Presented by Racemaker Press

"There's a lot of junk out there today. If you want it straight, read Kirby." -- Paul Newman

The Way It Is/ Rossi's surprise fuel-saving Indy 500 win

by Gordon Kirby
It was unfortunate that this year's 100th Indianapolis 500 turned into a fuel mileage race. All the frontrunners--Tony Kanaan, Jose Newgarden, Carlos Munoz, James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon--were compelled to stop for splashes of fuel in the last seven laps allowing rookie Alex Rossi to score a surprise tactical win for Andretti Autosport.

Rossi was running ninth when the final restart took place with just over thirty laps to go, but he was able to nurse his car to the finish without stopping. To make the checkered flag Rossi had to reduce his pace to a crawl on the last lap as his half a lap lead all but vanished. But by the time he reached the checkered flag Rossi was still four seconds ahead of Munoz and Newgarden as he became the first rookie to win the Indy 500 since Helio Castroneves turned the trick in 2001.

The race's opening stages featured a tremendous duel between Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe who passed each other on almost every lap through the first round of pitstops. As the race wore on they were joined by Townsend Bell, Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan, Carlos Munoz and Helio Castroneves so that the result was entirely unpredictable for most of the distance.

© Gary Gold
A key moment occurred just past half-distance when Bell made a hash of his pitstop, crashing into teammate Hunter-Reay and also brushing Castroneves's car. Bell and Hunter-Reay's cars were damaged and both lost a lap to the leaders while rapid repairs were made in the pits. Castroneves was able to carry on in the thick of the battle but forty laps later his car's rear pod began to fall apart so that he too had to stop for repairs.

The race's final segment witnessed a great battle between Kanaan, Newgarden, Munoz and Hinchcliffe. Kanaan and Newgarden led most of the time but Munoz was also able to get to the front as they ran as hard as possible, knowing they had to stop for quick splashes of fuel in the closing laps. Sure enough, Kanaan stopped with seven laps to go while Newgarden, Munoz and Hinchcliffe came in two laps later.

By then the 500 had fallen into Rossi's hands as he found himself with half a lap lead. Nursing his fuel all the way he ran 36 laps without stopping and was able to maintain a small cushion to Munoz and Newgarden as the checkered flag fell.

"I was really disappointed to lose the race because of fuel," Munoz said. "I knew I had the car to win in the first half of the race. I was just holding my position. The last part of the race I was pushing really hard, overtaking everyone. I think me and Newgarden had the win. We were so strong.

"I knew I didn't have enough fuel. I don't know how my teammate did it without stopping. I want to know what he did. Why is he not stopping? I have to look and see what he did. I'm happy for the team, a one and two for Andretti and one and two for Honda. But I cannot say I'm happy. I'm just really sad and disappointed."

Newgarden echoed Munoz's deep disappointment.

"It's really heartbreaking because I think we had the car to win," Newgarden commented. "I'm not saying we should have won the race because we had the best car. I just think we had a car that could have won.

© Gary Gold
"Congratulations to Rossi and Honda. It's a huge achievement to win around here. I just wish we had an opportunity to race those guys straight up at the end. I really think we would have had something for them if we could have gone flat-out at the end to try to beat them straight up.

"It just sucks that it didn't play out the way we needed to. Everyone was on different strategies and they played the fuel strategy. For us, it would have been silly to do that. That's why none of the leaders did it. When you know you've got a car to win, you've got to go flat out and try to win the thing as you would without trying to play the fuel game.

"To put it politely, I don't think they (Rossi) had as strong an opportunity to win, so you have to mix it up. They mixed it up and it paid off big for them. He was there at the end and he capitalized. It just sucks that we didn't have a shoot-out where we could have raced each other. I would have been on the high side, trying to win this thing. I think that would have been a lot cooler, but it didn't work out."

For his part, Rossi could not have been more delighted.

"I have no idea how we pulled that off," he remarked. "We struggled a little bit on the pit stops but Bryan (Herta) came up with an unbelievable strategy. I can't believe we've done this. Ryan (Hunter-Reay) was unbelievable in helping me get to the finish. He was giving me a tow at the end and it's an amazing result for Andretti Autosport. I'll cherish the fact that at one point we were 33rd and we rolled the dice and came through and made it happen.

"We ran out of fuel in turn four on the last lap," Rossi added. "We were clutching it and coasting down the backstraight. We knew it was going to be tight, but Ryan helped give me a tow to the finish over the last couple of laps. It was an amazing result."

In closing I want to thank all of you who turned out to buy our latest Racemaker Press books at the IMS's Museum last Friday evening and Saturday's Memorabilia Show. We enjoyed a tremendous response to 'Penske's Maestro, Karl Kainhofer and the History of Penske Racing' and 'Tony Bettenhausen and Sons, An American Racing Family Album'.

© Gary Gold
We darn near sold out the stock of books we shipped to Indianapolis for the launch and it was very gratifying to hear many complimentary remarks from our fans and readers about the high quality of the production values and editorial and photo content of Racemaker's books.

Joe Freeman and I want to express our heartfelt thanks to Karl Kainhofer, Merle and Susan Bettenhausen for their enthusiastic help in putting these two books together. Karl, Merle and Susan also put plenty of time and effort into last weekend's book signings. Working with them has been a great pleasure.

For those of you who were not able to be in Indianapolis last week we invite you to go to to order our latest books or any others from our wide selection of books covering the great history of American racing.

Auto Racing ~ Gordon Kirby
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