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Alexander Rossi: Champion of the 100th Indianapolis 500

The Indianapolis 500 is known as “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing”. This year brought us the 100th running of this Verizon IndyCar Series spectacle, and it did not disappoint. With so much focus put on this historic event, attendance reached a record-smashing over 350,000-strong audience. In typical Indianapolis fashion, the champion of the race was completely uncertain until 24-year-old American rookie Alexander Rossi took the chequered flag.

Race Recap

Pole sitter James Hinchcliffe lead the field to the green flag and around the first lap of 200. Unlike previous runnings, the field managed to make its way around the track without incident. Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay spent the majority of the race’s opening 20 laps swapping the lead back and forth. Their laid back and smooth overtakes aiding one another in staying in the front of the pack, and showing their obvious history as teammates. Hinchcliffe first faced problems on the day’s first green flag pitstops with a fuel hose issue around the 30 lap mark.

Townsend Bell took over the lead at lap 42. Only participating in the Indy 500, Bell believed himself to be at something of an advantage due to his being able to “study” the field, but a disadvantage due to a loosely built crew. This became apparent after a debris caution on lap 48 and Bell fell two positions on pit road. These yellow pit stops also saw Tony Kanaan squeezed into the pit wall by Will Power. Stewards reviewed the incident and sent Power to the back of the field.

The second caution of the day fell on lap 64 after 2015 Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya crashed out of the race, his first finish outside the top 5 in the event. On this round of yellow flag pit stops, it was IndyCar points leader Simon Pagenaud who was penalized for his pit box exit. Slight rain on the course extended the caution, but the green flag saw Will Power in the lead after staying out on the track under caution.

Townsend Bell found himself at the centre of attention for much of the race as he was passive and blocking very aggressively early in the race. This saw drivers such as 3-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves return the favour and run Bell with a similar aggression. This came to a head when Bell and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Sage Karam made contact in the first corner sending Karam hard into the wall. This accident caused damage to the SAFER barrier which required repair. Karam told ESPN: “Wish I didn’t go into turn 1 side-by-side”.

Tony Kanaan first took the lead on lap 109 after starting 18th, much to the delight of the record crowd. After Townsend Bell regained the lead, Conor Daly and Mikhail Aleshin collected one another in a hard accident. On pit road, Andretti Autosport teammates Hunter-Reay and Bell collided, causing severe damage to the front wing of Hunter-Reay’s Honda. This accident effectively ended either dominant driver’s chances of winning the Indianapolis 500. The restart saw the second Canadian in the lineup lead the field with Alex Tagliani leading the field back to green. This also saw Alexander Rossi take the front of the field for the first time in the race.

Around the 50 laps remaining mark, battles became more frantic. After a caution brought out by Buddy Lazier losing a wheel caught some leaders on pit road, penalties saw the field shuffled somewhat with several drivers sent to the back of the pack. While the lead was shifted several times, Castroneves had his right rear tire cover come loose. His day was saved as Takuma Sato, who had worked his way towards the front of the pack, went into the wall and kept Castroneves from being black flagged.

In the final 30 laps, it became apparent that the race would come down to fuel milage, with the previously dominant leaders replaced by Rossi, Josef NewgardenJ.R. Hildebrand, and Carlos Muños. The primary battle for the lead was between Newgarden and Muños, but in the final laps each driver had to pit in order to have enough fuel to finish the race. Rossi, who had formerly competed in Formula 1 with Manor Marussia, took the lead with 3 laps remaining. Rossi’s pace slowed and it was feared that he had run out of fuel as Andretti teammate Muñoz attempted to close the gap on the final lap.

Alexander Rossi: 2016 Indianapolis 500 Champion

With his previous top IndyCar finish being 10th, Alexander Rossi took the chequered flag and became the first rookie to win the Indianapolis 500 since Helio Castroneves in 2001. After crossing the finish line, Rossi ran out of fuel and had to be towed back to pit lane and pushed into victory circle. This brought a triumphant end to the Andretti team’s day, finishing 1-2 after a great deal of successes and struggles throughout the race. Having the definition of an “up and down” day that saw him in the back of the pack and eventually winning the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Alexander Rossi told ESPN: “I have no idea how we pulled that off”.

2016 Indianapolis 500 Unofficial Results

  1. Alexander Rossi
  2. Carlos Muñoz
  3. Josef Newgarden
  4. Tony Kanaan
  5. Craig Kimball
  6. J.R. Hildebrand
  7. James Hinchcliffe
  8. Scott Dixon
  9. Sebastien Bourdais
  10. Will Power
  11. Helio Castroneves
  12. Oriol Servià
  13. Marco Andretti
  14. Graham Rahal
  15. Max Chilton
  16. Jack Hawksworth
  17. Alex Tagliani
  18. Pippa Mann
  19. Simon Pagenaud
  20. Gabby Chaves
  21. Townsend Bell
  22. Matt Brabham
  23. Bryan Clauson
  24. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  25. Spencer Pigot
  26. Takuma Sato
  27. Mikhail Aleshin
  28. Stefan Wilson
  29. Conor Daly
  30. Buddy Lazier
  31. Ed Carpenter
  32. Sage Karam
  33. Juan Pablo Montoya

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