Helio Castroneves wins fourth Indy 500

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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.

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”