It was a weekend to remember. We saw the spirit of Indy start in qualifications weekend and end with one of the most perfect drivers becoming the 2019 Indianapolis 500 champion.
The Track chooses the winner. It also can wreck the days of many fan favorites. In 2018 that was seen most when Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and Danica Patrick all ended their days sooner than they would have liked. Danica crashed in Turn 2 on Lap 68 and had actually been on the radio most of the race indicating her car felt very loose. She lost it in Turn 2, which if you’re familiar with the layout of the track that corner gets more shade and wind. It’s the same corner that took out Tony Kanaan later in the race. Helio spun a bit wild into the pit area, ending his attempt at a fourth, but he will be back. He may have been one of the most popular drivers out there. We sit on the front stretch, and as you watched Helio start down pit lane, you could hear the roar of the crowd grow closer as he came closer to us till we were up on our feet cheering him.
The Last Row party participants were the ones to watch this race. After bump day and qualifications, given how the car hadn’t been able to find speed, I wasn’t completely unsurprised to see Conor Daly in the last row (I did not want him there). I was more surprised for Jack Harvey to be there, as the SPM/MSR car and team had been fairly sound going into the race. I was absolutely panicked when Alexander Rossi was there. I panicked so much so I told people not to pick him for Fantasy IndyCar league (though I did let them know I picked him because I’m still #TeamRossi). At the end of the race Conor had jumped up twelve spots; Harvey had jumped up fifteen spots, and Rossi had jumped up twenty-eight spots, and actually, it was twenty-nine because he did sit in third place for a bit before finishing fourth. He gained around six spots within twenty-one laps. Some people complained there weren’t a lot of lead changes, but when you see the number of position changes, you have to figure some passing was going on.
Will Power secured his Indianapolis 500 win. This was the race that was the proverbial monkey on his back. He now is the first person to sweep May at Indy and the first Australian to win the Indianapolis 500. I have always admired Will as a driver and am very excited for him to win the 500.
This was to be the year that Fernando Alonso came back. Honestly, everyone was betting on him doing well. Until the team got on the track. It truly is a comedy of errors, and the Associated Press’ write up is flabbergasting on what happened. During Qualifications weekend, Fernando found himself lining up for the last race shoot out. He was joined by two other Carlin teammates (Patricio O’Ward and Max Chilton); James Hinchcliffe (who’s team rebuilt a car following a crash early on Saturday); Sage Karem; and Kyle Kaiser (who also had suffered a crash and the small team rebuilt the car overnight).
Qualifications weekend would go to Kyle Kaiser. Kaiser was the last driver to go out, the standings had Sage Karem, James Hinchcliffe, and Fernando Alonso getting into the race. Then Kaiser came out. And it was the closest and most nail-biting lap-four in a qualifying run. When it was announced he had bumped out Alonso, everyone…everyone became a Juncos fan. That truly is the spirit of Indianapolis. Teams working through the night to rebuild. A small team throwing everything they can at a car. The smallest team with the smallest budget bumping the Formula 1 world champion and prestigious team.
200 laps can mean anything can happen. This race featured thirty different lead changes and approximately five hundred and eight-six passes. Pit lane became the place where everything happened from crewmembers getting hit, cars getting hit, and cars retiring.
The losers? Colton Herta suffered a gearbox problem in the first three laps and retired. Ben Hanley had a broken spool and retired after fifty-four laps. Jordan King, James Davidsson, Helio Castroneves, and Will Power all suffered bad pit stops and appropriately harsh penalties. Both Zach Veach and Marco Andretti just couldn’t put a race together. Veach continues a season of just bad races ending in twenty-ninth position after the large crash on lap one-hundred seventy-eight. Marco’s center of pressure was just off all race, and try as they might the crew couldn’t put anything together for him. Hot-head and Whiner Graham Rahal got caught and squeezed by Sebastian Bourdais, causing the big wreck near the end of the race that caught Veach. Rahal showed his ass by getting out of the car, throwing his gloves and his helmet around, before going over to Bourdais car to hit him. Truly just unsportsmanlike and unprofessional.
Rossi is runner-up. Making great moves and gains. As usual, a fuel issue messed up a pit stop, but a yellow flag truly helped him. He and Simon gave a great chase towards the end of the race. He finishes the race in second, and as he said the Chevys are fast, and he just couldn’t catch up.
Ultimately, the race belonged to Simon Pagenaud. He led 116 out of 200 laps. He ran a perfect race. No issues, no mistakes. He traded laps with Rossi the final ten laps, putting on a show for the fans. He swept May. He’s going to be a fantastic Indianapolis 500 champion for the next year!