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The 100th Indianapolis 500

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The Indianapolis 500 is always a special race. This one, though, is more special.

It's race that's endured for over 100 years. It's survived two World Wars, it's been disputed over two different nasty chasms in American open-wheel racing, and every decade, the cars that compete there have changed and evolved so drastically, it would be a reflection of the automobile itself. Through all of this, the Indianapolis 500 has endured to see its one hundreth iteration - run longer than the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix, or any other single major race.

The 500 mile race is where ordinary people become extraordinary, and where the extraordinary ascend to racing immortality. Chances are, if you've ever watched an Indianapolis 500 in your lifetime, you have a favorite moment. A performance you'll never forget. A finish you'll tell future generations about for years to come. There's also a good chance that it may be the only Indycar race most people watch. If they choose only one, there's a good chance they've picked a good one.

Now, more than ever, the 33 remarkable human elements that make up this field for the 100th Indianapolis 500 are the stars of the show. And one should look no further than the front row for one of the best stories - not just in the Indycar campaign, but in all of racing this season.

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ROW 1
5 - James Hinchcliffe / 21 - Josef Newgarden / 28 - Ryan Hunter-Reay
One year and a week ago, we came far closer to losing James Hinchcliffe than anyone knew at the time. This Sunday, Hinchcliffe will lead the field to green for the very first time in his six-year Indycar career. In the 100th Indianapolis 500. After a white-knuckle run for pole position saw him secure P1 with a four-lap average of 230.760 miles per hour, The Mayor of Hinchtown is ready to write the unbelievable final chapter of one of racing's greatest comeback stories.

The perceived struggles of Honda's Indycar programme have been muted, with two Honda-powered machines on the front row - Hinchcliffe on the inside, and 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (who's been the top oval racer since late last season) on the outside. They flank Hendersonville, Tennessee's Josef Newgarden in the middle of the row. Like Hinchcliffe, Newgarden is one of Indycar's most engaging, entertaining, and colourful personalities. And a win for the 26-year-old will all but cement him as the new American superstar in Indycar.

ROW 2
29 - Townsend Bell / 26 - Carlos Muñoz / 12 - Will Power
Will Power has won just about every big race in his stellar American open-wheel career. He has yet to win the Indianapolis 500, though. How galling was it to finish just one-tenth of a second short of that first Indy win in 2015? Power has been Roger Penske's top man for the better part of five years now, and the 2014 Indycar Series champion knows that he can, and he must, win this race to solidify his place among the greats.

Perhaps the best story in this row is on the inside; that of 40-year-old Indy specialist and TV announcer Townsend Bell. Fifteen years after becoming the Indy Lights champion, Bell's whirlwind career in motorsport - from being reckless to the point of unemployability as a CART rookie in 2002, to being one of the safest pair of hands at Indy every year today - could culminate in a stunning victory. He'll likely have to go through his Andretti teammate Muñoz to get it. The Colombian already has two top-5 finishes at Indy, and nearly won it as a rookie in 2013.

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ROW 3
7 - Mikhail Aleshin / 22 - Simon Pagenaud / 3 - Hélio Castroneves
A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser are the only three men in history to win the Indy 500 four times. Hélio Castroneves has been chomping at the bit to join that elusive club now for several years. Two years ago, Hunter-Reay denied the effervescent Brazilian his fourth Indy victory by just 0.06 seconds. It will not come easy for him to win it this year, though - this third row also features the hottest driver in IndyCar right now, Simon Pagenaud.

A hat trick of wins at Long Beach, Barber, and the Indy road course give Pagenaud an overwhelming championship lead, and last year, he was the fastest driver for most of the race before a late incident relegated him to an unrepresentative tenth. The scarved wheelman from Poitiers might be the odds-on favorite to win this 100th running. They're joined by Aleshin, a teammate to the polesitter who showed similar resilience to bounce back from injuries two years ago, losing his ride last year, and has now shaken off the "mediocre pay-driver" label and emerged as a genuine hard-charger in this field.

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ROW 4
77 - Oriol Sérvia / 98 - Alexander Rossi (R) / 14 - Takuma Sato
Alexander Rossi, the last American to race in Formula 1, arguably could have been fighting for pole position. But even still, as the fastest rookie in the field, the Nevada City, California native is keen to bounce back from a slow start to his first Indycar campaign with a huge win in the 500 - one that would turn Manor Racing's decision to drop him from their 2016 F1 team from slightly questionable to outright ludicrous.

He has seventeenth-year Indycar veteran Oriol Sérvia on his inside, and outside, Takuma Sato - so very nearly the hero in 2012, and still seeking his redemption in what could be his last chance to win it for car owner AJ Foyt. Last year, Sato's race didn't even get to the backstretch on lap one.

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ROW 5
9 - Scott Dixon / 27 - Marco Andretti / 6 - J.R. Hildebrand
Defending series champion and 2008 Indy winner Dixon heads this fifth row as a serious contender to win. Lucky for the sterling Kiwi - last year's winner emerged from this row. Marco Andretti was just 19 when he came just a nose short of winning in his very first Indy 500 start in 2006. Ten years later, Marco is one of the speedway's most consistent performers who's yet to win the race - and the mythical "Andretti curse" still looms over his head, forty-five years after his grandfather Mario's only victory.

Since losing it in the most heartbreaking fashion five years ago, Hildebrand's career has spiraled downward a bit. These days, he's relegated to an Indy specialist - but J.R. Hildebrand has made the most of his limited opportunities, scoring two top-tens in the last two seasons driving for Ed Carpenter Racing.

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ROW 6
42 - Charlie Kimball / 2 - Juan Pablo Montoya / 10 - Tony Kanaan
The reigning, defending, undisputed, two-time champion of the Brickyard, Montoya could add another Indy crown - his third in four entries - this year and ascend further into the ranks of the all-time greats. Just like he did last year, starting from the middle rows. Don't discount Kimball on the inside of this sixth row - he finished third last year, and always seems to surprise.

Tony Kanaan's emotional 2013 victory - his first in twelve tries to that point - will hardly be forgotten. In the twilight of his legendary career, Kanaan is one of Indy's finest competitors, year after year. He had a chance to win it last year until a crash ended his hopes, and in his fifteenth Indy 500, TK isn't done creating magical moments at the speedway.

ROW 7
11 - Sebastien Bourdais / 20 - Ed Carpenter / 19 - Gabby Chaves
It's hard to believe that last year's Indy 500 and Indycar Series Rookie of the Year, Chaves, didn't get a chance to race again until this May. He's made the most of his sudden chance with Dale Coyne Racing. The sophomore lines up next to two hungry veterans, Bourdais and Carpenter.

Bourdais, the man who dominated the final years of Champ Car and defeated many of Indycar's current top stars along the way, is still missing the Indy 500 win that would cement his place among the legends that he so richly deserves. Owner/driver Carpenter has Indy in his blood, and the two-time polesitter has turned the corner from underwhelming field filler to legitimate oval track star late in his career.

ROW 8
8 - Max Chilton (R) / 24 - Sage Karam / 18 - Conor Daly
The middle of row eight features a driver who's waited nine months for a chance at Indycar redemption. Sage Karam, still the youngest driver in this field in his third entry, admitted that the tragic death of Justin Wilson last August was unfathomably hard to get over. Brazen and aggressive as a driver, the wrestler-turned-racer Karam (9th as a rookie in 2014) is now a sentimental favorite.

His Ganassi Racing successor Max Chilton is on the inside of the row, and with the guidance of mentor Dario Franchitti, Chilton is ready to turn the corner in his star-crossed racing career. Daly, a series rookie but a three-time Indy veteran, will hope to take the start after blowing an engine on the parade laps - and go to the front in the most American liveried car on the grid.

ROW 9
63 - Pippa Mann / 15 - Graham Rahal / 61 - Matthew Brabham (R)
For Rahal and rookie Brabham, their races are about extending their families great racing legacies. Graham Rahal's father won this race in 1986, thirty years ago - and since last year, he's reawakened as a genuine top talent in the series after years of struggles. Matt Brabham didn't even race for most of 2015, but the grandson of former World Champion and 500 winner Sir Jack is ready for his chance to add his name to the family legacy.

For Pippa Mann, she races as the sole woman in this field, carrying the hopes of every young girl who one day aspires to race with her. Historically, the 500 hasn't been kind to Pippa, with a best finish of 20th. But now, more than ever, she's motivated to change her fortune.

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ROW 10
88 - Bryan Clauson / 16 - Spencer Pigot (R) / 25 - Stefan Wilson (R)
In this tenth row, sits Clauson, the last of the "throwbacks" - a short-oval specialist whose only Indycar race in his 200-race calendar is the 500. 61 laps is the farthest this USAC champion has ever run in the 500. There's also Pigot, the reigning Indy Lights champion who's a Mazda Road to Indy scholar and a potential star of the future in a second Rahal Letterman Lanigan car.

Then there's Stefan Wilson (pictured above), carrying the number that his late brother drove last season, to his very first Indy 500 start and only his second career Indycar race. Years of struggling just to find opportunities to race anywhere in the world could come to an end if the 26-year-old from Sheffield does well at Indy.

ROW 11
41 - Jack Hawksworth / 4 - Buddy Lazier / 35 - Alex Tagliani
Tagliani made history, for better or worse, as the first Indy 500 qualifier to not post an official qualifying speed after wrecking on his only attempt on Sunday. A far cry from his 2011 pole position for the Canadian veteran.

He's on the back row with the 1996 winner Buddy Lazier - the last relic from the early years of The Split, and twenty years on from when he won the race with a broken back. Trouble is, Lazier has yet to show that his best years are behind him. Hawksworth has struggled since his rookie season, and ovals are his weakest suit - it could be another tough day at the Brickyard for the young man from West Yorkshire.

Thirty-three incredible people will race for the honour of becoming the champion of the 100th Indianapolis 500. It is a distinction that will belong to only one of them, and it will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Who will cross the fabled yard of bricks as the centennial Indy 500 champion?

Be sure to discuss the race in the comments below, and for more Indycar Series discussion, head to our Indycar sub-forum.

Image Credit: Indycar
 
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If you have BT Internet then BT Sport is cheap/free but if not then you are basically paying for a crapload of football with some occassional racing (Indycars/V8 Supercars/Euro F3) thrown on top.

Yes it's frustrating. I did subscribe to PremierSports for a while to watch the Daytona 500 and some NASCAR as well, but with work I had to cancel (just not enough free time), but the subscription charge wasn't too bad (£6 per month or something near that).

Being on Guernsey we don't have BT telephone lines (it's all Cable & Wireless) so I can't take advantage of any of the offers and nearly £26 a month for a minimum of 12 months (and £15 connection fee) is just too much for me.

My only interests would be DTM and Indycar and then I would have to fight over the Sky Remote to watch it!:roflmao: With the ESPN connection it would be nice if they had rights to the IMSA races as well. Although you can catch those on the web.

I see there is now a £21.99 one month option which is interesting, might be worth it. Would just need to remember to cancel it after the one month period.;)
 
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...Being on Guernsey we don't have BT telephone lines...

My only interests would be DTM and Indycar and then I would have to fight over the Sky Remote to watch it!:roflmao: With the ESPN connection it would be nice if they had rights to the IMSA races as well. Although you can catch those on the web.

Being a tax exile obvously has some drawbacks :)

Forgot all about the DTM which is dumb as I watched it last weekend.

The Android app for BT Sport is actually pretty good so you don't need to hog the TV.
 
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Being a tax exile obvously has some drawbacks :)

Yeah it's a beautiful island but unfortunately life's not very cheap over here! :laugh:

So I never go out over here, save up and travel to the UK or Europe for some racing action :D

The tax thing is a bit of a myth, yes we save some in tax but what you save in tax you lose in general living costs. We still pay the same in taxes as the UK it just goes to the States of Guernsey rather than the UK. About 95% of the shops here for example sell at the same price as UK stores. VAT is kind of a touchy subject, some companies will refund it (John Lewis for example) but most don't.

It also costs £180 return every time you want to fly to the UK (£400 if you want to take your car on the ferry) Grrrrr :roflmao: That's really the biggest problem living here.

Oh of course if you're a speed freak the 25mph speed limit will probably drive you nuts..:whistling:

I've lived here for ten years (used to live near Windsor) so I know both sides of the coin. I earn a little more than I did in the UK (about £19k) but as with any country there are plusses and minuses. Not being born here though means property is out of my reach.

Bit off topic though! Hope you enjoy the racing at the weekend matey :thumbsup:
 
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Its something very special to me. I like this race, too much, this track, on this retangular format, with 9 degrees on corners, 4 corners and a mini straight between the corners make so special, because has only one best line to race, its not like other ovals that you can see 2 or 3 cars side by side.

For me a special reason to see, I like to see a fourth winner of Hélio Castroneves. Im a brazilian guy, and this is important to me, I remind the victory of Tony Kanaan, so memorable, fighting for years to win this race, very emotional.

Its one of the best races. If you dont like oval see the race with a friend that understand a lot about Indy race, strategies, Wind, drag, the fast lines, the properly way to overtake and protect positions, the right time to do the decisions. Because this is a race that can be very boring to a person that not understand anything about a race on oval, but, a race very interesting to one that understand because can predict the finish of the race laps before, predict the cars that are fast, the cars that are making the right decisions to put them on the first positions on the final of the race and win. On the final, some microdesitions, on the precise time, can make one the winner and other the loser of the race. Indy 500 is so fantastic, no one race to points there. It is just my favorite race to watch. I can say that others races can be more enjoyable to drive, but to watch on TV Indy 500 is my favorite.
 

Rob

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These have got to be the ugliest Indycars ever, they don't even look like a Indycar anymore with that awful block hanging off the back now, yes, I know it's a bumper, but they could have made it smaller, or at least a little more stylish, aerodynamic maybe ?

Nah. I'd say this one is uglier:
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I mean, most of those people didn't even know how to drive, with 80,000 fans arriving by horse and buggy. Although, I'd have to agree, the lack of "fenders" was excellent!

The cars are faster than they've been for years, but they're not nearly as fast as they were back in the glory days of C.A.R.T. They're about as safe as it's possible to make them.

Actually, the trap speeds going into turn one were up to 242 mph vs. 247 mph in the glory days of C.A.R.T. (which they are fixing to relive soon). Hinchcliffe's pole was 230.760 mph this year, but that was a four lap average, and they were turning laps around 232 mph, which compares to Arie Luyendyk's 237.498 mph back in 1996. They are not far off...and that's with a V6 Turbo producing 700 bhp as opposed to Arie's 1000 bhp monster. Most people also forget that they changed the inner radius/diameter (whatever) of the track after the 1990s. About 10-20 ft. of the apron was grassed over and a full length "pit" access lane now encircles the track. If you watch the 90s races, you can see drivers blasting well inside where they can go today and, in fact, right over the white "apron" line, which, I guess, ticked officials off. (Andretti was furious in 1993 after getting a penalty for doing it).

Matt pretty much nailed it. They exceeded the limits of what the human body can endure long ago. IndyCar had to cancel a 2001 race at Texas Motor Speedway after a NASA flight director determined that lap speeds exceeded the known levels of human tolerance of vertical g-loads. The human body could not tolerate sustained loads of more than 4-4.5 Gs, and these drivers were well over that for much of the lap. Drivers were losing their peripheral vision and could not walk in a straight line for 3-4 minutes after laps.

2016 cars produce more down-force than an F1 car (but not at Indy) and would murder an F1 car here, but not on a road course. That's always been the case. As for interest, most "old ass" commentators like Robin Miller and Roger Penske said they have never seen interest this high since the mid 1990s. They had 100,000 for practice yesterday and expect 350,000 for the race. It's sold out for the first time in 100 years.

P.S. - Great article. Can always tell a true fan.
 
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Yes, well done to the winner, slightly disappointed as they won it on fuel strategy, he was almost on half throttle on the last lap.

Thoroughly deserved though and a very tense finish for both the driver and team! :)
 

johnnymat

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A very entertaining and safe race.
There was lots of passing; I always hold my breath when they fly into some of the corners two and three wide. That's part of what makes it exciting.
A smart strategy call for the winning team. Congrats to the winner!
There were also a few red mist moments in the pits that put some front runners way back.
I was happy to see such a huge crowd on hand; the t.v. ratings have been getting better and hopefully this trend will continue.
 
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I was a big Michael Andretti fan back in the day so for his team to win it was a great thing.Congrats to Rossi and equally Herta for the amazing call of leaving him out and using fuel wisely.
 
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Great writing and great prophetic skills. The cover picture of this article has shown the race winner several days berfore the event! :roflmao:
 

Rob

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I was a big 1990-1995 era fan and I think IndyCar has come full circle...finally.

As I watched the cars approach 1993 speeds, there was Arie Luyendyk at race control serving as Chief Steward and Scott Goodyear in the booth with Eddie Cheever. Justin Wilson's brother Stefan Wilson made an emotional start after I lost Justin just nine months ago. Michael Andretti's team led by former Rahal-Letterman driver (and Laguna Seca ace) Bryan Herta took the prize with a driver fresh from (and still employed by!) Formula One, casting shades of my all time favorite, Nigel Mansell, to become the first rookie ever to win a unified-grid Indy 500. Of course, Herta's Vision Racing enabled the late Dan Wheldon to claim what is perhaps the greatest underdog victory of the modern 500 era.

Mario Andretti led the first unofficial lap, as usual, as Bobby Rahal, A.J. Foyt, David Letterman, Dale Coyne, Chip Ganassi, Ed Carpenter, Buddy Lazier, Davey Hamilton, Roger Penske, and Jimmy Vasser all cheered their drivers to victory. I'm sure somehow that Paul Newman was looking in on us. Even the pathetic coverage by ABC, who robbed us of nearly 50% of the race by commercial interruption, could not dampen what it was. The breaks, caused by legitimate incidents, came like clockwork, often coinciding perfectly with needed pit stops. The start and restarts were generally flawless, as if the drivers knew not to create a spectacle but through their racing. The winning car was co-owned by Mike Curb, who is a good-ol-boy from Georgia who owned Richard Petty's famed #43 in 1984. But the ending was not what modern NASCAR has become. It was not engineered by "competition" cautions, was not a fender banging brawl, was not anything that anyone expected (except perhaps Eddie Cheever), and was not even close. Yet still, it was so exciting to those like me who love racing, love the Indianapolis 500, and love history...in that order.

So this year, as I watch Robby Gordon's trucks compete at Detroit this weekend, my favorite commentator Paul Tracy call races, and see IndyCar soon visit Watkins Glen, the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 proves sooner rather than later that yes, I can indeed go home again.
 
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Probably one of the most edge of the seat finishes I can remember and a lot of really excellent racing over the whole race distance. Would have liked Hinch to win after last year but he had the pole and plenty of airtime at the front.

I was wondering though how many of the teams drained the fuel from their cars after the race and realised they could have made it without a stop? There must have been others down the field who were marginal. Was surprising more people further back didn't give it a go considering the prize. Guess we'll never know.
 
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Rob

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Probably one of the most edge of the seat finishes I can remember and a lot of really excellent racing over the whole race distance. Would have liked Hinch to win after last year but he had the pole and plenty of airtime at the front.

I was wondering though how many of the teams drained the fuel from their cars after the race and realised they could have made it without a stop? There must have been others down the field who were marginal. Was surprising more people further back didn't give it a go considering the prize. Guess we'll never know.
One of the things that the Indy Star reported was that Bell and Hunter-Ray gave Rossi several tows in the closing laps. Combined with Rossi's fuel management prowess and Herta's gutsy instructions, I'm not sure any other driver could have done it.
 
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One of the things that the Indy Star reported was that Bell and Hunter-Ray gave Rossi several tows in the closing laps. Combined with Rossi's fuel management prowess and Herta's gutsy instructions, I'm not sure any other driver could have done it.

Yes Rossi mentioned RHR right after the race. Just surprised no-one was listening to Rossi's radio and decided to take his tow. Not something we will ever get an answer to but just surprised no-one else went with him.
 

Lorenzo Bonder

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Where is @R.J. O'Connell with his ALEXANDER ROSSI HELL YEAH! excitement when we need him?

If you were on TS with me, Matheus, Tobias and friends, we couldn't hold back on the excitement and surprise of having Rossi win the 500.

Most surprising and third most satisfying finish ever (Just before Helio's win at 2009 after his year long tax fraud battle in the court and Tony Kanaan's win at 2013 after 11 attempts)
 
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Yes Rossi mentioned RHR right after the race. Just surprised no-one was listening to Rossi's radio and decided to take his tow. Not something we will ever get an answer to but just surprised no-one else went with him.

What I'm surprised on is how poorly everyone besides AA/BHA mismanaged the race at the end.

Everyone "knew" you would need to pit unless there was a yellow. Even if there was a yellow, you'd still be really, really close especially at full power. Making a pit stop costs a little bit under a lap so from up front you can make it work. Why were teams playing a half in half out game at that point? Make your stop early and run full out the whole time without consideration for fuel saving - even if there is a yellow you will cycle forward when slower cars need to make their stop just to make it while still saving a bit. Not to mention you would have considerably fresher tires.

I think Hildebrand, Chaves and Rahal (somehow he was a lap down at the end though I don't know how that happened - I assume this strategy as a hail mary from RLL) were the only ones to go that route. Even then, Hildebrand (and Dixon) both came in around lap 190.

I really thing ECR bungled it though. They had two guys up front, Newgy was drafting the whole time off Munoz, one off non championship driver Hildebrand comes out right in front of Newgy at the end - but they never played that strategy and instead were outpaced by Munoz and out fuel saved by Rossi. Either go mix it up with Munoz or go full save - only strategies that end with them in victory lane.

If I'm ECR and I'm going to pit, I'd be bringing Newgarden and Hildebrand in together and work a slipstream tandem early or let it fly if one of the two cars was really trimmed out. They were far enough forward that they could have easily kept on the same lap to Munoz and run faster to leap frog him when he stops.
 

Rob

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Why were teams playing a half in half out game at that point?

All cars didn't get the same mileage. Few, like Rossi, were running the low down-force configuration (qualifying look but modified). The difference in appearance was the bulky air ramps behind the rear wheels, a bit less front wing, and more aero kit add-ons that improved air flow. And all the ones who were fast were getting considerable less fuel for other reasons too...leaders got killed on fuel the whole day since the "clean air" was nice, but created drag, which = more fuel consumption. Rossi was not only able to sit behind other cars for a long time all day while others swapped the lead in a big testosterone show, but he had a low-drag car and friends at the end (teammates can help each other in IndyCar, even moreso than NASCAR). Mechanical grip, tires, and "being up front" were of little use at crunch time, but even Rossi and Herta really didn't think it would work (if you ask them). And it shoudl not have. That's why it was so impressive. Eliminating hindsight, there was not a soul in the house who thought that the Rossi strategy had any chance, except for Herta.
 
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He was running the same config as all of the other Honda cars. Downforce levels may have varied, but you would never be able to visually see it unless you had up close viewing of the wings and wickers. In fact, given he was pretty certain to be in traffic all day and was only up front for a off sequence stint in the middle he probably was carrying more downforce than the more trimmed out cars at the front.

I was pretty confident after the stops with 36 to go someone would make it, not even joking, no hindsight. I know I am not alone in thinking that either, when a stop costs 39 seconds you have a lot of time in hand to work with in saving fuel. No one is thinking it will work, but everyone should have known someone would come damn close - which is what happened. 2011 rings a bell.

Tires don't hurt when you spend enough time stationary to make them free. Regardless of early or late stop you still take the same amount of fuel anyways, it's basic strategy to pit as early as you can if you won't lose a lap or pit as late as possible if you will lose a lap due to cautions.

Munoz did 32/33 laps at the final full stint I believe which is really a good bit and to me indicates they weren't running full power the whole stint. That's bungling it.

From what I heard on another forum Herta told Rossi to hit a 4.75 MPG fuel number from the pit stop, while other teams ran full out for a few laps and then asked for their drivers to hit 5s, which isn't happening. One is a realistic number, one isn't. Commitment to the strategy won it, while other teams didn't fully commit to any one strategy.
 
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