INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Australia’s Will Power filled the one hole in his resume by winning the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday while Danica Patrick’s ground-breaking career and Helio Castroneves’s shot at Brickyard history both came to a crashing end.
An IndyCar series champion and four times runner-up, Power delivered a cool, calculated drive on a sizzling hot day to reach Victory Lane and give owner Roger Penske his 17th Indy 500 success.
The first Australian to reach Victory Lane at Indy 500 Powers win capped a monumental day for Australian motorsport with Daniel Ricciardo triumphing on the other side of the Atlantic at the Monaco Grand Prix for a sweep of what are arguably the world’s two most prestigious races.
“Unbelievable to be the first Australian to win the 500; maybe they will recognize me down there now,” smiled Power. “I don’t think people know who I am down there.”
Power, who started on the front row, was on the charge after the final caution, coming home ahead of polesitter Ed Carpenter and 2008 winner Scott Dixon of New Zealand.
Patrick, the only woman to win an IndyCar race, had looked to pen a fairytale finish to her career by adding a second victory but could not even make it to the checkered flag, instead slamming nose first into the wall midway through the 200-lap race.
It was the same disappointing end for three-time Brickyard champion Castroneves as he once again failed to capture a record-equalling fourth win in what might have also been his last Indy 500.
The victory capped a perfect month of May for the man from Toowoomba as Power tuned up for the Indy 500 by notching up his 33rd career win with a victory in the Indianapolis Grand Prix run on the Speedway’s road circuit.
Starting on the outside of Row One alongside Carpenter and team mate Simon Pagenaud, Power steered well clear of trouble through seven cautions and then pounced when he had his chance in the final laps.
“Can’t believe I came all the way from Toowoomba to be a professional driver and I never expected to be here,” screamed Power. “I had a great month. I just can’t believe it.
“I was wondering if I would ever win it.
“My career, I’ve had so many wins, so many poles but everyone always talks about the 500 and I just couldn’t imagine winning a race in front of a crowd like this.”
Patrick left her mark on the two biggest and most popular motorsport series in North America, IndyCar and NASCAR, but she could not deliver the Hollywood ending to a story that just might one day end up on the silver screen.
Announcing last November that she would retire, Patrick planned to bring down the curtain on her career with the “Danica Double”, contesting the Daytona and Indy 500s both ending in crashes.
During a 14-year career split between IndyCar and NASCAR it was the Indy 500 that provided most of Patrick’s career highlights and made her one of North America’s most recognizable athletes.
Her third-place finish in 2009 remains the best-ever result by a woman in the Indy 500 while her resume also includes a fourth in 2005 (her rookie debut) and sixth in 2006.
“I’ve had a lot of good fortune here and did still have some this month,” said Patrick. “It just didn’t come on race day but we had some good moments.”
Castroneves, who has moved over to race sports cars for Penske and no longer competes on the IndyCar series, has also made his name at the Brickyard with trips to Victory Lane in 2001, 2002 and 2009.
In more than a century of racing at the famed speedway only three men — A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears — have finished the 500 on Victory Lane four times and Sunday’s race may have been Castroneves’s last shot at joining them.
Penske had said earlier that he would bring Castroneves back for a shot at a record-smashing fifth Indy 500 if the 43-year-old could get his fourth but now his Indy future is in question.
“Please Roger I’ve got to come back,” pleaded Castroneves soon after he climbed out of his wreck.
Additional reporting by Frank Pingue. Editing by Clare Fallon.