Indianapolis 500: Race Day Notebook

By: Spencer Neff
May 30, 2021

Following an intense two weeks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 2.5-mile track and the 33 competitors were finally ready for the latest installment of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

In a race that featured more than its share of intrigue, here’s the final results.

Helio Castroneves wins in record-setting “500”

2021 Indianapolis 500 Box Score

Since winning his third Indianapolis 500 in 2009, Helio Castroneves has finished second three times.

This year, the São Paulo, Brazil-native made the jump to Meyer Shank Racing on a part-time basis after 21 years at Team Penske, including 20 starts in the “500”.

After starting eighth, he led 20 laps and earned the elusive fourth win, holding off Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou for the victory by .4928 of a second,

He joins A.J. Foyt , Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time winners. Castroneves’ victory also breaks a tie with Dario Franchitti for most wins by a driver born outside the United States (3).

Castroneves rolls to a stop on the front straightaway after his victory (Matt Fraver/INDYCAR)

The victory is the first for Meyer Shank Racing, which made their debut in 2017’s race. Castroneves now ties Franchitti and Paul Tracy for 10th all-time with 31 wins, his last win had been at Iowa Speedway in 2017.

2020 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Pato O’Ward and Arrow McLaren SP finished third, with 2019 pole sitter and race winner Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske and Owner/Driver Ed Carpenter of Ed Carpenter Racing making it five different teams in the Top Five and three for Chevrolet.

Honda also earned their second consecutive win in the race and their second straight 1-2 finish (1-2-3-4 in 2020).

It is the first time either of the engine manufacturers have earned 1-2 finishes at Indy in back-to-back years since 2012 saw Chevrolet and Lotus return to IndyCar.

In a race featuring 35 lead changes among 13 drivers, the 190.690 miles per hour average speed is a new record for the race, breaking the 2013 record (187.433 mph).

The 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge was slowed by two cautions for 18 laps.

Race Recap

During the parade laps, Will Power had to pit as he was unable to get his engine started.. His Team Penske crew was able to rectify the issue.

Pole sitter Scott Dixon was taken over for the lead on Lap 1 by Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay.

After Herta led the opening lap, VeeKay led the next 28 laps until the first cycle of pit stops on the day,

On Lap 34, Stefan Wilson spun in the entrance of pit road and tagged the inside retain wall, prompting the first caution flag of the day. The Andretti Autosport driver was unable to continue and would finish 33rd.

During his opening pit stop, Dixon and Rossi ran out of fuel. Refueling issues put both a lap down while under a lengthy yellow.

Conor Daly led the most laps (40) but the local favorite ended the day in 13th (Doug Mathews/INDYCAR)

On Lap 50, Conor Daly powered by his ECR teammate after Herta and VeeKay had been the front runners on the first stint. Daly would lead until his Lap 71 stop, when Castroneves took over up front.

On Lap 77, the Meyer Shank Racing driver pitted but not before he was overtaken by Herta. Seven laps later, Daly was back in the lead.

Lap 119 saw the second caution of the day as Graham Rahal crashed by the exit of Turn 2, ending the second-generation racer’s day.

After his pit stop, the left-front wheel on his No. 15 Dallara-Honda fell off, sending him into the outside wall.

As the wheel bounced down the track, it was struck by Daly and damaged the front wing of the No. 47 but he was able to continue.

Palou spent much of the second half of the race dueling with Castroneves for the race lead (Doug Mathews/INDYCAR)

On the Lap 124 restart, Castroneves drafted past Alex Palou. Three laps later, O’Ward was back up front after leading during the preceding cycle of pit stops.

Palou took over the lead on Lap 131. During the next round of stops, more issues hampered Power’s run as he did a half-spin by Pit in. Luckily, the No. 12 team got things corrected after his lock up and he continued on.

The 2010 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year was able to receive assistance from her crew to avoid a caution but she was out of the car moments later as her day ended prematurely.

Right after Castroneves took back the lead with 32 laps remaining, another car spun on pit road. This time it was the Paretta Autosport entry of Simona de Silvestro.

Several drivers made their way to the front while they looked to stretch their fuel, including two-time and defending race winner Takuma Sato.

With eight to go, Sato had to pit, setting up a late-race duel between Castroneves and Palou. Palou would have the lead for three of the last seven laps.

Castroneves and the No. 06 team celebrate (Chris Owens/INDYCAR)

Ultimately, Castroneves passed Palou on Lap 199 and hung on, earning an emotional victory.

With double points in today’s race, Palou now leads Dixon by 36 in the standings.

Up Next

After a busy month, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will have a week off before the next event. On June 12, the first race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit will be held.

Practice will begin at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Stay with for all the latest regarding the Indianapolis 500 and check out our social media accounts for photos and videos from IMS and more around IndyCar.

Header Image By Karl Zemlin/INDYCAR


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s