Senior staff writer
When the Indianapolis 500 goes right, it really goes right for the entire motor sports world.
The late-race three-driver shoot-out that had thousands on their feet at the end of the 99th running of the 500 was the positive boost the Verizon IndyCar Series needed.
Race day featured several crashes without any serious injuries, 37 lead changes, the fourth closest finish in history, albeit an unpredictable finish until the checkered flag waved in the bright Indiana sunshine, and a come-from-behind winner in Juan Pablo Montoya.
Overall, the day went right for Team Penske with its four drivers among the top 10, for Charlie Kimball who finished third and for fifth-place Graham Rahal, the top-finishing Honda-powered car.
The race went more right than wrong for co-team owner Sarah Fisher than it did for co-owner/driver Ed Carpenter, and it was a letdown for Ginny, Jonathan II and David Byrd as the trio revived the 500 legacy of the late Jonathan Byrd.
The Carpenter Fisher Hartman team posted two top 10 finishes with J.R. Hildebrand in eighth place and Josef Newgarden in ninth; Carpenter was involved in a Turn 1 crash with Oriol Servia.
Newgarden, in his fourth season with Fisher, posted his best finish in the 500, far better than 25th in 2012 as a rookie. “We were fairly solid,” he said. “We definitely battled the conditions trying to keep the car underneath us. We kept digging. We were in the mix, and that’s pretty cool to say.”
Dennis Reinbold, a Greenwood auto dealership owner, co-owns the No. 24 Robert Graham Special Chevrolet that was driven to 14th place by veteran Townsend Bell, who started 23rd. Bell moved into the top 10 midway during the race in the Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing entry.
Bell encountered an ill-handling car as the track temperature heated up, and he had to dodge several late-race incidents. “Just wish we would have finished further up on the scoring pylon. We just were a little light in down force later in the race.”
Finishing his ninth 500, Bell said he was pleased that the car was among 22 cars running at the finish.
The Byrd family had a most disappointing day that began with the revival of Jonathan Byrd’s Racing team after a nine-year absence. Driver Bryan Clauson, a multiyear USAC sprint car champion, started 30th and came off Turn 4 too wide on the 61st lap and struck the wall with No. 88 entry co-owned by Byrd and KVSH Racing. He finished 31st.
Montoya overcame an early incident with a damaged rear covering after being struck by Simona de Silvestro’s car. He pitted three extra times and was 30th when the green flag waved again on the 12th lap.
He is the 11th different driver to win for team owner Roger Penske, who has 16 Indy 500 wins. Ironically, Montoya won his first 500 with Penske rival Chip Ganassi in 2000.
He collected a $2.4 million winner’s prize from a $13.4 million purse at Monday’s victory dinner.
Montoya’s 15-year span between 500 wins is a record, and his two wins have come in only three starts. He raced in Formula One, sports car endurance and NASCAR Sprint Cup races during his absence from IndyCar racing.