Speaking of potential repeats, should Ed Carpenter earn
the pole for the 2015 Indy 500, he’ll be the first driver to take
three consecutive No. 1 starting spots in the race’s history.
Foot to the floor, they played games with
each other, confident in their own and
each other’s skill, knowing it was magical
without thinking it.
When you’re on the edge at Indy and it
feels just right, it can be difficult to
acknowledge. Both drivers were strong
throughout the month, even if Hunter-Reay
qualified only 19th in the 33-car field.
“It’s tough at Indy to know when your
car is perfect,” says Hunter-Reay.
“Sometimes you pick up a tailwind on
one end of the track and you then face a
headwind at the other. Sometimes those
two feelings are completely opposite,
but the setup is so good that it works for
both sides. That’s what we had there last
year. It was that good.”
But then it comes to the race, when
unsettling turbulence takes over and the
mayhem of avoiding others begins. You’re
passing and being passed, and each move
able to put ourselves in a great position
to win. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our day.”
And unfortunately, it’s rarely the way it
was for both drivers last May. More often
than not, cars aren’t perfect at the Brickyard.
“I’ve been on the sketchy side of it as
well,” Hunter-Reay says. “The car just
won’t perform, and the gun’s to your
head. It’s not fun. You just have to control
your emotions and your thoughts and
keep your foot in it. When the car has an
aero imbalance at Indy, it’s one of the
worst feelings in racing.”
But when it’s good, it’s magnificent.
Actions slow down and become easy and
unhurried. To Hunter-Reay, the feeling is
similar to swinging a bat and hitting the
ball so precise and easily that it feels as if
nothing was struck at all. Imagine hitting
that sweet spot swing after swing and
then being told to stop. Sit down. Wait.
When you start swinging again in a few
(BELOW) Hunter-Reay uses the universal language of racers to describe
his car’s handling for teammates Marco Andretti (left) and Carlos Munoz.
(BOTTOM and RIGHT) On race day, car and result were both perfect.
changes the invisible wall of air on your
wings. You’re making decisions faster
than you can blink, decisions that can
lead to disaster or victory. Qualifying is
one thing – just you, the machine, the
weather and the asphalt. The race is a
million other things altogether. And all
at once. Constantly.
“It was definitely unbelievable,”
Castroneves says. “It was frustrating to
be so close to something that only a few
guys have done [a fourth win], but I didn’t
take it for granted. We dodged and
avoided a few issues out there and were
“IT CONTINUED TO HAPPEN, TURN
AFTER TURN. THE LAST SEVEN LAPS
FELT LIKE THEY TOOK A HALF-HOUR.
HELIO AND I WERE INCHES APART”
In the 98 Indianapolis
500s run, there
have only been five
Could Ryan Hunter-Reay be the sixth?
Wilbur Shaw (ABOVE)
was the first, adding
in 1939-’ 40 to his ’ 37
win. He was followed
by Mauri Rose (1947-
’ 48), Bill Vukovich
(1953-’ 54) and
Al Unser (1970-’71).
Helio Castroneves is
the newest member
of the club, thanks to
wins in 2001-’02. But
Helio’s win in ’09 puts
him in range of an
even more exclusive
club – the four-time
winners (see page 38).
INDY’S BACK TO