Note: With the welcome news that Sonsio is sponsoring the NTT INDYCAR SERIES road race next May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, INDYCAR.com’s Eric Smith takes a look back at his top five moments in the history of the Month of May kickoff race that started in 2014.
5. Standing Start Melee – 2014
The inaugural race on the 2.439-mile road course layout didn’t necessarily get off to a resounding start. The INDYCAR SERIES experimented with standing starts in the 2014 season, and this race may have swayed that thinking for future years.
Greg Ballard, the mayor of Indianapolis at the time, was the honorary starter. When the lights went out to signal the start, pole sitter Sebastian Saavedra immediately stalled. Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin had nowhere to go and hit Saavedra, sparking a massive melee on the famed frontstretch.
While it wasn’t one of the finer moments, it certainly was a moment.
4. McLaren’s Fast Start – 2022
More on this race below, but you also can’t ignore how chaotic this opening lap was. Eight years after the standing start mishap of 2014, we witnessed Pato O’Ward go from fifth to first and his teammate, Felix Rosenqvist, climb from sixth to second by time cars returned to the Yard of Bricks for the first time. Penske teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden battled wheel-to-wheel intensely while Alex Palou and Conor Daly mixed it up to just stay afloat.
3. Pagenaud’s Penske Saving Win – 2019
Coming into the 2019 race, some said Simon Pagenaud’s future with Team Penske was somewhat in doubt. The 2016 series champion was riding a 21-race winless streak with just two podiums and a total of four top-five results in that span.
Then the Frenchman came out and saved his job. Pagenaud catapulted himself from eighth to first and won in the rain to start a historical Month of May when a week later he won the pole for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500. A week after that, Pagenaud completed the sweep by winning “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” too.
2. Grosjean’s Pole – 2021
“It’s like being alive again,” Romain Grosjean said after scoring an upset pole for the 2021 race. Just a few months prior, Grosjean survived a horrific, fiery crash in the third-to-last Formula One race of the 2020 season in Bahrain. Remarkably, he walked away.
While he had severe burns and other injuries, it’s hard to escape the image of him walking through the smoke and flames to safety to then seeing those scarred hands gripping that pole trophy at IMS less than six months later.
1. Herta’s Save – 2022
The 2022 race will go down as arguably one of the best road course races at IMS. A two-hour timed race under cloudy skies with rain falling off and on all race that ended up seeing the checkered flag in one hand of the flagger and the yellow displayed in the other. That came after a race with 31 caution laps and 44 green-flag laps.
That may sound like a miserable afternoon at the Racing Capital of the World. Instead, it was anything but. This race will be discussed years down the road as the one Colton Herta won in the rain.
There were 471 on-track passes in 75 laps. The previous high? 269. Among those 471 passes, 362 were for position. The previous high was 198. Also, 142 of those passes resided in the top 10.
The biggest overtaking move of all was Herta’s pass in the wet while racing on slicks – a maneuver that even made dirt-trackers stand and salute. The way Herta drifted through Turns 8 and 9 were a sight to behold.
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