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A New Four-Runner: Helio Castroneves Wins Monumental 2021 Indy 500

Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar


As race day for the 105th edition of the Indianapolis 500 at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway approached, a number of favourites emerged through the practices and qualifying session. Six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon topped the lists of many analysts after he captured the race’s pole position. Dixon’s #9 Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dallara-Honda posting the fastest time in Friday’s Carb Day practice only solidified the logic of picking the New Zealander to win. Other names favoured for having the best chances to drink milk in Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s victory lane included Colton Herta, Rinus VeeKay, Alex Palou and Alexander Rossi. Besides Scott Dixon, it is surprising to conceive after the 2021 running of the 500-mile greatest spectacle in racing that another more veteran name wasn’t immediately entered into top contention prior to the green flag.

Unlike the COVID-19 delayed 2020 event that ran on August 23 in 85-degree Fahrenheit (29-degree Celsius) weather, the 2021 Indianapolis 500's proceedings held on its traditional Sunday of the Memorial Day Weekend presented brisker temperatures at 63 degree Fahrenheit or about 17 degrees Celsius. The cooler weather was also accompanied by the return of fans in attendance as a capacity crowd was welcomed into the grandstands around the 2.5-mile oval. Following the opening ceremonies, 33 cars were led around the track by the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible pace car driven by former Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick before they were unleashed for 200 laps.

Photo Credit: Dan Boyd/IndyCar

As the field took green, the #26 Andretti Autosport-owned entry piloted by Colton Herta flew around the polesitting vehicle of Scott Dixon to lead after the first full circuit around the track. On the next lap, the IndyCar Series’ most recent winner Rinus VeeKay sailed pass Herta for the early led. The Chevrolet-powered Ed Carpenter Racing #21 car driven by VeeKay would maintain the top spot in the Indy 500 for 29 laps before Colton Herta recaptured the position when the Bitcoin-sponsored #21 car entered the pits for fuel and tires.

Photo Credit: Karl Zemlin/IndyCar

As the first pit stops of the race were being triggered under the green flag, British driver Stefan Wilson (making an Indy 500 only start with Andretti Autosport) spun and crash after he lost grip upon entering pit road. Will Power and Simona de Silvestro would spin on pit road later in the race highlighting the trickiness of off-track service. The incident would bring out the caution on lap 34 for what would be a rare slowing of the 2021 event. The yellow flag would fly only once more before the checkered flag making it one of the fastest Indianapolis 500 races ever.

During the early caution, two prime contenders of this 500-mile race were effectively eliminated. Scott Dixon had assumed the lead but his Honda engine was running on fumes as he required to make an emergency pit stop at the end of lap 35. As he came to attention of this Chip Ganassi Racing crew, the engine stopped and failed to immediately restart. Dixon and his #9 PNC Bank car returned to competition a lap down. At almost the same time as Dixon’s issue, the #27 NAPA-sponsored Andretti Autosport #27 machine driven by Alexander Rossi suffered a near-identical problem that put the American down a lap as well.

Once green flag competition resumed, a new surprise contender for the 2021 Indianapolis 500 emerged behind the wheel of the #47 Ed Carpenter Racing car. From a 19th place starting spot, Conor Daly snuck into the lead group of car and took the top spot from Rinus VeeKay on lap 50. Indianapolis native Daly displayed solid pace at his home track throughout the middle of the event and would ultimately lead the most circuits around the 2.5-mile oval at the front for 40 laps.

Photo Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

On lap 119, the second caution occurred when Graham Rahal left pit road with an unfastened rear-left wheel on his #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing vehicle. Detaching as the American returned to the track running on the exit road through turn one, Rahal was caught off-guard losing control and crashing hard into the wall. The 32-year-old second generation IndyCar driver fortunately left the car uninjured. Though the #15 car crash was a single-car accident, the stray Firestone racing tire dashed the hopes for other strong entry. The bouncing tire ended up in the path of Conor Daly and damaged the nose of the #47 Ed Carpenter Racing machine. Unable to avoid the impact, Daly continued to run but was nowhere near as impressive as he was prior to the damage settling for 13th place. Graham Rahal’s retirement on lap 119 marked just the second vehicle classified out of the 2021 Indy 500. Simona de Silvestro and his Paretta Autosport #16 car would join the retirement list on lap 169 while an astoundingly high count of 30 cars finished the race.

With the final of two yellow flag periods concluded, race laps rapidly decreased while a tight battle for the Borg-Warner Trophy transpired as final pit stops cycled through. After 2020 Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato pitted, the young Chip Ganassi Racing driver Alex Palou would fight 46-year-old Brazilian Helio Castroneves. The three-time Indy 500 winner was running his first event at the track outside of Team Penske signing up to second car with up-and-coming Meyer Shank Racing. The duel fought through many laps prior to them competing for the actual lead trading track position on multiple occasions. Castroneves’ #06 Dallara-Honda had the lead at lap 194 but Palou’s #10 car grabbed for lap 196 with a well-executed move. However, with two laps remaining in the 2021 Indianapolis 500, the veteran daringly placed his vehicle on the outside of Palou entering turn one for what was the winning move.

Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Crossing the line 0.4928 seconds ahead of challenger Alex Palou, Helio Castroneves took victory in the 2021 race for what is the Brazilian driver’s fourth career Indianapolis 500 win. In front of the crowd, this year’s winner proved to be a popular one as a long post-race party included the sight of Castroneves’ celebratory climbing of the fence. “I was drawn by the positive energy of everyone. For a long time these people want to see a four-time winner. I say that because they tell me.” said the long-time IndyCar fan favourite in a post-race interview.

The victory for Helio Castroneves was the first for Meyer Shank Racing that had been recently increasing their presence in the IndyCar Series who is running their second full season with driver Jack Harvey. In a post-race press conference, Castroneves said, “I couldn't be more happier. I couldn't be more happier for Mike, for Jim.” The newly-crowned four-time Indy 500 champion added, “They did everything they told me, which is they promised to give me a good car. I said, All right. If that's happen we have a great chance. Just give me a chance to fight, opportunity to be up there, then I will fight. And they did.”

Photo Credit: Doug Mathews/IndyCar

Finishing second, the 24-year-old Spanish driver Alex Palou fell short of victory but has plenty to celebrate. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner now has a 36-point lead in the season-long IndyCar Series point standing over Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon.

Hindered by poor qualifying performances the previous week, Team Penske did find some success in the Indianapolis 500 with their #22 car handled by Frenchman Simon Pagenaud. Finishing in third place, Pagenaud was the highest finishing Chevrolet-propelled race machine after 200 laps. With the Indy 500 being a double-point race, Simon Pagenaud made up some serious ground in the IndyCar drivers’ standings. Pato O’Ward and Ed Carpenter rounded out the top-five for the 2021 Indianapolis 500. Just missing the top-fve was American Santino Ferrucci who made the most of his one-off effort with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Another American driver, Sage Karam, and his #24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car narrowly made the 33-car through Last Chance Qualifying on the previous Sunday with a 31st place starting spot but persevered in the 500-mile race to finish seventh. The remainder of the race’s top-10 consists of Rinus VeeKay, Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Kanaan.

Canadian drivers were not a major factor in the 2021 Indianapolis 500 event. James Hinchcliffe started 16th in the #29 Genesys-sponsored car for Andretti Autosport but struggled to a 21st place finishing position. Dalton Kellett in his second Indy 500 improved on his 30th place starting position with his #4 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet-powered race car crossing the finish line in 23rd place.  

Photo Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

With minimal caution laps (18 in total) and the average lap speeds well above the 220-mile per hour range, the 2021 Indianapolis 500 was the fastest edition of the 500-mile race. An average race speed of 190.690 miles per hour beat the previous record of 187.433 miles per hour set when Tony Kanaan won the 2013 event.

2021 Indianapolis 500

Race Results

Finishing Spot Starting Spot Car # Driver Driver's Home Country Team/Organization Engine
1 8 06 Helio Castroneves Brazil Meyer Shank Racing Honda
2 6 10 Alex Palou Spain Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
3 26 22 Simon Pagenaud France Team Penske Chevrolet
4 12 5 Pato O'Ward Mexico Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet
5 4 20 Ed Carpenter United States Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
6 23 45 Santino Ferrucci United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
7 31 24 Sage Karam United States Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet
8 3 21 Rinus VeeKay Netherlands Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
9 24 86 Juan Pablo Montoya Columbia Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet
10 5 48 Tony Kanaan Brazil Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
11 9 8 Marcus Ericsson Sweden Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
12 21 2 Josef Newgarden United States Team Penske Chevrolet
13 19 47 Conor Daly United States Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
14 15 30 Takuma Sato Japan Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
15 22 1 J.R. Hildebrand United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet
16 2 26 Colton Herta United States Andretti Autosport Honda
17 1 9 Scott Dixon New Zealand Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
18 20 60 Jack Harvey United Kingdom Meyer Shank Racing Honda
19 25 98 Marco Andretti United States Andretti Autosport Honda
20 17 3 Scott McLaughlin New Zealand Team Penske Chevrolet
21 16 29 James Hinchcliffe Canada Andretti Autosport Honda
22 7 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay United States Andretti Autosport Honda
23 30 4 Dalton Kellett Canada A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet
24 29 59 Max Chilton United Kingdom Carlin Chevrolet
25 13 51 Pietro Fittipaldi Brazil Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda
26 27 14 Sebastian Bourdais France A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet
27 14 7 Felix Rosenqvist Sweden Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet
28 11 18 Ed Jones United Arab Emirates Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan Honda
29 10 27 Alexander Rossi United States Andretti Autosport Honda
30 32 12 Will Power Australia Team Penske Chevrolet
31 33 16 Simona de Silvestro Swizerland Paretta Autosport Chevrolet
32 18 15 Graham Rahal United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
33 28 25 Stefan Wilson United Kingdom Andretti Autosport Honda


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