go further than midfield unless a miracle happens.

    It would be great to see him in WEC or the USCC... I think he could become a true rockstar there, and bring many a fan with him. How about JPM, Rossi and the Hulk driving a 919 at Le Mans in 2017? :rolleyes:
  16. Very happy for Rossi. The kid has done his work going through every series, putting in the effort and getting some good results overall. Sadly a lot of good guys aren't given a chance to shine in F1, or a chance at all, and he fell into the former category. But he can make a great living off Indycar and be able to participate in the occasional off-series race too.
  17. fortyfivekev


    Greatly reduced testing, improved safety, less competitive teams and the need to often find massive sponsorship makes it really hard for young guys to get a break these days in F1. Kimi's seat at Ferrari may be up for grabs but upsets apart younger drivers have to wait years for someone to retire by which time they are often forgotten.

    Renault and Mclaren need to get competitive again to increase the number of good seats available because only having three top teams with maybe one driver vacancy a year (and often none at all) really sucks for the guys coming up.
  18. Ole Marius Myrvold

    Ole Marius Myrvold
    JWB 96-13 Staff

    One thing is for sure, this picture looks like it could've been taken many many decades ago. It was quite a lot of people in the stands that day.
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  19. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    Sure were Marius. I feel IndyCar is as popular here as it was in the mid-90s, with good reason. When I regretted my decision to hold off on making the trek to Indiana, tickets were sold out! :O_o:. Here is the race, if anyone wants to relive...in HD, and w/o commercial interruption:
  20. fortyfivekev


    It certainly is impressive but I thought it fairly typical that during the broadcast when they listed out the World's top 5 attended sporting events they were all American. Would have been nice to see Le Mans on there which gets 250000+ each year.

    I suppose the real test is how many people turn up for next year's race. Not something I follow at all but I got the impression that TV numbers (in the US) for the race weren't that great but maybe wrong there.

    As a Brit it is sad to say that Indycar will never again hit the heights of the Mansell era. I'd be very surprised if even a 100k Brits watched this year's race on BT Sport not that that stops me from enjoying it.