I know this post is a little late but it has literally taken me a week to get back to the reality that is life. Last Sunday's Indianapolis 500 Mile Race was one for the ages. Ryan Hunter-Reay squeezed by Helio Castroneves for the win, in what ended up as the second closest finish in the race's 98 year history. Hunter-Reay was the first American to win since 2006 when Sam Hornish, Jr. took the twin checkereds. Leave it to the Americans to win their 500s in dramatic style. Hornish won by passing Marco Andretti on the front stretch on the last lap, mere yards away from the famous yard of bricks. This time, Hunter-Reay and 3-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, exchanged the lead multiple times in the closing laps, with Hunter-Reay taking the lead for the final time in Turn 1 on the last lap.
It was fitting to finally have an American in Victory Lane on Memorial Day weekend. As he stood in Victory Lane, with the Borg-Warner wreath draped around his shoulders, the cold bottle of milk in hand, Hunter-Reay said, "My dream has come true today and I'm a proud American boy, that's for sure. I'm thrilled. This is an American tradition." Don't get me wrong, seeing Tony Kanaan finally win in 2013 was thrilling. I would've loved to have seen Helio become part of the exclusive 4-time winners club. It would've been a great story having Juan Pablo Montoya win after being absent from IndyCar for so long. But there was just something about Hunter-Reay, this was his race. My family and I had the wonderful opportunity of spending some time in the Pagoda on Legends Day. We were enjoying our snacks and cocktails and saw on the track below, Hunter-Reay, his wife Becky, and their son Ryden, having an impromptu photo session along the yard of bricks. The day before the biggest race of his life, Hunter-Reay seemed happy and carefree. It was cool seeing him walk down an empty pit lane, having a moment to himself, taking it all in. My dad and I looked at each other and said "There's your race winner." We just had this feeling, this race was his to win.
One of the great things about Indy, is you can win from any position. So qualifying 19th didn't have a huge effect on Ryan. He played it cool throughout the race, making calm and calculated passes. Then when he cracked the top 10, he knew he had a chance to win. If you weren't there or didn't get a chance to watch the last 20 laps on tv, do me a favor, YouTube it. The entire crowd was on it's feet, holding their collective breath as each lap passed. Who would lead the next lap? Will Helio win? Will Hunter-Reay? Don't count out Marco, that kid has this place figured out. Even with 10 laps to go, there was no clear cut choice as to who was going to win.
I get a mix of emotions whenever May rolls around. I'm so excited when it finally arrives but get so sad when the month ends. That's what the Indianapolis Motor Speedway does to me. It sucks me in, in mind, body, and spirit. I can't wait to spend every free minute I have at the track. I never want to go home when all the hustle is over. I wish I could relive the month of May every month. But that's what makes the Indy 500 special, it only comes once a year. In closing, I'll share my facebook post from the eve of the race, "MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE RACE FANS!! the whole month has been leading up to this single day. one special driver will go down in history as the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. they say the track chooses the winner. i know she'll pick a deserving one. i can not wait to see 33 of the bravest people on the planet, come barreling towards me at over 220+ mph, all fighting for that 1st spot going into turn 1. hold on ladies & gentleman, cuz tomorrows race is sure to be a great one." She sure did pick a great one in Ryan Hunter-Reay.