The moment you knew that this year’s Indy 500 might be good was on lap 38, when Scott Dixon’s car briefly died, he lost a lap, and the guy who many people thought would win this year all of the sudden probably wouldn’t. At that point, things were wide open.
The race had a little bit of everything, like on lap 50, when local favorite Conor Daly took the lead, eliciting hearty roars from the crowd. Or, like on lap 119, when Graham Rahal — who had as good a shot to win as anyone — crashed after a bizarre mishap involving his right rear tire. In the aftermath, Daly hit the tire “like a football,” as one commentator said, sending it high into the air. By lap 125 it became clear that one of Alex Palou, Helio Castroneves, or Pato O’Ward would likely win.
And peppered throughout the race were a series of brake failures as drivers entered pit lane. Palou and Castroneves would take turns swapping the lead in the final laps before, on lap 198, Castroneves took the lead for good.
Castroneves became the fourth driver with four victories at Indy; his reaction afterward was among the most ecstatic things I’ve ever seen, in front of 135,000 people who seemed as ecstatic. I’m convinced that Castroneves would’ve hugged every one of them if he could.
Castroneves was subject to a gauntlet of interviews, photo shoots, and other media commitments after winning, not just on a race day but all day Monday, too, the bulk of which sound more tiring than winning the race itself. Here’s how IndyCar.com describes it:
Castroneves was back at it Monday at 8 a.m. with a SiriusXM NASCAR Radio interview, followed by a segment on the Today Show.
Then, it was time for nearly two hours of photos: first was a photo shoot for BorgWarner, in which a 360-degree view of photos of Castroneves’ head is taken for sculptor William Behrends to use as a catalyst for making the quarter-sized face on the trophy.
Then, he was back at the Yard of Bricks for a two-hour photo shoot with his black and pink car, the Borg-Warner Trophy, the winner’s wreath and, at times, the Brazilian flag. He stood in the same place while team members, Honda employees, Firestone employees and many more people involved in putting on “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” cycle through for photos.
By 11 a.m., Castroneves was finished with his photo shoot and moved on to another four-hour session of interviews with a variety of motorsports, national and international news outlets. But don’t worry, there was a lunch break for Jimmy John’s squeezed in there.
Castroneves’ night ended with a winner’s reception in Pagoda Plaza that honors the best finishers and storylines from Sunday’s race and a team dinner afterward. Castroneves was given an hour and a half to change and prepare for the evening’s ceremonies. Instead, he used that time for his second detour to visit [Jameson Terzini] and his friends at their home in downtown Indianapolis.
Terzini has a life-size replica of Castroneves attached to his home, which Castroneves noticed at a media event before the race. Castroneves said he would return if he won, because “a promise is a promise.”
Castroneves is not running a full IndyCar schedule this year, his first with Meyer Shank Racing, after a one-off at Arrow McLaren last year and two decades spent with Penske. Castroneves is also 46, and racing is a young man’s game. You have to think, though, that he will find a way to be back again next year to look for Indy win number five, something no one has ever done before. That celebration would be even more epic.