INDYCAR Decade in Review: Best races of the 2010s

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Over the course of the last 10 years, the NTT IndyCar Series has held 169 races at 34 different tracks.

Though not every race was always a barn burner, the past decade has produced plenty of memorable races.

Here’s our picks for the 10 best IndyCar races over the last decade:


1. Auto Club Speedway, June 27, 2015

IndyCar’s most recent race at the 2-mile superspeedway in Fontana, California easily tops our list as the best race of the decade as it was the most competitive race in series history with a record 80 lead changes. By the time the race had ended, 13 of the 23 drivers entered in the event led at least one lap

The wild race saw a return of the side-by-side pack racing not seen since the introduction of the Dallara DW-12 chassis and also saw three and four-wide racing at speeds up to 220 mph. 

Chris Jones/IndyCar

But perhaps the most memorable moment in the race came as the leaders approached the start/finish line to take the white flag. 

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ryan Briscoe made contact in the tri-oval, causing Briscoe’s car to violently flip as it made contact with the infield grass. Luckily, Briscoe walked away from the accident unscathed.

With the final lap of the race ending under caution, Graham Rahal won for the first time since St. Petersburg in 2008.

2. Texas Motor Speedway, June 12/Aug. 27, 2016

The 2016 Firestone 600 will forever be remembered as one of the most unusual races in IndyCar history for a multitude of reasons. 

For starters, the race holds the distinction of being delayed for over two months, as heavy rains plagued the originally scheduled race date of June 11. 

After the Saturday night race was postponed until Sunday, the rains returned once again and the race itself was red flagged on lap 71 of 248.

With several IndyCar competitors needing to leave for France to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans the following weekend, the decision was made to resume the race at a later date.

When the Indy cars finally returned on August 27, the fans were given a phenomenal race as a reward for their patience. 

By the time the final restart came with nine laps remaining, there were only five cars on the lead lap. But those five cars put on a battle all the way through the checkered flag.

In the end, it was Graham Rahal who passed James Hinchcliffe for the lead on the outside as the pack raced into Turn 3 in the final lap.

As the cars raced towards the finish line, Hinchcliffe narrowly closed in Rahal. But he was too late. 

Rahal crossed the line ahead of Hinchcliffe by the slim margin of 0.008 seconds to win the fifth-closest race in IndyCar history. 

3. Indianapolis 500, May 29, 2011

With three laps remaining in the 2011 running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” it was already apparent that the race was setting up for a storybook ending.

With many of the leaders needing to pit for fuel as the laps wound down, 23-year-old rookie J.R. Hildebrand inherited the lead of the race and appeared to be en route to his first career victory in IndyCar’s biggest race.

However, Hildebrand was about to make the ultimate rookie mistake.

In the final corner of the final lap, Hildebrand went high to avoid the slower car of Charlie Kimball. But Hildebrand miscalculated and collided with the outside wall.

As his damaged car slowly slid towards the finish line on three wheels, all Hildebrand could do was sit and watch as his Indy 500 hopes faded away.

Second-place Dan Wheldon quickly approached and passed Hildebrand for the lead on the frontstretch, taking the checkered flag to win at the Brickyard for the second and final time of his career.

Tragically, Wheldon was killed in a crash later that year in the IndyCar season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

4. Indianapolis 500, May 25, 2014

The finish to the 2014 Indy 500 will be one that many fans will likely remember for the rest of their lives

Following a hard crash by Townsend Bell on lap 191, IndyCar officials red-flagged the race for 11 minutes to ensure the 98th running of the event would end under green.

When racing resumed with seven laps remaining, it was a battle for the ages between Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

In the remaining laps, the duo would swap positions for the lead four times. As the field raced down the frontstretch to take the white flag, Hunter-Reay passed Castroneves on the outside in the final lead change of the race. 

Once the cars exited Turn 4 for the final sprint to the finish line, Castroneves attempted to make a final pass of Hunter-Reay for the lead.

But he was too late. Hunter-Reay held on to win by 0.0600 of a second – the second closest finish in race history.  

5. Streets of São Paulo, May 5, 2013

Some of the most exciting street racing of all-time came in the final five laps of the 2013 São Paulo Indy 300, as it was a three-way battle for the win between Takuma Sato, Josef Newgarden, and James Hinchcliffe. 

Fresh off his first career victory on the streets of Long Beach just two weeks prior, Sato was looking to become the first driver to win their first and second career victories in back-to-back starts since A.J. Allmendinger in 2006.

As the cars raced down the long backstretch with five laps remaining, Newgarden had a run on Sato and appeared as if he was going to be able to make a pass for the lead. 

However, Sato made a blocking move on Newgarden as the cars approached Turn 11 and Newgarden’s attempt to take the lead was unsuccessful. In the following lap, Newgarden was then passed by Hinchcliffe for second. 

With three laps to go, Hinchcliffe was right at Sato’s heels. But just as he did two laps prior with Newgarden, Sato successfully blocked Hinchcliffe as the cars approached Turn 11.

On the final lap, Hinchcliffe made the race-winning move. As the cars roared down the backstretch one final time, Hinchcliffe attempted to pass Sato on the inside, and Sato once again made a blocking maneuver. 

But as the cars were entering the final corner, Hinchliffe made a quick crossover move, driving into the outside of Sato to take the lead coming out of the corner. 

Hinchcliffe then had the edge in the final drag race to the finish line and went on to win IndyCar’s final race to date in Brazil.

6. Kentucky Speedway, Oct. 2, 2011

Fans who attended the 2011 Kentucky Indy 300 were treated to a side-by-side finish that saw a first time winner. 

Bret Kelly/IndyCar

With series points leader Dario Franchitti dominating the majority of the race, Sarah Fisher Racing’s Ed Carpenter found himself right up front with the leaders in the final restart 23 laps remaining.

When the green flag waved, Carpenter got off to a great start and quickly positioned himself right behind Franchitti.

On lap 188 of 200, Carpenter took the lead for the first time, and him and Franchitti swapped the top two positions four more times over the next eight laps.

Carpenter took the lead for the final time with six laps remaining and narrowly held on to win by 0.0098 seconds over Franchitti to collect his first victory in IndyCar Series competition. The margin of victory was the seventh-closest in series history.

7. Indianapolis 500, May 29, 2016

In 2016, the Indianapolis 500 celebrated a significant milestone – the 100th running of the race.

But that alone was not the only reason why the race will be forever remembered by fans. The 2016 Indy 500 also saw a future IndyCar star claim his first victory in exciting fashion.

After spending several years in Europe attempting to secure a competitive Formula One ride, Alexander Rossi found himself as an IndyCar rookie in 2016. With 20 laps remaining in his first Indy 500, Rossi found himself in the seventh position.

But with fuel milage in play, all of the leaders ahead of him eventually had to come in and make one final pit stop. With four laps remaining, Rossi took the lead of the race when his teammate Carlos Munoz came in to make his stop.

With a clear track ahead of him and a sputtering fuel tank, Rossi had to conserve all of his remaining fuel to the final drop.

As team co-owner Bryan Herta called the shots from the pit box, Rossi began to slow his pace considerably. 

Working his clutch and carefully listening to Herta’s instructions, Rossi rounded Turn 4 on the final lap to cross the finish line at a mire 179.784 mph. Rossi’s car then ran out of fuel on the cool down lap and had to be towed into Victory Lane for celebrations.

8. Indianapolis 500, May 27, 2012

Takuma Sato may have not won the 2012 running of the Indy 500, but he certainly gained a few new fans that day after he made a brave but risky move in the final lap that ultimately saw his chances of winning go up in smoke.

As the cars sped down the frontstretch to take the white flag, Sato ran in the second position, right behind leader Dario Franchitti. With only four corners remaining, Sato needed to make his move quickly. 

As Franchitti approached Turn 1, Sato attempted to dive under him in an attempt to make a pass on the inside.

Nick Laham/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Sato, however, his move did not pay off. He lost control of the car and spun, making contact with the outside wall.

With the yellow and checkered flags being displayed, all Franchitti needed to do was coast back around the track to the finish line and collect his third and final victory at the Brickyard. 

As for Sato, he eventually went on to win the Indy 500 five years later in 2017 by holding off Helio Castroneves for the victory.

9. Indianapolis 500, May 26, 2019

Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud put on quite a show in the closing laps of the 2019 Indy 500. 

With the final restart taking place with 13 laps remaining, Rossi led Pagenaud to the green flag. 

But almost instantly, Pagenaud put the pressure on Rossi, passing him on the outside entering Turn 1 to take the lead.

One lap later, Rossi returned the favor and passed Pagenaud in a similar manner entering Turn 1. But once again, Pagenaud passed Rossi on the outside and retook the lead with 11 laps remaining. 

Rossi then remained directly behind Pagenaud in a stalking position for the next few laps, waiting for the best moment to make an attack. With three laps remaining, he passed Pagenaud for the lead on the frontstretch. 

But Pagenaud took the lead for the final time entering Turn 3 with two laps remaining, and held off one last charge by Rossi on the final lap to win his first Indy 500. 

The win completed a month of May sweep by Pagenaud, who also won the pole position for the race as well as the IndyCar Grand Prix on the track’s interior road course.

10. World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Aug. 24, 2019

One week after being blamed by many of his peers as the cause of a multi-car accident at Pocono Raceway, Takuma Sato redeemed himself in exciting fashion by holding off a hard-charging Ed Carpenter to win at Gateway by the slim margin of 0.0339 seconds – the closest finish in race history. 

But while Sato and Carpenter fiercely fought in the final laps, third and fourth-place drivers Tony Kanaan and Josef Newgarden attempted to hold off rookie Santino Ferrucci, who was looking to clinch his first career podium. 

Ferrucci managed to get past Newgarden with three laps remaining, and in the final lap on the backstretch, he attempted to navigate around Kaanan.

But Kanaan blocked, and as Ferrucci entered Turn 3 he got loose after running into the marbles. 

As Ferrucci dove down back into the racing line, he nearly made contact with Newgarden, causing Newgarden to run into the infield grass and then slide across the frontstretch before finishing seventh.

Despite the disappointing finish, Newgarden still maintained his lead in the series point standings and went on to win his second championship at Laguna Seca a month later. 

Honorable Mentions:  2010 Chicagoland, 2013 Indy 500, 2015 Indy 500, 2018 Portland,  2019 Mid-Ohio.

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After New York whirlwind, Josef Newgarden makes special trip to simulator before Detroit


DETROIT – There’s no rest for the weary as an Indy 500 winner, but Josef Newgarden discovered there are plenty of extra laps.

The reigning Indy 500 champion added an extra trip Wednesday night back to Concord, N.C., for one last session on the GM Racing simulator before Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

After a 30-year run on the Belle Isle course, the race has been moved to a nine-turn, 1.7-mile layout downtown, so two extra hours on the simulator were worth it for Newgarden.

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“I really wanted to do it,” he told NBC Sports at a Thursday media luncheon. “If there’s any time that the sim is most useful, it’s in this situation when no one has ever been on a track, and we’re able to simulate it as best as we can. We want to get some seat time.

“It’s extra important coming off the Indy 500 because you’ve been out of rhythm for a road or street course-type environment, so I really wanted some laps. I was really appreciative to Chevy. There was a few guys that just came in and stayed late for me so I could get those laps before coming up here. I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference, but I feel like it’s going to help for me.”

After a whirlwind tour of New York for two days, Newgarden arrived at the simulator (which is at the GM Racing Technical Center adjacent to Hendrick Motorsports) in time for a two hour session that started at 6 p.m. Wednesday. He stayed overnight in Charlotte and then was up for an early commercial flight to Detroit, where he had more media obligations.

Newgarden joked that if he had a jet, he would have made a quick stop in Nashville, Tennessee, but a few more days away from home (where he has yet to return in weeks) is a worthy tradeoff for winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – though the nonstop interviews can take a toll.

“It’s the hardest part of the gig for me is all this fanfare and celebration,” Newgarden said. “I love doing it because I’m so passionate about the Indy 500 and that racetrack and what that race represents. I feel honored to be able to speak about it. It’s been really natural and easy for me to enjoy it because I’ve been there for so many years.

“Speaking about this win has been almost the easiest job I’ve ever had for postrace celebrations. But it’s still for me a lot of work. I get worn out pretty easily. I’m very introverted. So to do this for three days straight, it’s been a lot.”

Though he is terrified of heights, touring the top of the Empire State Building for the first time was a major highlight (and produced the tour’s most viral moment).

“I was scared to get to the very top level,” Newgarden said. “That thing was swaying. No one else thought it was swaying. I’m pretty sure it was. I really impressed by the facility. I’d never seen it before. It’s one of those bucket list things. If you go to New York, it’s really special to do that. So to be there with the wreath and the whole setup, it just felt like an honor to be in that moment.”

Now the attention shifts to Detroit and an inaugural circuit that’s expected to be challenging. Along with a Jefferson Avenue straightaway that’s 0.9 miles long, the track has several low-speed corners and a “split” pit lane (teams will stop on both sides of a rectangular area) with a narrow exit that blends just before a 90-degree lefthand turn into Turn 1.

Newgarden thinks the track is most similar to the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

“It’s really hard to predict with this stuff until we actually run,” he said. “Maybe we go super smooth and have no issues. Typically when you have a new event, you’re going to have some teething issues. That’s understandable. We’ve always got to massage the event to get it where we want it, but this team has worked pretty hard. They’ve tried to get feedback constantly on what are we doing right, what do we need to look out for. They’ve done a ton of grinding to make sure this surface is in as good of shape as possible.

“There’s been no expense spared, but you can’t foresee everything. I have no idea how it’s going to race. I think typically when you look at a circuit that seems simple on paper, people tend to think it’s not going to be an exciting race, or challenging. I find the opposite always happens when we think that way. Watch it be the most exciting, chaotic, entertaining race.

Newgarden won the last two pole positions at Belle Isle’s 2.35-mile layout and hopes to continue the momentum while avoiding any post-Brickyard letdown.

“I love this is an opportunity for us to get something right quicker than anyone else,” he said. “A new track is always exciting from that standpoint. I feel I’m in a different spot. I’m pretty run down. I’m really trying to refocus and gain some energy back for tomorrow. Which I’ll have time to today, which is great.

“I don’t want that Indy 500 hangover. People always talk about it. They’ve always observed it. That doesn’t mean we have to win this weekend, but I’d like to leave here feeling like we had a really complete event, did a good job and had a solid finish leading into the summer. I want to win everywhere I go, but if we come out of here with a solid result and no mistakes, then probably everyone will be happy with it.”