Florida racer Ryan Hunter-Reay wins Indianapolis 500 in nail-biter over Helio Castroneves in closing laps

Ryan Hunter-Reay of Fort Lauderdale, FL, wins Indianapolis 500 / Headline Surfer®Ryan Hunter-Reay beats Helio Castroneves to checkered flag in 2nd closest Indy 500 / Headline Surfer®Videos by Indy Cars for Headline Surfer® / 1st video: Highlights of the 2014 running of the Indianapolis 500, including several crashes and the dramatic finish that saw the Ryan Hunter-Reay take the checketred flag in the second-closest finish ever. 2nd video: Post-race interviews with Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, and Marco Andretti, as well as rookie Sage Karam, winning team owner Michael Andretti, Indy 500 legend Mario Andretti and disappointed contenders Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe.

INDIANAPOLIS -- A Florida racer, Ryan Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 28 for team owner Michael Andretti, won the Indianapolis 500- i a nail-biting finish with hard-charging Helio Castroneves in what turned out to be the second-closest margin of victory at .06 of a second.

“I’ve been watching this race since I was in diapers sitting on the floor -- I’m thrilled,” Hunter-Reay said, savoring the traditional quart of cold milk given to the winner in Victory Lane. “This is American history this race, an American tradition.”

Second place was no conseletion for Castroneves swho at dejected in his race car, despite his grit and determination right up to the end of the grueling 500-mile race on Sunday of this Memorial Weekend.

“Second place kind of sucks but taking the positive out of this, it was a great race,” the Brazilian driver said bluntly, adding he believed the top two finishers "used every inch of the track."

Castroneves described the duel with Hunter-Reay, stoically: "At the end of the day there is stupid and then there’s bravery. I think we’re right there on the edge, both of us, really trying.”

Finishing third was Marco Andretti, the first member of the Andretti racing family to try and duplicate the 1969 win of his grandfather, legendary Mario Andretti. Marco Andretti and Hunter-Reay are teammates under Michael Andretti.

Finishing in fourth was Carlos Munoz, of Colombia, followed by fellow countryman  Juan Pablo Montoya, who returned to the Indianapolis 500 for the firdst time sincve winning the race 14 yeears ago, though he's probabltymore well kmnown for being the former Sprint Cup driver who crashed into a jet dryer at the Daytona 500 two years ago, that resulted in a fire that burned a crater into the pavenent and stoppage of the race for emergency patching.

And speaking of Daytona, Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, finished sixth in his first Indy race before flying out to Chatrlotte Motor Speedway in hopes of completing the "double" by competing in the stock car  in the night race under the lights. He didn't complete the task, though, due to a blown engine.

Like Montoya, Jacques Villeneuve of Canada, returned for the first time since winning the race 19 years ago. He finished in 14th place.

Pippa Mann, of Great Britain, the lone woman in the field finished in 24th.the only woman in this year’s field, was 24th. Pole-siiter Ed Carpenter, out front at tyne start for the second year in a roam, gave way after the first lap to hard-charging Canadian James Hinchcliffe, but the two drivers and another pre-race contender, Scott Dixon, all crashed.

The race was caution free, actually until lap 149 when Charlie Kimball lost control of his car and struck the wall. Clearly, thgis ended up being a two-man race at the end with Hunter-Reay beating Castoneves to the finish line by half a car length.

Hunter-Reay became the 69th different driver to win (including co-winners in 1924 and 1941). And his victory brought Andretti his third Indianapolis 500 championship as a team owner, ending a seven-year drought. His former drivers, Dario Franchitti, since retired, took the checkered flag in 2007, and the late Dan Weldon won for Andretti in 2005.

The shootout in the closing laps was set up when INDYCAR officials red-flagged the race on Lap 192 for seven minutes for crews to fix the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier and clean up from the single-car incident involving Townsend Bell's No. 6 Robert Graham KV Racing Technology entry.

Bell had been running fifth -- 1.8 seconds behind Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay and Castroneves alternated as the front-runner through Lap 199 – Hunter-Reay leading by only .0196 of a second at the line on lap 198.

The closest margin of victory was .043 of a second by Al Unser Jr. over Scott Goodyear, who was an analyst in the ABC booth on this day, in 1992. Sebastien Bourdais, driving the KVSH Racing car that won the “500” last year with Tony Kanaan, placed a career-best seventh in the 500-mile race and Will Power finished eighth.

Power, who started on the outside of row 1 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, was issued a drive-through penalty for a pit speed violation on lap 128 as he exited while running second to Montoya.

With double points awarded for the three 500-mile races this season – the Indy 500, Pocono Raceway on July 6 and Auto Club Speedway on Aug. 30 – Hunter-Reay took the championship lead over Power, 274-234.

Hunter-Reay entered the race trailing by one point. Sage Karam, the 19-year-old rookie from Nazareth, Pa., finished ninth in the No. 22 Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing with Chip Ganassi car. JR Hildebrand, who was the race runner-up as a rookie in 2011, placed 10th.

Hunter-Reay led a field-high 56 laps, despite starting 19th. The last time a driver led the most laps of the race from a lower starting position was in 1975, when Wally Dallenbach led a race-high 96 laps after starting from the 21st position.Other records set or nearly eclipsed in Sunday's Indy 500:

-- The winning average speed (186.563 mph) is the second-fastest in race history. The record was set by Tony Kanaan when he won the 2013 race at 187.433 mph;

-- A record 6,105 laps were laps were completed by the 33-drivers in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 field. The previous record was 5,863 laps completed by the 33-car field in 2013;

-- A record 20 drivers finished on the lead lap. The previous high was 19 drivers in the 33-car fields of 2009 and 2013;

-- Castroneves completed the full 500-mile distance for a record-extending 10th time.

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.