INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – After an absence from the Indianapolis 500 since 1995 due to the split between IRL and CART, the 2001 race featured the return of team owner Roger Penske to Indy. And what a spectacular return it was for the Captain.
In 1995, Team Penske was shut out of the race, as all of his cars shockingly failed to qualify for the 500. That wouldn’t be an issue in 2001, however, as both Team Penske cars started in the first four rows.
After two rain delays, including a brief stretch in which the field was frozen under the red flag, rookie Helio Castroneves eventually took the race lead from Tony Stewart when Stewart pitted under caution. Castroneves never relinquished the top spot over the final 52 laps, becoming the second consecutive rookie to win the Indy 500, following Juan Pablo Montoya’s victory the previous year.
Fellow Penske teammate Gil de Ferran finished 2nd and Michael Andretti came in 3rd. The top six race finishers were all CART drivers, with Eliseo Salazar the top IRL regular finishing 7th.
In what fans know as his signature celebration, Castroneves got out of his car on the front stretch to climb the catch fence, delighting the crowd in the stands.
In victory lane, Castroneves couldn’t hold back his excitement.
“I tell you, I’m amazed,” Castroneves said. “I mean, this crowd is unbelievable. And I’m just so happy to win it!”
Castroneves also couldn’t wait to participate in one of the 500’s iconic traditions; a drink of milk in victory lane.
“Look at this guys,” Castroneves said, holding a bottle of milk. “I’ve been dreaming of you!”