An Indianapolis 500 Like No Other

The Indianapolis 500 starting grid on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (IndyCar Photo)

It was an Indianapolis 500 like no other as 14 different drivers led a lap breaking the previous record of 12 established in 1993.

“That is the way it is and that is our new series with the new cars and all of the teams being ready for this,” said three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford. “I thought it was a good omen for the IndyCar Series.

“I think it was perfect. TK struggled here and did the best he could but today was his day and it was meant to be. When I brought the Pace Car down with three laps to go I didn’t think I would be parked very long. It was sad it unfolded that way but it’s great for TK. He is going to be a great winner.”

It was also the final Indianapolis 500 for Al Speyer, the head of Firestone’s Racing operation who will leave his position after the IndyCar race at Texas in June.

“Awesome race with a lot of records – that’s awesome,” Speyer said. “From my standpoint it was a safe race and nobody got hurt There were people battling all over the track and it doesn’t get any better than that. I couldn’t be happier. It’s a perfect way to ease out of the sport.”

And for rookie driver Carlos Munoz of Colombia, his first IndyCar Series race nearly ended in victory as he started second and finished second.

“I had a great car and it was a fun race,” Munoz said. “I have my flight tomorrow. I guess I have to stay now if I’m Rookie of the Year. It’s a shame that I couldn’t do what Juan Pablo Montoya did in his first race by winning it. This means a lot. Maybe in the future I will fight for a win here.”

It was also an Indy 500 like no other for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Corporation. Despite some gaps of empty seats that were visible in the Tower Terrace and the lower rows of the short chutes, there were still over a quarter-million people at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday as the track management is in another transition period.

“Hugely competitive,” IMS CEO Jeff Belskus said of the race. “This new equipment is very raceable and it was fun to watch. That was one of the most exciting races I’ve seen. TK is a popular champion and very deserving and a great race car driver. To be the 100th face on the Borg Warner Trophy, it’s such an iconic part of this race and facility and very important to the Indianapolis 500. It’s been here for many years and will continue many years into the future. It’s one of the most recognized trophies in sports.”

It was also the first Indianapolis 500 with Mark Miles at the helm as the CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns both the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It’s hard to be better,” Miles said. “I woke up this morning pessimistic about the weather but it held off. What a race. It was unbelievable. And what a great champion and a great story. People will be talking about this race for a long time. I don’t think a fifth of today’s TV rating and a fifth of today’s crowd would be a very nice crowd at other IndyCar races so I believe those are achievable goals.”

For one day out of the year the Indianapolis 500 is the biggest sporting event on earth and it rules the day. And with an Indianapolis 500 like no other that was certainly the case on May 26 at the 97th Indianapolis 500.