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Montoya Survives Wild Finish To Win 2015 Indy 500

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 24 2015
Juan Pablo Montoya held off teammate Will Power to win Indy on Sunday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Juan Pablo Montoya held off teammate Will Power to win Indy on Sunday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

RacinToday.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Juan Pablo Montoya survived a series of early race setbacks, took the lead with three laps to go and went on to win the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

The victory gave team owner Roger Penske his 16th win in the world’s most famous auto race but first in six years.

bugindy500The victory came by less than a car length – .10 seconds – over teammate Will Power and it capped off a wild final 100 laps of racing at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.

“Oh my God, that was awesome,” Montoya  said. “I don’t even know what to say. This is too much.”

Charlie Kimball of Chip Ganassi Racing finished third and his teammate, former winner, Scott Dixon was fourth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal – the top finish for a Honda in its battle with Chevrolet – Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport, Helio Castroneves of Team Penske, JR Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.

Montoya had to overcome broken body work suffered early in the race when he was clipped from behind, a pit road penalty and then make his way up from 30th place to the lead.

It was his second victory at Indy as he won in 2000 as a rookie.

Pole-sitter Dixon led the first 18 laps but lost the lead on Lap 19 when he was passed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Tony Kanaan. Dixon and Kanaan exchanged the lead the next several or two and by Lap 25, four drivers – Kanaan, Dixon, and Team Penske drivers Simon Pagenaud and Will Power – had separated from the field.

The field began to pit under green for the first time on Lap 37. When pitting cycled through on Lap 42, Dixon had the lead, Pagenaud was second and Kanaan was third and those three had over 5 seconds of separation from the field.

By Lap 52, the leaders began running into lapped traffic. Dixon sliced through with east while Pagenaud and Kanaan did not and fell back by over 1 second. Over the next 12 or so laps, Pagenaud and Kanaan swapped places a couple times before the Penske driver finally got separation from Kanaan.

On Lap 64, Pagenaud appeared to be getting ready to pass Dixon for the lead when a crash by Bryan Clauson brought out the yellow. Pagenaud, however, did take his first lead of the day when he left the pits first for the ensuing restart.

On the Lap 71 restart, Dixon passed for the lead and for the next several laps Kanaan, Dixon and Pagenaud traded the lead back and forth. On Lap 74, Power joined the front runners.

Just before the half way point, and with Kanaan leading, green-flag pit stops started. When those stops cycled through On Lap 103, Pagenaud had the lead while Kanaan was second, Power was third, Montoya fourth and Dixon fifth.

Pagenaud was leading on Lap 113 when Ed Carpenter and Oriol Servia crashed entering Turn 1 and brought out a caution.

During pit stops, tragedy struck in the pits as the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Car of James Davison exited his stall into the path of teammate Pippa Mann. Mann’s car hit Davison’s and slammed it into the stall of third teammate Tristan Vautier. Two of Vautier’s crew members, who were working on the car, were slammed into and to the ground.

“Unfortunately I got sent out there at the same time Pippa was coming,” Davison said. “Just an unfortunate situation.”

Once the race restarted, the action up front was non stop as the the four Penske cars and three Ganassi cars – Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Ganassi’s Charlie Kimball joined the fight – all either took the lead or had shots and the lead.

With 50 laps to go, green-flag pit stops began.

Just as pitting was cycling through, Kanaan, a former winner of the 500, got loose and hit the wall in south short chute. The problem was a downforce switch during the pit stop as the team trimmed out the car.

“We missed it,” the Brazilian driver said. “Obviously it got really loose and unfortunately we lost it. It was the last stop so we were going to go for it. I wanted to get out of a race like this trying than just sit back there. For me, it’s all or nothing here. It doesn’t matter second or third.”

When the race restarted on Lap 160, Kimball had the lead, Pagenaud was second Dixon third, Montoya fourth, Power fifth and Castroneves sixth.

The Honda-powered cars of Andretti and Rahal soon joined the show and when another yellow flag waved for debris with just over 30 laps to go, were fifth and seventh behind leader Dixon, Power, Montoya and Pagenaud.

The field pitted and coming out were Power and Montoya first and second and Dixon third. Behind them filling out the top 12 were Pagenaud, Castroneves, Kimball, Andretti and Rahal.

But, ahead of them were Carlos Munoz and Justin Wilson, who did not pit.

On Lap 175, Power led a parade around leader Wilson and the race-long suspects were again out front with cars loaded with enough fuel to finish the race.

Shortly after that, a big crash involving backmarkers Jack Hawksworth, Sebastian Saavedra and Stefano Coletti brought out another caution. Saavedra had to be carried to the ambulance because of injury to his legs.

When the race restarted on with 15 laps to go, Power had the lead, Montoya was second, and Dixon third.

With 14 laps to go, Dixon passed Power for the lead. A lap later, Power recaptured P1. Two laps later, it was Dixon to the lead. With 10 to go, Dixon, Power and Montoya were running 1, 2, 3 and all fighting for the lead. Power finished that lap with the lead but Montoya took the lead as the crossed the line with nine to go.

With eight to go, Power took the lead back. With five to go, Kimball made it a four-car race as he closed on third-place Montoya.

With three to go, Montoya passed Power for the lead and Kimball passed Dixon for fourth.

Power stayed on Montoya’s gearbox coming up the front stretch on the final lap but couldn’t pull off a late pass he needed.

The race got off to a disappointing start for five drivers and one owner in particular.

The 99th running of the race actually never got started for a couple in that group as Alex Tagliani couldn’t get off the starting grid because he couldn’t get his No. 48 A.J. Foyt Honda into gear and had to be pushed behind the wall.

Then, the No. 43 car of Connor Daly caught fire on one of the parade laps and was done for the day.

Three more drivers – Sage Karam, Takuma Sato and Ryan Briscoe – failed to get through the first turn cleanly. They wrecked when Karam moved Sato, Foyt’s second entry, into the outside wall. Sato hit the pits, got some quick fixes and was able to keep racing – though three laps down.

(This story will be updated shortly)

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 24 2015
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