SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Helio Castroneves is now a member of fabled company in Indianapolis 500 lore.
Outlasting a duel with Alex Palou in the closing laps of the race, Castroneves joins A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears as a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves led the final lap of the fastest Indianapolis 500 in history in a one-off ride with Meyer Shank Racing. The race had an average speed of 190.690 miles per hour.
“They did everything they told me,” Castroneves said of his new racing team. “They gave me a chance to fight. I’m really having a great time in a new opportunity with this amazing team.”
Castroneves is the fourth oldest driver to win the race at age 46, behind Al Unser, Bobby Unser, and Emerson Fittipaldi. He is also the first driver to win an Indy 500 after having left Team Penske.
Alex Palou was second, and Simon Pagenaud made up 23 spots after starting 26th to finish third.
“I’m super proud of finishing second,” Palou said. “It hurts a lot, but it was a good battle with Helio, and it’s better when you lose against the best.”
Scott Dixon was the pole sitter who led the field to the green flag, but it would be the 21-year-old Colton Herta to lead the first lap of the 105th running of the race.
Dixon would not ever lead a lap as he would have problems when a caution brought out on lap 34 due to Stefan Wilson spinning entering the pits.
It was at the end of the fuel stint for a majority of the drivers who hadn’t pitted at that point. Dixon ran out of gas as pit road was closed and he could not get the engine refired, forcing him a lap down and essentially out of contention for his second Indy win.
The caution lastest nine laps and when the green flag dropped, the Ed Carpenter Racing cars took control with Conor Daly and Rinus Veekay swapping the lead several times up to the halfway point of the race.
Daly would end the day having led the most laps in the race, which was the first time he had ever led the 500.
Castroneves throughout all of that stalked in the top ten of the running order all day long, never running outside the top ten except after having pitted.
Graham Rahal brought out the second and final caution of the day when his left-rear wheel came off after it was not properly secured on his preceding pitstop.
The pit strategy cycled down to four drivers in the last 20 laps: Castroneves, Palou, Pato O’Ward, and Pagenaud.
But in the final ten laps, it was left to a leapfrogging battle between the youngster in Palou and the old guy in Castroneves.
Castroneves would prevail in the end, subsequently climbing the fence for the fourth time.
The win is Castroneves’ 31st career IndyCar Series win and his first since 2017 when he won at Iowa.
Castroneves said he is not going away anytime soon despite the fact he is not as young as he once was.
“It’s not the end; it’s the beginning,” Castroneves said. “I don’t know if it’s a good comparison, but Tom Brady won a Super Bowl, Phil (Mickelson) won the PGA, and now here you go. The old guys still got it, kicking the young guys’ butts. We’re teaching them a lesson.”
In the end, six of the top ten finishers in the race were either part-time drivers or one-off drivers (Castroneves 1st, Carpenter 5th, Ferrucci 6th, Karam 7th, Montoya 9th, and Kanaan 10th.)
Among the IndyCar Series regulars in the top ten were Palou in second, Pagenaud in third, O’Ward in fourth, and Veekay in eighth.
The second place for Palou was huge given the race was a double points race in terms of the season championship. Palou now leads his teammate Scott Dixon, with O’Ward and Pagenaud following.
The series has a week off before heading for a doubleheader event on the streets of Detroit. in the middle of June.