Alexander Rossi coasted in on fumes this past Sunday, across the yard of bricks and into the history books. Rossi, piloting the No. 98 Napa Auto Parts Andretti Herta Autosport Honda, clinched victory at the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Oil. He is only the 9th rookie to win in a century worth of 500’s and is the first to achieve the feat since 2001, when Helio Castroneves claimed the glory.
Fuel-saving strategy that would even make Scott Dixon jealous, was practiced by Rossi and his team leading up to the biggest race in motorsports. They say that practice makes perfect but a race team has so many constantly moving parts, that certainly we can’t attribute a single factor to success. Especially when it comes to the Indianapolis 500.
The idea that the track herself picks the winner each year is a commonplace thought amongst the IndyCar world. So if we trust in that, who is to say that other inexplicable forces don’t play a part in the outcome every Memorial Day weekend?
Within minutes of Rossi’s win, those of us who have been around this series for even the past decade, started to make the connections between this 500 win and Dan Wheldon’s second and final 500 win in 2011. Let’s take a look at the facts:
- Wheldon and Rossi won the Indianapolis 500 on the 100th Anniversary of the first running and the 100th Running of the race, respectively.
- Both of the above mentioned contests occurred on May 29th.
- Wheldon and Rossi both drove the No. 98 to victory in surprising fashion.
- Wheldon and Rossi both won with Honda-powered beasts
- Wheldon’s 2011 win came with Bryan Herta Autosport and he was reported to have signed with Andretti Autosport for a full-time ride in 2012. Tragically, he lost his life before that deal came to fruition; Rossi’s 2016 win came with Andretti Herta Autosport, the merged entity of Wheldon’s last two teams.
- Wheldon was competing as a one-off ride in the 500 in 2011 and therefore, was automatically considered an underdog. During the off-season, Rossi discussed the learning curve he would have with running ovals as an IndyCar rookie – making him a definite underdog coming into the most prestigious oval race in motorsports. Both Wheldon and Rossi came out victorious.
I am sure there are similarities between these two and these instances that I have missed, so please feel free to tweet my way with what you might have noticed!
Oddly enough, I had a conversation earlier in the month as well as race morning with a good friend, about Dan Wheldon. We talked about how many moments we noticed his influence, as it were, while at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month of May, and in regards to instances that acknowledged him. From barcodes to the perfect-raceday-weather that was the opposite of all meteorological forecasts… my friend and I smiled and thought the same thing, saying: “He’s here. He’s definitely here. There’s no such thing as coincidence.”
Then, amongst the crowd of over 350,000+ people, somehow she and I ran into each other after the race… both of us smiling again and saying in sync as we walked towards one another, “No such thing as coincidence!” No matter what you believe, it’s not hard to imagine that Dan had some kind of say in how Sunday turned out. His way of letting us all know he was still around in some capacity. Maybe it’s naive of me to think that, or childish to believe in such things, but guess what? I do. And I will not apologize for it… in particular when it comes to all of these things converging at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I’ve mentioned many times how there is just “something about this place”, and it’s comforting to think that that connection, to the events and the drivers who now live on in legend, stay with us on some level, forever.
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