Kurt Verlin
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Hélio Castroneves Wins Fourth Indy 500

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Castroneves kissing the bricks
Photo: Honda

Hélio Castroneves today became the fourth-oldest driver to win the Indy 500 and joined an exclusive club of only four drivers to have won the prestigious race four times. We’d say he really liked the number four if he wasn’t so good at finishing first.

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The Indy 500 welcomed one of the biggest crowds since COVID-19 restrictions began. At only 40 percent capacity, the stands held about 135,000 people, few of who were wearing masks despite the assurance of IMS officials that “mask ambassadors” would enforce the rules.

In any case, the fans were treated to a show. The 105th running of the Indy 500 was full of action from start to finish, with only two cautions slowing proceedings. In fact, it was the fastest Indianapolis 500 race in history with an average speed of 190.690 mph, breaking the previous record of 187.433 set in 2013.

At 46, Castroneves would later say that 2021 “might be the year for aging veterans,” comparing his achievement at the Brickyard to Tom Brady’s success in the Super Bowl and Phil Mickelson’s in the PGA Championship. “I’ve run two races this year and won two races, I’d say that’s pretty good,” he added.

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Castroneves and Palou at the finish line
Photo: Honda

His win, which gave Honda its 14th at the Indy 500, certainly provided a contrast to the start of the 2021 IndyCar season. So far, six drivers including Castroneves have won the first six races, four of which were age 24 or younger, and three of which were first-time winners.

One of them, Alex Palou, was in duel with Castroneves for much of the race, and finished less than half a second behind the Brazilian driver to take silver. “It hurts. It hurts a lot. I didn’t expect a second place to hurt that much,” said Palou, despite taking the lead in the IndyCar drivers’ championship.

Palou may take solace in knowing that Castroneves has three runner-up finishes of his own at the Indy 500. If you’re at the front of the pack often enough, the wins come eventually.