While Alexander Rossi was top rookie finisher in Indy 500, four others had mixed results

(Photos: IndyCar media; Rossi photo Getty Images)
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While Alexander Rossi’s win in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 was nothing short of a fairytale come true for the rookie California driver, the story was not as heartening for the four other rookies in the 33-driver field.

Max Chilton, Matt Brabham, Spencer Pigot and Stefan Wilson joined Rossi in the rookie class of 2016, with mixed results for the other four first-timers in the 500.

Let’s take a look at how each of the other four rookies fared and what their post-race thoughts were about their first go-round in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

Max Chilton

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet), finished 15th (second-highest rookie finisher), completed all 200 laps: “It was a long race. It feels like three races in one. I learned so much out there today. It’s the craziest start of a race I’ve ever done in my life. There are moments where you’re hanging on for your life. There are also moments where you are absolutely flying and I wish I’d had another 100 laps to go. The Gallagher team did a great job with all the pit stops. I don’t think we were ever in a position to fight for the lead, but I learned a lot and will come back stronger next time.”

Matt Brabham

MATT BRABHAM (No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet, finished 22nd, completed 199 of 200 laps): “It is incredible to think that we finished this race; out there was a little surreal to be honest. It was an amazing experience to be in the 100th Indy 500 race and now I can say that I have finished the Indianapolis 500 and I am the third generation of Brabham to do that. It is special to think that there have only been three families during the 100-year history of this race to do that. The PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet was good all day. During some of the stints it developed a vibration. In the middle of the race there, I was able to make up eight places, which was a really great feeling. I’m happy that we got through and that we were able to put on a good show. I can’t thank the guys from PIRTEK, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Speedcafe.com, all the other sponsors and of course ‘Crusher’ (owner Brett Murray) who has developed this phenomenal program that gave me the opportunity to be in this race. Let’s hope we can have an opportunity to do more again.”

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SPENCER PIGOT (No. 16 RLL/Mi-Jack/Manitowoc Honda, finished 25th, completed 195 of 200 laps): “The race was pretty eventful; it was pretty crazy out there. We continued to make the car better. We were struggling on the first stint but got it better throughout the race. We made some changes on the wings and we could definitely pass a bit better and run closer as the stints went on so I was pleased with that. But unfortunately we ran out of fuel on the back straight on a yellow that came out and closed the pits just as we were running out. I got stuck there and had to get pulled in and lost a few laps. Overall it was a great experience and I am glad we were able to finish the race. I think we had the potential to finish somewhere around 15th. I want to give a big thanks to all of the guys for their great stops and hard work for the Indy500 and to Manitowoc, Mi-Jack, Grove and everyone for their support.”

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STEFAN WILSON (No. 25 Driven2SaveLives – KVRT Chevrolet, finished 28th, completed 119 laps of 200): “(It’s) disappointing to not be able to bring home the No. 25 Driven2SaveLives car and make it to the finish. Unfortunately, a fuel leak started happening maybe on the 100th lap and caused an electrical fire that disabled the gearbox. So when we went on that final restart during Lap 104, it wouldn’t shift out of third gear. We tried to solve the issue and took the car back to the garage, came back out and the issue persisted so we had to call it a day. … I think we would’ve been in really good shape, we could’ve brought home a top-15 finish today but you know, that’s racing – there’s always mishaps and unfortunately that’s what happened today. Overall, it was a good month, we ran a lot of laps and I’ve learned a lot about running an Indy car here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I think that’s going to help me in future years if I’m able to come back here and race again. I know now what I want to achieve from the car handling and I think if I do come back next year, I’m already so far developed from where I started just under two weeks ago. It seems as though a lot of time has passed but it’s crazy to think it has only been two weeks.”

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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.