Castroneves overcomes crash-marred field for Indy win
INDIANAPOLIS (CNNSI.com) -- Make no mistake. The Indianapolis 500 still belongs to Roger Penske.
A 26-year-old Indy rookie, Helio Castroneves, led teammate and fellow Brazilian Gil de Ferran in a 1-2 Penske finish, giving The Captain a triumphant return Sunday to the 500-mile race.
"It's the best of my life, redeeming myself like this," said Penske, following a record 11th victory at Indy after failing to put any drivers in the race in 1995 and a five-year boycott by Championship Auto Racing Teams.
Pole-sitter Scott Sharp crashed just seconds into Sunday's race, failing to get through two turns and setting the tone for a haphazard start that also took out Sarah Fisher, Scott Goodyear and Al Unser Jr. in the first 17 laps.
Goodyear, twice a runner-up at Indy, fractured his lower back and hospitalized overnight.
"It just snapped right on me," said Sharp, who seemed to cause his own problems when he went too low in the first turn. "I thought I caught it, but I didn't."
Sharp was the fifth pole winner to finish last in the Indy 500 -- and the second in a row. Greg Ray went out last year after twice putting his machine into the wall.
Indianapolis 500 Capsule
Robbie Buhl, running second with fewer than 40 laps to go, hit the wall coming out of the second turn, putting Gil de Ferran behind Helio Castroneves under the yellow. All the leaders then made pit stops.
Castroneves and de Ferran kept the lead and were battling almost side-by-side when the green came out starting the 172nd lap. Buhl was back in the race, but three laps behind the leaders.
With 20 laps to go, Castroneves had a lead of 1.35 seconds over de Ferran and 4.14 seconds over Andretti.
Andretti cut his deficit to 1.8 seconds with 10 laps remaining but was slowed by traffic and fell well off the pace.
Helio Castroneves had a 0.11-second lead over Robbie Buhl after 160 laps.
The race was stopped for almost 17 minutes by rain after 155 laps -- 387.5 miles -- with Castroneves in the lead ahead of Buhl. All cars then came into the pits to wait for the restart. The cars returned under the yellow, and the green came out starting the 158th lap.
Earlier, teammates Gil de Ferran and Castroneves were running 1-2, about nine seconds ahead of Michael Andretti, when a spin by rookie Cory Witherill brought the yellow out. The top six cars came in for pit stops during the yellow, and Tony Stewart got out first to take the lead.
On the 140th lap, Andretti passed de Ferran to move into third. Buhl then passed de Ferran for fourth and moved past Andretti after lap 145 for third place.
Stewart came in for a pit stop when a blown engine by Donnie Beechler brought out the yellow again, giving the lead to Castroneves.
Andretti came in to have his car's damaged nose replaced and dropped to eighth. Billy Boat, who started 32nd, was up to 10th.
Gil De Ferran had a 1.03-second lead over Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, with Michael Andretti close behind, after 120 laps. Only the top eight were on the lead lap.
Greg Ray earlier had just over a half-second lead over Andretti as a few raindrops began falling. By the next lap, Andretti cut the lead to .3 second, with both leaders well ahead of de Ferran.
At the halfway point -- 100 laps -- Ray's lead was 0.17 seconds, but Ray began slowing and Andretti passed him for the lead.
Andretti's lead was almost 14 seconds over de Ferran when the yellow came out for a crash by rookie Jon Herb. Andretti pitted during the yellow, giving the lead to de Ferran as rain began falling harder. The cars remained on the track and the rain stopped before 300 miles.
Greg Ray held a 3.43-second lead over Michael Andretti after 80 laps.
Scott Goodyear, knocked out of the race during one of the early crashes, was taken to the hospital for X-rays, but Sam Hornish Jr. was able to continue and was running 26th.
The early leaders began taking pit stops shortly after 100 miles, putting Tony Stewart, Arie Luyendyk, Andretti and then Mark Dismore at the front.
By the 62nd lap, Dismore held a 1.4-second lead over Ray and widened the gap to as much as 8 seconds before pitting on the 74th lap, putting Ray back in front.
Rookie Felipe Giaffone, who started 33rd, was up to eighth.
Three crashes in the first 17 laps marred the start of the race.
Pole-starter Scott Sharp was the first out, crashing against the wall only seconds after the start.
On the eighth lap, Sarah Fisher crashed, taking Scott Goodyear out with her.
On the first lap after the next restart, Sam Hornish Jr. crashed and knocked out Al Unser Jr. All three crashes occurred when the cars lost traction on cold tires.
Greg Ray passed Robby Gordon and took the lead on the 22nd lap. After 40 laps -- 100 miles -- Ray's lead over Gordon was 4.58 seconds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.