Long Drought for Americans at Indy 500 Ends
For the first time since 2006, an American driver has won the biggest auto race in the United States - the Indianapolis 500.
Ryan Hunter-Reay denied Helio Castroneves of Brazil a record-tying fourth title by passing him on the 200th and final lap of the 500-mile race Sunday in Indianapolis, Indiana. The margin of victory was only six-100ths of a second, the second closest finish in history of the race that was first contested in the early 1900s.
Castroneves placed second and American Marco Andretti had to settle for his third third-place finish in nine starts.
Marco's grandfather, Mario Andretti, won the Indianapolis 500 in 1969.
Hunter-Reay started in the 19th position in the 33-car field and slowly drove his way to the front in a race where there were 32 lead changes among 11 drivers.
After a single-car accident on lap 192, the race was stopped for seven minutes to clear up the debris. On the restart, two laps were run under a yellow caution flag, making it a close six-lap sprint for the finish. The emotional Castroneves said that the interruption broke his rhythm, but he acknowledged it was a great fight to the end, as he swapped the lead with Hunter-Reay three times.
Hunter-Reay, who is from Florida, said he first watched the Indianapolis 500 on TV as a young boy. He called it an American tradition and said he is proud to be an American and to win the 98th running of the race this year. A year ago, he placed third when the race finished under a caution flag.
Last year's champion, Brazilian Tony Kanaan, developed an early suspension issue with his race car and finished 28th.
While Indianapolis race officials never publish the official attendance, there are about a quarter-million seats, and thousands more watch from the infield.