Alex Palou, 24, finished second in his second Indy 500 while Helio Castroneves, 45, became the fourth driver to win his fourth Borg Warner trophy.
Cameras were focused on the tight battle between Castroneves, Palou, Patricio O’Ward, Simon Pagenaud, and Ed Carpenter as one of the top storylines of the weekend played out. All week, questions have centered on whether the 105th Running of the Indy 500 would be dominated by youth or experience.
“Oh man, it hurts around here,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee while pointing to his heart. “This is the Indy 500. I cannot be angry about finishing second. But we had the car to win. We had the best car. It was amazing. And Honda, man, Honda gave us a lot of speed today.
“Super proud of finishing second. It hurts a lot, as I said, but it was a good battle with Helio. It’s better when you lose to the best in the business.”
The Indy 500 pays double points, so this was a great time for Palou to score a podium finish. He entered the Indy 500 third in the points with a 26-point deficit, but with Scott Dixon’s troubled race week, when he ran out of gas in the pits and settled for 17th, Palou left with a 36-point advantage and the championship lead.
Experience took the top spot and three positions in the top five, but Palou and O’Ward, 22, represented the Young Guns well.
— Meyer Shank Racing (@MeyerShankRac) May 30, 2021
The difference between Palou’s two Indy 500s could not have been greater. Last year he qualified seventh, but crashed and failed to finish on Lap 121.
O’Ward was the 2020 Rookie of the Race with a sixth-place finish after starting 15th. He was the only rookie driver to finish on the lead lap.
In 2021, he improved across the board. O’Ward qualified 12th and led 17 laps. Those were the first laps he’s led at the Brickyard.
He improved his race finish to fourth, and gave up the final spot on the podium on the last lap when he was passed by Simon Pagenaud, 37.
“I really think we did a perfect race,” O’Ward told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “I really don’t think we could have done anything better. We just needed to be faster at the end. The balance of the car was pretty phenomenal the whole way.
“I would have loved to get this win for everyone, but we didn’t have enough speed. When they let me loose, I knew they were going to let the guys in front of me loose – and I didn’t have enough to catch them.”
O’Ward’s race strategy and setup were helped by his third-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in the first of a double header. He won the second race.
O’Ward dropped to third in the points’ standings, but trails second-place Dixon by only one point.
“I’m kind of bummed that we lost third to Simon at the end, but I took a risk to try and get a mega run on the leaders and it didn’t work out.” O’Ward said.
Rinus VeeKay and Colton Herta also had solid runs for the Young Guns.
VeeKay started on the outside of the third row and finished ninth.
Herta started second and raced with the leaders for most of the event until fell off the pace near the end and finished 16th.