Helio Castroneves wins fourth Indy 500

0 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS — Helio Castroneves earned a major slice of Indy 500 history Sunday, becoming the fourth driver to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing for a fourth time.

Castroneves, 46, joined Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser as a record-tying four-time winner of the 500-Mile Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, outdueling Alex Palou to win the 105th Indy 500.

Castroneves, who also won the Indy 500 in 2001-02 and ’09, took the lead from Palou for the final time with two laps remaining in his No. 06 Dallara-Honda to score the first victory at the Brickyard for Meyer Shank Racing.

“I love you!” Castroneves, who was making his 21st Indy 500 start but his first outside of Team Penske (which inducted him into its Hall of Fame), screamed on the radio. “I love you IndyCar! Thank you IndyCar!”

Castroneves took a victory lap around Indianapolis Motor Speedway on foot, jogging up and down the frontstretch to massive cheers after doing his traditional fence climb. He also received congratulations from Mario Andretti, Will Power, Marco Andretti and a host of other drivers and former Penske teammates in becoming the first driver to win an Indy 500 with another team after winning it for Team Penske.

This was only the fourth race this season for Castroneves, who is running a partial season with Meyer Shank Racing after winning the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship last season (his last with Penske). It also continues a dream season for the Brazilian, who won the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona with Wayne Taylor Racing.

Castroneves’ 31st career victory in IndyCar also was the first in the NTT Series for Meyer Shank Racing.

At 46 years, 20 days old, he also is the fourth-oldest winner in Indy 500 history behind Unser (47 in 1987), Bobby Unser (47, ’81) and Emerson Fittipaldi (46, ’93).

Palou finished second, followed by Simon Pagenaud, Pato O’Ward, Ed Carpenter, Santino Ferrucci, Sage Karam, Rinus VeeKay, Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Kanaan.

The race’s only major on-track incident came on Lap 119 when Rahal pitted from the lead, and his pit crew left the left-rear tire loose. The wheel popped off as Rahal exited the pits, sending his No. 15 Dallara-Honda into a hard impact with the outside Turn 2 SAFER barrier.

The wheel ricocheted back into traffic and struck the front of Conor Daly’s No. 47 Chevrolet.

“It’s famous last words, but we had them,” Rahal told NBC Sports reporter Kevin Lee. “We had them. We were in the perfect spot. We were just cruising. Our strategy was playing right. I was doing a good job in the car. We had them today.

“This one is hard to accept. I’m proud of the United Rentals guys. We worked hard all day. I’m sorry we didn’t win this thing because we should have.”

With fans back at the Indy 500 for the first time in two years, one of the day’s biggest cheers erupted when Daly, a longtime Indianapolis resident, took the lead from VeeKay on Lap 50.

Scott Dixon started on the pole position but led only three laps after Herta took the lead on Lap 1.

While Herta and VeeKay traded the lead, Dixon conserved fuel in third — which seemed a smart strategy when the caution flew on Lap 33 after Dixon had inherited first when Herta, VeeKay and several other lead-lap drivers had pitted.

But the pits were closed for multiple laps under yellow because Stefan Wilson had spun into the wall on entry, which left Dixon in a predicament. Choosing to make an emergency stop while the pits remained closed on Lap 36, Dixon’s No. 9 Dallara-Honda coasted in out of fuel and wouldn’t refire.

The same situation happened to Alexander Rossi on an emergency stop for fuel a lap later, and both former Indy 500 winners were a lap down when the race restarted because of the timing of Wilson’s crash.

“Heartbroken,” Wilson told NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast. “The team worked so hard for the whole month. We were having good stint, moving forward and got the call to pit a little bit late. That wasn’t really the issue. As soon as I went to the brakes, there was nothing there. I tried to pump them up, couldn’t get enough pressure and locked the rears on one of the pumps.

“Just devastated. Hope I get another chance at the Indy 500.”

A sellout crowd of 135,000 — roughly 40 percent of capacity for the track, whose grandstands hold 235,000 seats and usually has 300,000 on race day including the infield — filled the track quickly, nine months after the 2020 Indy 500 was run in front of empty grandstands because of COVID-19.

Before giving the command to start engines, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske thanked fans for their loyalty and also saluted the military, first responders and health care workers for helping the country navigate the pandemic.

“You are the reason this is the Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” Penske said.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

0 Comments

Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2