The 99th Indianapolis 500 went down in history as one of the greatest comebacks in Indy history. Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified fifteenth, also started 15th and then fell to 30th. He was struck and damaged early on by Simona de Silvestro, made a costly pit stop error, and then won the Indianapolis 500.
Montoya’s teammate, Simon Pagenaud, was in contention for the lead for most of the race. Content with second place, Pagenaud sat tight in a strategy to conserve fuel, but he rear-ended Scott Dixon in the last laps of the race, damaging his front wing and forcing him to pit. Pagenaud’s strength and his aero setup would lend a hand to his Penske teammate as Monotya set his aero up similar to Pagenaud for the legendary comeback.
This wasn’t the only drama of the race as Conor Daly retired after his car caught fire even before the race started. On lap 1, Sage Karam and Takuma Sato made contact and ended Karam’s day. Local favorite and USAC Sprint aficionado Bryan Clauson got high into the track and wrecked while Ed Carpenter ran into Oriol Servia, taking both of them out of the race.
Two of Tristian Vautier’s pit crew were injured when James Davidson struck them after bouncing off Pippa Mann’s car in an unfortunate pit lane error. The entire speedway erupted in angst when the yellow came out for a fourth time during lap 153. Tony Kanaan, a crowd favorite, made an aero change and, unfortunately, his car got loose and struck the wall shortly after. Lap 176 saw a three car crash involving Jack Hawksworth, Sebastián Saavedra, and Stefano Coletti.
By the time the checkered flag flew, Indianapolis proved once again that it could be anyone’s race in this new era of IndyCar. Montoya had come from behind to move into the lead pack of Dixon, Power, and Kimball. In only 102 laps, he was in the top five after climbing back from 30th. With three laps to go Montoya would overtake Power for the lead and the win.
Montoya’s win marks the end of a dry spell for Team Penske. They have not had a victory at the Indianapolis 500 since Castroneves won in 2009. This is Montoya’s second win of the year after taking the podium in St. Petersburg.
Montoya has had quite the successful racing career and this second win at Indianapolis solidifies him as one of the greats of his generation. He is one of the only drivers to have wins in the IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula One, CART, and Grand-Am racing series. He is also one of the few to win two stops on the heralded Triple Crown of Motorsport (Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Monaco Grand Prix).
Fans have been treated with impressive shows out of this new era of IndyCar. Both the racing and off-track atmosphere events are at an all-time high. This growth is especially evident with the increasing number of young faces in the Turn 3 “Snakepit.” Fan Nolan Hudson’s race highlight was, “the atmosphere of everyone partying together like you’ve known them your whole life.” He added, “[I’m] preparing by rehydrating for the next 364 days.”
The past few years have consistently seen the most exciting racing that Indianapolis has ever witnessed. Next May’s 100th Indianapolis 500 should be a treat for the ages. One question will linger though. Can they beat Arie Luyendyk’s 237.498mph track record that has stood since 1996? I think they can do it, but it will be a feat of the willing and brave. Or maybe just the insane.