We Deserve This (2021 Indy 500 Review)

The Indianapolis 500 is always hard to recap, outside of the winner: there’s way too much going on to attempt to summarize. This year is no different! Do I spend the time talking about Helio Castroneves and his fourth win? What about the hard charging from Conor Daly and how all Ed Carpenter Racing drivers put on a show. There’s Sage Karem’s race from the last row. The cursed pit lane? All of the above?! I’ll just handle this how we handle races on the podcast, running last to first (but as much as I want I’m not going to discuss all thirty-three drivers). 

Everyone must come in last, and with the Indianapolis 500 there’s typically some matter of spectacular reasons. For the bottom five (Stefan Wilson, Graham Rahal, Simona De Silvestro, Will Power, and Alexander Rossi) it’s just spectacular bad luck. Wilson, De Silvestro, and Power all were victims of what must have been bananas at the beginning of pit lane. In actuality it was brake issues, which happened throughout the field actually, and they just all came in to hot and kissed the wall. It ended the race for Wilson and De Silvestro, but with Power it just was the last nail on the coffin after a bad start (aka he didn’t start) and a random penalty. He failed to lead one lap this race, breaking his streak of eight in a row. Graham’s team dropped him too soon and the left rear tire changer was not done…the tire came off and clipped Daly. Rahal went for a wild spin and caused the second of two yellows. Finally, there’s Rossi and honestly I give up on trying to turn around the bad luck. I just…we have to sacrifice a goat to the racing gods. The others in the bottom third primarily took some strategy gambles that didn’t pay off – and that happens at lot at Indy. 

The middle of the finishers, I’m just going to call in heartbreak row. RHR showed up in qualifications and had a great car, but ran afoul of penalties and ended up much lower than his starting position. It includes the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Scott McLaughlin who was doing great, but that pesky brake issue happened and he drove down pit lane: completely out of control. Scott Dixon started on the pole, but in a replay of last year, didn’t get to lead that first lap. It really never got any better for him, he was one of the ten drivers caught by the first yellow who had to do an emergency pit stop. Then his car wasn’t firing, and they tried to restart that car over thirteen times. Yet he still ended up on the lead lap. Right in front of him was Colton Herta who took the lead on the first lap but just got shuffled too much in traffic. The final heartbreak was Conor Daly. If you’ve not seen the video of the crowd when he took the leave: stop and go find it. You can’t hear the broadcasters anymore. That was the moment we all wanted for him. Then a wild tire tagged the front of his car, and that’s really not something you bounce back from (honestly no pun intended). 

Then there were eleven. Juan Pablo Montoya came back after a few years and finished ninth. Rinus VeeKay put on a hell of a show, leading laps and even hard charging at the end to finish eighth. Sage Karem legit went from thirty-second to seventh. Santino Ferrucci also charged up going from twenty-sixth to sixth, and technically had the fastest lap of the race. Of course its Indy so yes Ed Carpenter is in the top ten, even after a stalled car. THe podium starts with Simon Pagenaud, the highest finishing Penske, who went from twenty-sixth to third. It’s a contract year and Simon always performs well at Indy. Second place belongs to Alex Palou. Now yes it’s who wins that gets all the glory, but good god Palou had a hell of a race and shouldn’t be discouraged. First, he currently leads in the points, and second the track just didn’t choose him. The track chose Helio Castroneves to win his fourth (no – we’re not even going to start that). She knew that for the first race with fans there needed to be something truly spectacular. If you were in stands, trust me it was electric. It was race that launched him into history making him the fourth driver to win four- Indy 500s. It was the first Indy 500 race win for Meyer Shank Racing, and their first INDYCAR Race. It was a great duel of passes throughout that final twenty-laps. At that point no one in the stands cared who won, they cheered for all passes. 

The race broke tons of records as well. There were thirty-five lead changes between 13 drivers, most since 2017. By lap 134 there were 264 passes and sixteen lead changes. The race was the fastest, with an average speed of 190.690 mph, breaking the record from 2013. Even with such a quick race, it had the least amount of cautions. Just two cautions with a total of eighteen laps. Oh also if you haven’t seen the tv numbers were the highest since the 100th Running. 

As an FYI, the reason that first yellow was so long was because race control couldn’t reorder the field. Apparently numbers one through thirty-two are hard, especially after you give ten emergency service penalties.