Castroneves edges Palou for record-equalling fourth Indy 500 win

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Hélio Castroneves made history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning his fourth Indianapolis 500 on Sunday to equal the record for the most victories in this historic event.

The fastest Indy 500 in history was decided in a breathless sprint to the flag over the final 28 laps. Veteran Castroneves, back for this race only with Meyer Shank, was locked in a three-way fight with series regulars Alex Palou (Ganassi) and Patricio O’Ward (McLaren SP).

Castroneves and Palou exchanged the lead several times over the course of their final stints. But with just under two laps to go, Castroneves slipstreamed off of Palou down the front stretch and took the lead around the outside of turn one.

As the final lap began, Castroneves and Palou caught a tightly-compressed pack of slower cars. But the three-times winner was never likely to fall victim to the kind of final corner error which memorably claimed rookie JR Hildebrand in this race 10 years ago. He held his nerve and his line to take a landmark victory by less than half a second.

Start, Indianapolis 500, IndyCar, 2021
Pole-winner Dixon was passed early, then hit trouble
That meant one more chance for Castroneves to climb the catchfence and celebrate with a crowd of over 135,000 spectators, the largest crowd for a sporting event since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic. It meant a flock of rival crew members coming forward to congratulate Castroneves on achieving a record-equalling victory which had painfully eluded him in recent years, most notably in 2014 and 2017.

It also meant a breakthrough victory for his crew at Meyer Shank Racing, who picked up Castroneves as a part-time driver this season after his 21-year run with Penske ended.

Palou, who had looked on course to put one over Fernando Alonso by becoming the first Spaniard to win this race, was consigned to a second-place finish, after leading 35 laps. He finished than a car length ahead of Simon Pagenaud. The Penske driver fought his way from 26th to third, completing one of a number of improbable comebacks during the race. O’Ward took fourth for McLaren SP and local favourite Ed Carpenter, despite stalling in the pits during his first stop, finished fifth.

Two young, part-time drivers quietly and confidently worked their way into the top 10. Santino Ferrucci took sixth after starting 23rd and Sage Karam finished seventh having lined up on the back row. Rinus VeeKay was an early contender for the win, but slipped down into eighth, ahead of two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya in ninth, and 2013 winner Tony Kanaan in 10th.

Pre-race favourite and pole-winner Scott Dixon went a lap down early on, shortly after Stefan Wilson spun and crashed in the pit lane on lap 32 to bring out the first Safety Car intervention. Dixon’s car ran out of fuel on the way to the pits, and wouldn’t restart.

The Ganassi driver was able to work his way back onto the lead lap, but the 2008 Indy winner fell away during his final stint and finished 17th. The same misfortune befell Alexander Rossi, but unlike Dixon, Rossi couldn’t find his way back to the lead lap, and the 2016 Indy winner finished a lowly 29th.

Simon Pagenaud, Penske, IndyCar, Indianapolis 500, 2021
Pagenaud recovered superbly to take third place
The second caution period of the race came when Graham Rahal’s left rear wheel came loose after his third pit stop, which sent Rahal crashing into the turn two barrier. The nose of Conor Daly’s car struck the wayward tyre, but amazingly he went on to finish 13th, having leading 40 laps, the most of any driver.

At an average speed of 306.886 kilometres per hour (190.690 miles per hour), this race shatters the record for the fastest Indy 500 in history, previously set by Kanaan in 2013. At the age of 46, Castroneves is the fourth-oldest Indy 500 winner in history, and his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory means he shares the record for most wins in the race with AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

As he scaled the victory fence, and danced along the edge of the track celebrating with fans, it was hard to imagine he won’t return to pursue a record-breaking fifth.

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Race result

PositionCarDriverTeamEngine
PositionCarDriverTeamEngine
16Helio CastronevesMeyer ShankHonda
210Alex PalouGanassiHonda
322Simon PagenaudPenskeChevrolet
45Patricio O’WardMcLaren SPChevrolet
520Ed CarpenterCarpenterChevrolet
645Santino FerrucciRLLHonda
724Sage KaramDreyer & ReinboldChevrolet
821Rinus VeeKayCarpenterChevrolet
986Juan Pablo MontoyaMcLaren SPChevrolet
1048Tony KanaanGanassiHonda
118Marcus EricssonGanassiHonda
122Josef NewgardenPenskeChevrolet
1347Conor DalyCarpenterChevrolet
1430Takuma SatoRLLHonda
151JR HildebrandFoytChevrolet
1626Colton HertaAndrettiHonda
179Scott DixonGanassiHonda
1860Jack HarveyMeyer ShankHonda
1998Marco AndrettiAndretti Herta-HaupertHonda
203Scott McLaughlinPenskeChevrolet
2129James HinchcliffeAndretti SteinbrennerHonda
2228Ryan Hunter-ReayAndrettiHonda
234Dalton KellettFoytChevrolet
2459Max ChiltonCarlinChevrolet
2551Pietro FittipaldiCoyne/RWRHonda
2614Sebastien BourdaisFoytChevrolet
277Felix RosenqvistMcLaren SPChevrolet
2818Ed JonesCoyne/VasserHonda
2927Alexander RossiAndrettiHonda
3012Will PowerPenskeChevrolet
3116Simona de SilvestroParettaChevrolet
3215Graham RahalRLLHonda
3325Stefan WilsonAndrettiHonda
Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank, IndyCar, Indianapolis 500, 2021
Castroneves kisses the bricks after his fourth Indianapolis 500 triumph

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Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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  • 26 comments on “Castroneves edges Palou for record-equalling fourth Indy 500 win”

    1. Congrats to Helio for the win. What a legendary moment. He wasn’t mentioned a lot in the broadcast but good race for Montoya who finished in the top 10.

      1. If this was F1 he would be DQ’d for having a good time.

    2. I don’t normally watch IndyCar but with no F1 race this weekend there was no reason not to give it a go. But that was enthralling. It started off a bit slow, but the tension really built up all race, and the end was just brilliant. It was great to see Castroneves win, although I was hoping Sato would be able to save fuel to the end and pull it off. However, I do think Rahal would have won without the wheel failure. What a race!

    3. The last 15 laps were CRACKING!!!! Awesome.

    4. Mark in Florida
      30th May 2021, 23:24

      This was a fantastic race! Those cars were nailed down to the track and the passing moves were great. Helio used a veterans wisdom to stay in striking distance and made his move at the right time. He’s now a 4 time 500 winner, that’s rarified company to be in. Congratulations to him it’s always great to see him winning. He gets so emotional. I can tell that there’s a changing of the guard happening in Indy racing. The young guns are coming to the front of the pack now. So the veterans have to be at their best and can’t slack off for a minute.

    5. It was very hard to guys make moves in the middle as it appears the Aeroscreen makes for some turbulenr air to deal with. Power though did a great job moving up though. The last quarter of the race had a lot of action at the front. So wonderful to see that many fans (largest since the pandemic started, of cours it’s at the biggest sporting event on earth), even though it was 40% of capacity. Just wonderful!

      1. It was very hard for guys to make moves in the middle…

        Wish there was an edit button.

        1. And to this day there still isn’t.

    6. So far as recent Indy 500s go since the DW12 chassis was introduced, that was a good one.

      It wasn’t as crazy as the 2012-17 races where the leader was a sitting duck as the cars were too draggy in clean air, nor as boring as 2018 where anyone not named Alex Rossi couldn’t pass. The last 2 years were better but for me, today was the sweet spot of being able to pass for the lead, but not making it easy.

      For context, the 2013 race that was the previous fastest 500 had 5 caution periods for 21 laps. There were just 2 today for 18 laps. Not the fastest 500 mile race ever – that goes to the 2014 race at Fontana with just the one caution period for 12 laps (and was a great race to watch from the stands as I did, a pity that the track is being rebuilt).

      The Indycar website is pretty good with posting results and https://www.indycar.com/Results is the place to go. When I started this post they’d already posted the unofficial results from today’s race, though they aren’t there now as I guess they’re publishing the official results soon. From that, some interesting stats for the last 2 weeks:

      6308 total race laps completed from a possible 6600
      20803 total laps completed in the last 2 weeks, or over 52000 miles
      35 lead changes between 13 drivers
      Conor Daly led the most laps with 40, just 20% of the total.

      1. My feeling as well, just a shame Rossi and Dixon, were again, out of it early on.
        My only criticism goes to sky, thanks for the absence of ad breaks though listening to Tom Gaymor is worse than an ad break, at least he was not commentating super formula. If you don’t know what I mean watch super formula on motorsport.tv

        1. Of all the people a Producer could select for this broadcast, and they select Tom Gaymor and Lando Norris, neither of whom have any connection whatsoever to Indy Car Racing. Gaymor has some second and third-hand knowledge but is boring. Lando has enthusiasm but knows zero about Indy car racing; and why should he?
          Great race otherwise

        2. Agreed. Tom Gaymor had made Le Mans almost unwatchable for me.

    7. Quite a tactical race, but Indianapolis continues to be a much tamer affair than most other races on the Indycar calendar. Even pegged down the cars just don’t handle this track very well in racing terms. It’s mostly single-file and without any cautions to bring the field together it’s going to be a race where strategy is key. Outside of the pit windows you could see the lap times getting quite slow (all relative, of course) as everyone was trying to stretch out their stints just an extra two or three laps. Castroneves’ win is nevertheless a nice outcome. Judging by all the youngsters around him in the top 10, it might be one of the last for his generation of drivers.

      It also has to be said that it was great to see so many people at the track; seems like a lot of European countries could learn a thing or two from the US.

      1. @cashnotclass, I think the European countries are doing enough to spread Covid 19 without any help from the US.

    8. Forty-six years old, what a story!
      Enjoy your phoenyx day, Helio!
      Imsa, Daytona 24hs and now his fourth Indianapolis 500.
      Kudos!

      1. + Dancing With Dah Stars …

    9. Helio’s smile is like the sun.

    10. Big congrats to Helio. That was awesome. I was actually pulling for Daly, but bad luck literally struck him again in the form of Rahal’s wayward wheel. Oh well…I’m not sure his strategy would have panned out anyway.

    11. 306kmh average race speed and great racing. A lot of concentration required for an 804km long race.

    12. I’ve been watching a lot of Indy car this year, just to pass the time – most have been somewhere from underwhelming to disappointing.
      This was amazing though, best race of any kind I’ve seen for at least a couple of years.

    13. As someone who uses power tools for a living I admit I wince a bit when I see the pit mechanics lobbing the wheel guns across the car onto the concrete to clear space for exit. Poor tools.

      Also. Pit road is one dangerous place. Too many close calls with cars and mechanics yesterday and the loose wheel crash was crazy, anyone know where the wheel landed?

      What happened to Herta in the race? Bothe he and Veekay just disappeared.

    14. The wheel ended up in the infield. Both Herta and Veekay faded due to having to make their last stop early because they too hard too early and had poor fuel consumption early on.

      1. Meant as a reply to @broke1984 , sorry

      2. @sham I believe the wheel ended up still ‘in’ the race track, on a piece of grass inside the main circuit. I don’t think it got as far as the infield from what I saw on the broadcast, though I may be wrong.

    15. It was amazing that not only have Helio join the prestigious club, but it was a long time coming for Michael Shank Racing to earn their 1st win as a team. It will be “The Win” to be remembered for MSR. It will take time for MSR to become a caliper team. But they will fight for wins.

      Time to head to the Churrascaria and some dancing a la “Victor Cruz”.

    16. It was amazing that not only have Helio join the prestigious club, but it was a long time coming for Michael Shank Racing to earn their 1st win as a team. It will be “The Win” to be remembered for MSR

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