Chris Jenkins/USA Today-INDIANAPOLIS — Running on fumes on the final laps of the race, rookie Alexander Rossi ran out of fuel coming out of Turn 4 — and still managed to win the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
Rossi, a 24-year-old native of California, coasted to the line ahead of Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan as late-race fuel strategy led to a wild and tense finish.
A year ago, he was watching this race from Monaco.
It was perhaps one of the more unlikely Indy 500 victories, as Rossi has almost no experience in racing on oval tracks after spending several years pursuing a career in Formula One. Rossi couldn’t quite believe it himself.
“I have no idea how we pulled that off,” he said, in a television interview immediately after the race.
Rossi thanked his Andretti Autosport team, which gave him a ride in IndyCar this year.
“At one point, we were 33rd,” Rossi said. “And we rolled the dice and we came through and made it happen. And this is just phenomenal. I had no idea I’d be in IndyCar, I had no idea I’d be in the Indy 500 and now I’m here, we’ve won and I’m at a loss for words. It will change my life for sure.”
Move of the race: Teams got nervous that they didn’t have enough fuel to finish the race in the closing laps, so several top contenders made stops for a quick splash of fuel in the last 10 laps. But Rossi stayed out, and the gamble paid off — just barely.
Juan gone: Defending race winner Juan Pablo Montoya crashed on lap 64 when his car’s back end broke loose in Turn 2, sending him into the outside wall. Montoya was uninjured but his car was too damaged to continue. That ended his bid for a third Indy 500 win, after winning last year and in 2000.
Helio hit: Helio Castroneves was among the main contenders going into the final quarter of the race, but he sustained damage to the left rear bodywork of his car and had to make an extra pit stop to replace the rear wing assembly.
Pit problem: Two top contenders collided in the pits during a caution flag shortly after the race’s halfway point. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Townsend Bell were pulling out of their pit stalls at the same time when Bell bumped into Helio Castroneves, who was in the outside lane, then pinballed into Hunter-Reay. Both cars stalled on pit lane, and fell outside the top 20 once they restarted.
It wasn’t the only issue on pit lane during Sunday’s race. Will Power was penalized after making contact with Tony Kanaan’s car during an early stop.
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