Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay: I'm a proud American boy

Starting from behind, Hunter-Reay wins amazing Indianapolis 500 race

By Rick Yencer

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA (SPORTS) -  An incredible Indianapolis 500 race with an improbable winner produced an remarkably close finish with Ryan Hunter-Reay milking the milk.

 "This is the dream I have been chasing as a little kid," said Hunter-Reay to a room full of local and international media. "I can't even believe it."

Starting in 19th place, Hunter-Reay beat out 500 winner Helio Casterneves on the last couple laps and took the checked flags in the second closest race in history before a crowd of more than 250,000 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Car owner Michael Andretti had hoped his son, Marco, could win in the other Andfretti car, but Marco did not have the speed in the end to take on Hunter-Reay or Casterneves.

Just last year, Tony Kanaan beat Hunter-Reay in the final laps and that race was something that Hunter=Reay continues to think about and work on so it would not be repeated.

The race was historic with a red flag that stopped racing at Lap 191 when Townsend Bell slammed into a barrier, causing debris to scatter all over the race track. Bell was checked out and able to race except he was was damaged.

That crash came after James Hinchcliffe hit pole sitter Ed Carpenter on Lap 176 just after Scott Dixon slammed into the wall on Lap 168 after 150 laps of green flag racing.

That stop for about 10 minutes threw off the rhythm of the race, according to Casterneves and others, as Hunter-Reay continued to lead until Casterneves passed him with two laps to go, only for Hunter=Reay to regain the lead and win the race.

His wife, Beccy, said she knew her husband would do whatever it took to win the race. Hunter-Reay joked about trimming the grass with a low pass that sent him past Casterneves.

Casterneves said the race was so close, only 0.6 seconds, which was the second closest in history after Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear by 0.04 seconds in 1992.

Hunter-Reay made some history himself. The lst time a driver started 19th and win the race was 1954 when Bill Vukovich won.

The crowd roared when Hunter-Reay talked about being a proud American boy, growing up in Indianapolis and wanting to win the Indianapolis 500.

As some fans said Sunday, the greatest spectacular in racing is all about freedom as truckloads of active military service members and veterans circled the track before the race.

Gov. Mike Pence also mentioned the proud tradition of the Indianapolis 500 envied by other governors and helping drive the state's economy as the single largest sporting event in the world.

Some race veterans like Jim Morrison, who edits the Hawkeye Racing News, said the exciting finish besides the great turn of events with three contenders crashing near the end could fill up seats again at the race.

While Hunter-Reay and Casterneves got the attention, other drivers and teams offered mix views on the results.

Marco Andretti, who finished third, said his team mate almost took him out, adding it was the most competitive race he had seen. 

"We were close, but we never really dominated," said Andretti. "Everytime we got to the front, we shuffled back."

Carpenter said Hinchcliffe did not employ a smart move trying to race three wide with Bell and Carpenter on either side which pushed Hinchclife and Carpenter together. Hinchcliffe said it was part his fault and part Bell's fault.

Tony Kanaan said his day was over when a lengthy pit stop put him behind and Will Power said a pit lane penalty ruined his chances.

For Kurt Busch, it was an unbelievable experience for the NASCAR racer to finish sixth at Indianapolis and then race in the Coke Cola 600 only to blow an engine.

The biggest disappointment had to be Graham Rahal who had an engine that kept shutting off after 100 laps. Rahal also was upset that he let one of the sponsors, the National Guard, down on Memorial Day weekend.

 

 

 

 

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