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American Rossi Wins 100th Indianapolis 500

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 29 2016
American Alexander Rossi will have his image added to the Borg Warner Trophy as winner of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

American Alexander Rossi will have his image added to the Borg Warner Trophy as winner of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

INDIANAPOLIS – American rookie Alexander Rossi listened to his boss and outdrove all the veterans Sunday on the way to a pulse-pounding victory in the 100th Indianapolis 500.

bugindy500Despite struggling at times on his pit stops and falling to the rear of the 33-car field early in the race, the 24-year-old Californian found a way to squeeze 36 laps out of his final tank of fuel, barely enough to become the first rookie to win The Greatest Spectacle in Racing since Helio Castroneves in 2001.

“We did it,’’ the jubilant Rossi said after taking a swig from the traditional bottle of milk in Victory  Circle. “I have no idea how we pulled that off.’’

Most of the leaders, including Rossi, pitted during caution period on lap 164 knowing they would likely not have enough fuel to get to the checkered flag.

As driver after driver pitted for enough fuel to finish, Rossi, driving for Bryan Herta and Andretti Autosports, feathered his throttle and took the lead five laps from the end of the 200-lap race.

He slowed visibly on the backstretch of the final trip around the famed 2 ½-mile Brickyard oval, but was all alone on the final straightaway, winning by nearly 5 seconds over teammate and runner-up Carlos Munoz of Colombia, who had pitted from the lead on lap 197.

Rossi’s Honda-powered No. 98 began to sputter on the last lap and ran out of fuel in the fourth turn on the cool-down lap and had to be towed to the pits. The driver jumped out of the car and raised his hands in the air, saluting the huge crowd as they stood and cheered.

“The emotional rollercoaster of this race is ridiculous,’’ said Rossi. “I was stoked and I was heartbroken and then I

Alexander Rossi is congratulated by team co-owner Michael Andretti after Sunday's win.

Alexander Rossi is congratulated by team co-owner Michael Andretti after Sunday’s win.

was stoked again and then I was heartbroken again.

“I think I’m going to need a psychiatrist after this race,’’ he added, laughing.

Rossi’s goal since childhood has been to race in Europe and he steadily worked his way through the ranks until finally getting a shot at F1, running five races in 2015. Though re-signed by the Manor team as a reserve driver for 2016, Rossi found himself without a real ride earlier this year until getting a call from Michael Andretti, whose Andretti Autosport team got its fourth Indy win Sunday.

Andretti put Rossi together with Herta and kept both under the Andretti umbrella.

“From the first race in St. Pete, I’ve felt at home in this series,’’ said Rossi, who took part in only his second oval race on Sunday.

Andretti said he was happy to have Rossi on his team after following his career for years.

“He was our hot, young American driver in F1,’’ Andretti said. “It was unfortunate that it didn’t work out for him, but it was fortunate for us.’’

Josef Newgarden was third, followed by former Indy winner Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, JR Hildebrand and pole-

American driver Alexander Rossi won the 2016 Indy 500 on Sunday. (RacinToday photo by Martha Fairris)

American driver Alexander Rossi won the 2016 Indy 500 on Sunday. (RacinToday photo by Martha Fairris)

winner James Hinchcliffe.

“This is unbelievable. Everything has to go right to win here,’’ said Herta, a former Indycar driver. “Man, it was so close at the end. For a rookie to drive with the poise he did in such a tough situation was amazing.  (At the end) I was telling him, `Don’t let anybody pass you, but save fuel.’’ And he did it.’’

Rossi watched Indy from Monaco last year.

“It’s a race I’ve always wanted to be part of,’’ said Rossi, who was released by the Manor F1 team in March and quickly found his ride with Herta and Andretti. “This is much better than watching it on TV.’’

Rossi, running his sixth race in the Verizon Indycar Series, led a total of 14 laps Sunday, the first time he has been out front in this series.

The buzz for the centennial race at Indy was huge, with more than 300,000 people showing up on a hot, humid day, giving the 500 its first sellout in more than 20 years.

The race lived up to its hype, with nearly constant passing throughout the field and lots of attrition, thanks to crashes on the track and in the pits.

It looked for a while like Helio Castroneves would win a record-tying fourth Indy 500 and give team owner Roger

Alexander Rossi takes the ultimate selfie.

Alexander Rossi takes the ultimate selfie.

Penske his 17th Indy victory on the 50th anniversary of his race team.

But the Brazilian driver, who led four times for 24 laps, lost track position after being hit from behind by Hildebrand while running in the top five, forcing Castroneves to pit for a new rear wing. He wound up finishing 11th.

After that, the race appeared to be between Kanaan, who won in 2013 and Newgarden, racing here for the fifth time with a previous best of ninth.

Kanaan and Newgarden swapped the lead several times before the Brazilian driver began to fade and Munoz drove into contention, moving past Kanaan and into second on lap 186.

But, at that point, everyone knew the leaders would have to pit for a splash of fuel to finish the race and Rossi was lurking in the top 10, watching as each of the top cars finally had to dive into the pits.

“We were half a lap short on fuel,’’ the disappointed Munoz said. The Mexican driver, who has finished second, fourth and 20th in his previous Indy starts, added, “One thing is clear, that I’m going to win the 500 one day.’’

Reigning Indy champion Montoya was one of several drivers to crash out of the race, bringing out the second of six caution flags on lap 64.

“I went into (Turn 2) with a big push and, when I got on the gas, it just came around,’’ the two-time Indy winner said.

2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi had a lot to drink on Sunday.

2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi had a lot to drink on Sunday.

“The hit is no big deal. It’s just disappointing.’’

Among the most disappointed drivers in the field were 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and Townsend Bell, two of Andretti’s five entries in the race Both led the race several times before being knocked out of contention with a collision in the pits during a caution on lap 117.

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Results Sunday of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race presented by PennGrade Motor Oil Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1.  (11) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
2.  (5) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 200, Running
3.  (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4.  (18) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 200, Running
5.  (16) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 200, Running
6.  (15) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, Running
7.  (1) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 200, Running
8.  (13) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9.  (19) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 200, Running
10.  (6) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11.  (9) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12.  (10) Oriol Servia, Honda, 200, Running
13.  (14) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
14.  (26) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
15.  (22) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 200, Running
16.  (31) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 200, Running
17.  (33) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 200, Running
18.  (25) Pippa Mann, Honda, 199, Running
19.  (8) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 199, Running
20.  (21) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 199, Running
21.  (4) Townsend Bell, Honda, 199, Running
22.  (27) Matt Brabham, Chevrolet, 199, Running
23.  (28) Bryan Clauson, Honda, 198, Running
24.  (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 198, Running
25.  (29) Spencer Pigot, Honda, 195, Running
26.  (12) Takuma Sato, Honda, 163, Contact
27.  (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 126, Contact
28.  (30) Stefan Wilson, Chevrolet, 119, Electrical
29.  (24) Conor Daly, Honda, 115, Contact
30.  (32) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 100, Mechanical
31.  (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 98, Mechanical
32.  (23) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 93, Contact
33.  (17) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 63, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed:  166.634
Time of Race: 3:00:02.0872
Margin of victory: 4.4975 seconds
Cautions: 6 for  46 laps
Lead changes: 54 among 13 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Hunter-Reay 1 – 2
Hinchcliffe 3
Hunter-Reay 4
Hinchcliffe 5
Hunter-Reay 6 – 8
Hinchcliffe 9
Hunter-Reay 10
Hinchcliffe 11
Hunter-Reay 12 – 13
Hinchcliffe 14 – 16
Hunter-Reay 17
Hinchcliffe 18 – 23
Hunter-Reay 24 – 27
Newgarden 28 – 29
Munoz 30
Karam 31 – 32
Hunter-Reay 33 – 41
Bell 42 – 48
Hunter-Reay 49 – 56
Bell 57
Hunter-Reay 58
Hinchcliffe 59 – 60
Hunter-Reay 61 – 66
Power 67 – 74
Hinchcliffe 75 – 77
Hunter-Reay 78 – 80
Hinchcliffe 81 – 84
Hunter-Reay 85 – 87
Hinchcliffe 88 – 91
Castroneves 92 – 96
Clauson 97 – 99
Castroneves 100 – 103
Hunter-Reay 104 – 108
Kanaan 109
Hunter-Reay 110 – 112
Bell 113 – 116
Tagliani 117 – 121
Rossi 122
Tagliani 123 – 128
Rossi 129 – 137
Castroneves 138 -148
Munoz 149 – 153
Castroneves 154 -157
Kanaan 158 – 160
Hinchcliffe 161
Kanaan 162 – 163
Hildebrand 164 – 167
Kanaan 168 – 178
Newgarden 179 – 181
Kanaan 182 – 183
Newgarden 184 – 190
Munoz 191
Newgarden 192 – 193
Munoz 194 – 196
Rossi 197 – 200

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: 1. Pagenaud 292, Dixon 235, Castroneves 224, Newgarden 211, Hinchcliffe 205, Rossi 203, Munoz 199, Kanaan 192, Kimball 189, Montoya 187.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 29 2016
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