SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) – Rookie Alexander Rossi won the 100th Indianapolis 500 Sunday afternoon.
The California native’s team gambled on fuel strategy and it paid off with a historic trip to Victory Lane.
“I can’t believe we’ve done this. I didn’t know (if I could make it to the finish). Ryan (Hunter-Reay) was unbelievable in helping me get to the finish. He was giving me a tow at the end and it’s an amazing result for Andretti Autosport,” Rossi said.
While other drivers were forced to pit in the final laps for fuel, Rossi stayed out and took the lead on lap 197 as leader Carlos Munoz came to pit road.
“We rolled the dice and made it happen,” an emotional Rossi said.
Rossi becomes the first rookie to win the Indianapolis 500 since Helio Castroneves in 2001. He said he doesn’t think the moment will sink in for a while.
“It won’t sink in for a while and I don’t want it to. I want to enjoy this moment,” Rossi said.
He said the race was an incredible learning opportunity, especially since he’s a rookie.”
“It’s an incredibly challenging championship,” Rossi said. “It was a lot to learn and I have a lot to learn still.”
He said he didn’t have any preconceived notions of winning but always goes into each race with a winning mindset.
“Every time I get in the race car, I want to win. I’m here to win. That’s the goal I have every single time I get in a race car,” Rossi said.
Rossi held a big lead over second place Munoz as he took the white flag, but appeared to run out of fuel as slowed in turn three. In fact, Rossi’s last lap was over 39 miles per hour slower than the charging Munoz.
Rossi said that the race is so emotional.
“It’s phenomenal. I’m at a loss for words but it will change my life for sure,” said Rossi.
He joked and said I think I will need to see a physicist after this is all over.
Rookie Alexander Rossi wins the Indy 500
Rookie Alexander Rossi wins the Indy 500 x
Munoz finished 2nd. Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball rounded out the top five.
Pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe came home seventh. Last year’s winner, Juan Pablo Montoya crashed on lap 64 and finished last.
Following the Montoya crash, there was a bit of an extended caution as moisture was reported on the backstretch before racing resumed on lap 75.
While fuel strategy played a big part in the finish, pit problems were a theme throughout the race.
On lap 48, while under the first caution of the day, pit road was a busy place. While exiting his pit, Will Power made contact with Tony Kanaan. Power was penalized for the incident and sent to the back of the field.
Under caution on lap 117, there was more chaos in the pits as Helio Castroneves, Townsend Bell and Ryan Hunter-Reay all made contact. Castroneves escaped the incident, however, the contact spun Hunter-Reay and Bell into each other. Both were able to continue but were never factors the rest of the day. Bell finished 21st, while 2014 winner Hunter-Reay came home 24th.
Castroneves, looking to become a rare four-time Indy 500 winner appeared to be in position to do just that and led 24 laps on the day, but rear wing damage to his car forced the Team Penske driver to make an extended stop to change the wing. Castroneves worked his way back up to second place before having to pit for fuel and finishing 11th.
For Rossi, the win was a dream come true.
“This is a great way to mark 100 years,” Rossi said as he took a victory lap around the track. “I am so blessed to be here.”