Rice wins the Indy 500

Buddy Rice scored his maiden win in the biggest race of them all - the Indianapolis 500. The Rahal Letterman Racing driver, who started the race from pole, had the fastest car throughout one of the most dramatic 500s of recent years

Rice wins the Indy 500

Rice, who was dropped from Eddie Cheever's team at the end of last year and got the call from Bobby Rahal to stand in for the injured Kenny Brack at the beginning of the season, won the race after fighting his way to the front following a stall during an early pitstop.

Twice delayed because of rain, it was perhaps appropriate that a race dominated by the weather ended 20 laps short because of another shower late-on.

If anyone questioned whether Buddy Rice was fastest in the 88th Indianapolis 500, it was answered by this observation: at one point, a bad pit stop dropped him from the lead to eighth place. Later, in the span of 19 laps, he went from seventh back into the lead.

Rice took the lead on the 151st lap, held it through a pit-stop cycle during which raindrops threatened to bring out the yellow flag at any time, and held on to win.

When asked if there was a moment in his career that could top winning the Indy 500, Rice couldn't help being a wiseguy. "Let me think about that for a second," Rice said with a grin. "No."

Kanaan finished second, his second consecutive close call at Indy. Last year, he finished third behind Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves. Kanaan also led a 2-3-4 finish by Andretti Green Racing, with Dan Wheldon finishing third and Bryan Herta fourth.

The win and the final boxscore also served as statements of strength by Honda in its battle with Toyota and Chevrolet. Honda didn't just win the 500 for the first time, it swept the top seven finishing positions after taking the top seven positions in qualifying for the race. Bruno Junqueira finished fifth, Vitor Meira sixth and Adrian Fernandez seventh.

Scott Dixon, who finished eighth, drove the highest-finishing Toyota. Alex Barron, 12th, drove the highest-finishing Chevy. Panoz G Force prevailed in the chassis battle with Dallara, putting seven cars in the top 11.

Kanaan admitted afterwards that his car didn't have enough to match Rice. "Great effort, not great enough," Kanaan said. "In my point of view, this race is supposed to be won by the best car and the best driver. I think that was the case today."

Rice, who was let go by Eddie Cheever Jr. with three races left last season, wondered about his future until Rahal contacted him and offered the chance to fill in until Brack returned. After winning the pole position at the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February, it became apparent that Rice would become a more permanent fixture with his new team.

Wheldon, who led three times for 26 of the 180 laps, agreed with Kanaan's assessment that Rice was the car to beat all month. From his pole-winning performance on May 15 to Sunday's impressive display, Rice had the competition's respect. "Buddy was just stellar all month," Wheldon said. "I can't think of a nicer guy outside of our team that I would want to win this race."

Rice took the lead from Kanaan just as Junqueira, who had been the leader, eased into the pits on the 151st lap. The leaders then began to cycle through their final pit stops as a few intermittent raindrops began to fall. First Kanaan pitted, then Wheldon, then Rice.

On the 167th lap, with Rice in the pits and Herta now in the lead, the rain began to steadily increase. When Herta pitted, Fernandez went to the lead. Still, the rain wasn't heavy enough to force a caution period. Finally, when Fernandez rolled into the pits in the 171st lap, Rice was back in the lead. Three laps later, the rain was heavy enough to bring out the yellow flag. Shortly after, with the car safely inside a dry garage, the team was holding a jubilant celebration as Rice climbed from the cockpit.

"He's a guy who people wouldn't give a break to, and here he is," team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. "I believe it's safe to say he was the dominant driver today."

Several drivers led the early portions of the race, which were delayed nearly two hours because of rain. For a time, Wheldon looked strong. For several segments, Sam Hornish Jr. appeared to have the car to beat. When Hornish was caught up in the spinning cars of Greg Ray and Darren Manning, he was officially out of contention.

"A bunch of cars slowed up coming out of four," Hornish explained. "Darren went to the outside of Ray, and Greg just came right up into him. That's the way it looked to me. I was right there with no place to go."

A speedway safety worker, David Stout, was taken to Methodist Hospital for X-Rays on a foot after being struck by one of the cars. The crash, which also ruined an excellent run by Manning, may have set the stage for Rice's return to the fore.

"I don't know what was going on with Greg," said Manning, who was third at the time. "It was almost like his spotter didn't tell him I was there. He kept coming and clipped my left rear. By that time, he should have seen me because I was right up next to him."

The incident also ruined what had, a few laps earlier, been a solid run for Hornish. A bad pit, in which his crew workers had trouble with the vent, forced him to pit twice and dropped Hornish from third to 19th.

"I knew I couldn't leave him out there," said Hornish's car owner, Roger Penske. "We knew there were parts still in there."

When P.J. Jones crashed on the 96th lap, Rice surrendered the lead to Wheldon by pitting. It took him another 93 laps top get back to the front, but he did the bulk of the work in 19 laps, vaulting from seventh to first. "We knew we had done what it takes," Rice said. "We knew we had the fastest car."

Hornish Jr and Manning crash
Previous article

Hornish Jr and Manning crash

Next article

Haas tipped for switch

Haas tipped for switch
How Ericsson achieved Indy immortality as Ganassi's main man stumbled Plus

How Ericsson achieved Indy immortality as Ganassi's main man stumbled

Chip Ganassi Racing team was strong again in the Indianapolis 500, with poleman Scott Dixon and reigning champion Alex Palou leading almost three quarters of the race between them. But when dominator Dixon was penalised for pitlane speeding, ex-Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson stepped up to score the biggest win of his career and seize the IndyCar points lead

May 30, 2022
Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021 Plus

Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021

In an enthralling 2021 IndyCar campaign, the series bounced back from its COVID-19 truncated year prior and Alex Palou defeated both the established order and his fellow young guns to clinch a maiden title. It capped a remarkable season with plenty of standout performers

Nov 21, 2021
How F1's other IndyCar exile finally unlocked his potential Plus

How F1's other IndyCar exile finally unlocked his potential

Romain Grosjean's swashbuckling rookie year in IndyCar captured the imagination of many in 2021. But another ex-Formula 1 driver whose potential was masked by five years of toil in, at best, middling machinery also enjoyed a breakout year in 2021 - winning twice and finishing sixth in points. Here's how Marcus Ericsson finally delivered on his promise

Nov 16, 2021
How Ganassi's relentless new champion outfoxed IndyCar's best Plus

How Ganassi's relentless new champion outfoxed IndyCar's best

IndyCar sophomore Alex Palou stunned by overcoming team-mate Scott Dixon and the rest of a white-hot field in 2021. He was consistently fast and crucially showed a level head, rebounding well from setbacks to put himself in a near unassailable position entering the final round

Nov 4, 2021
Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up? Plus

Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up?

Despite appearing to have an IndyCar job for life with Meyer Shank Racing, Jack Harvey’s departure and move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sparked plenty of debate. However, Harvey's and RLL's combined strengths could prove to be a winning combination - if they get the balance right

Oct 17, 2021
Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing IndyCar win Plus

Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing IndyCar win

Saturday 16 October marks the 10th anniversary of Dan Wheldon’s death. David Malsher-Lopez pays tribute, then asks Wheldon’s race engineer from 2011, Todd Malloy, to recall that magical second victory at the Indianapolis 500

Oct 16, 2021
Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting Plus

Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting

Kyle Kirkwood, the record-setting junior formula driver, sealed the Indy Lights championship last weekend. But despite an absurdly strong junior career and scholarship money, his next move is far from clear

Oct 6, 2021
Why IndyCar title glory is just the start for Ganassi's new star Plus

Why IndyCar title glory is just the start for Ganassi's new star

Newly-crowned IndyCar champion Alex Palou has been lauded as a complete driver and veteran-like in only his second season. The 24-year-old is still in the early days of his career, but the parallels are there for all to see with his six-time champion Chip Ganassi Racing team-mate who has been CGR's team leader since 2014

Sep 28, 2021