Hunter-Reay holds off late charge to win Indy 500

Sun May 25, 2014 5:42pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Ryan Hunter-Reay became the first American in eight years to win the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and denied hard-charging Brazilian Helio Castroneves a record-equaling fourth victory at the Brickyard.

Billed as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," the Indy 500 lived up to the hype with a heart-stopping finish as Hunter-Reay beat Castroneves to the checkered by less than a car length to become the first American winner since Sam Hornish in 2006.

"I've been watching this race since I was in diapers sitting on the floor ... I'm thrilled," said Hunter-Reay after chugging from the traditional quart of cold milk in Victory Lane. "This is American history this race, an American tradition."

Staged on the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Indy 500 may indeed be a uniquely American event but it had taken on an international flair with only two homegrown drivers reaching Victory Lane since 1998.

Hunter-Reay, who started the race well back on the 33-car grid, did not look to be the American driver to end that drought as the race got off to a blistering pace going a record 149 laps without a yellow.

But the 2012 IndyCar champion methodically worked his way through the pack and when a heavy crash by Townsend Bell sprayed debris across the track to bring out the red flag with 10 laps to run the 33-year-old was suddenly in position to take the win.

When the race was restarted with a seething crowd of 250,000 on its feet, Hunter-Reay and Castroneves staged a dramatic two-car duel by swapping the lead over the final six laps.

Stalking Castroneves, Hunter-Reay made the decisive move entering the final lap surging to the front then won a drag race with the Brazilian down the home stretch before punching his fist into the air as he crossed the famous yard of bricks.   Continued...

May 25, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrates after winning the 2014 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports