INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Hunter-Reay held off Helio Castroneves to win the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
“I’m a proud American boy, that’s for sure,” Hunter-Reay said in Victory Lane before he was joined by his wife and son. “I’ve watched this race since I was sitting in diapers on the floor in front of the TV. My son did it [Sunday]. He watched me here. I’m thrilled. This is American history, this race. This is American tradition.”
Following a red flag to repair the safer barrier in turn two, Hunter-Reay led the field to a six-lap shootout chased by Castroneves and Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti. Hunter-Reay and Castroneves swapped the lead four times over the final five laps with Hunter-Reay taking the point on lap 199 with an outside pass of Castroneves on the front straight.
“This race was ridiculously close and competitive,” Hunter-Reay said. “Just glad I picked the right time to go.”
Hunter-Reay won by .060-seconds, denying Castroneves his record-tying fourth Indy 500 win. It was the second-closest finish in the race’s long and rich history — only the 1992 race had a closer finish, with Al Unser Jr. beating Scott Goodyear by 0.043 seconds.
The Dallas-born, Florida-raised Hunter-Reay is the first American to win the Indy 500 since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006. Hunter-Reay also becomes the third winner for team owner Michael Andretti joining Dan Wheldon in 2005 and Dario Franchitti in 2007.
Hunter-Reay is a former IndyCar Series champion. Now, he’s a 500 champion.
“This is the granddaddy of them all,” he said. “This is where drivers were made and history is made. When I was a kid, I looked up to the Andrettis, Foyt, Unser, Mears. Winning this one is definitely a game-changer.”