Front row starters Scott Dixon, Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay fell short of victory in the 105th Indianapolis 500. (IndyCar Photo)
Front row starters Scott Dixon, Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay fell short of victory in the 105th Indianapolis 500. (IndyCar Photo)

Front Row Starters Fall Short In 105th Greatest Spectacle In Racing

INDIANAPOLIS – As with every Indianapolis 500, Sunday’s 105th running had a heavy pre-race emphasis on the front row starters.

It was also billed as a battle of old guard against the kids.

Forty-year-old Scott Dixon started on the pole and had the best car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway throughout the month of May. Twenty-one-year-old Colton Herta started second and 20-year-old Rinus VeeKay started third.

After 500 miles of hard racing, however, it was a day of disappointments for the front row.

Dixon had one of the strongest cars in the race and was sticking to his strategy in the first fuel stint of letting someone else lead the race as he conserved fuel. Herta also adopted that strategy and said over the first fuel stint, a driver could lose two laps of fuel to the tank by leading the race.

VeeKay was happy to put the No. 21 car in the lead in the early part of the race, lead 32 laps.

But the dynamic of the race changed completely on lap 33 when Stefan Wilson spun out and crashed while entering pit road. That closed the pits, but Dixon was among several drivers that had to make an emergency pit stop and accept a penalty rather than run out of fuel before the pits were opened.

Problem was, when Dixon pitted, his engine stalled and refused to start putting him one lap down. The No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing team got Dixon’s engine to start, but he was all the way back in 32nd place, the last car running on the track after Wilson’s Honda had crashed.

Dixon was able to get back on the lead lap, even lead two laps late in the race, before finishing 17th.

There were 22 out of 33 cars that started the race that completed 500 miles.

The car that finished just ahead of Dixon was Herta’s No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. The son of four-time IndyCar race winner Bryan Herta was another big-time favorite to win the race, but his 16th place finish left him quite unhappy.

“There wasn’t much we could do today, unfortunately we were just slow,” Herta said afterwards. “The balance wasn’t right, and we just struggled.

“We struggled with the scuffed tires and that kind of threw us off. Then, we were trying to correct the balance with scuffed tires, then went back to new tires.

“It was just diabolical.

“We had what should have been a good car in the Gainbridge Honda, but we just couldn’t get it done in the race.”

VeeKay ended up as the highest-finishing driver from the front row, racing the Bitcoin Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet to an eighth-place finish.

“Leading over 30 laps today feels great,” VeeKay said. “I am very happy with how I did and being able to finish eighth. I was leading in the first stint, but we wanted to save some fuel, so we worked with Conor (Daly) to run second. When the yellow came out, we fell a bit short, and it didn’t go our way.

“I was running 13th with a few laps to go so I have nothing to complain about. Lady Luck wasn’t on my side today but there are many more races this season and many more Indianapolis 500s in my future.”

The driver that won the race and became the fourth four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Helio Castroneves, started eighth, in the middle of Row 3. He led 20 laps in the fastest Indianapolis 500 history with an average speed of 190.690 mmph

There were 35 leads changes in the race among 13 drivers.

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