Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Date: Sunday, May 27, 2000
Start time: 11:00 AM CDT
Weather: Cloudy, humid, cool
IRL historical: #4 of 10 in 2001 season, IRL race #47 overall
Track historical: IRL race #6, Indy car race #85 at this track (not counting pre-1911 races)
Track configuration: 2.5-mile, rectanglar
Wing package: speedway
The 85th Indy 500 saw many surprises, but one thing remained the same as last year: a team from CART came in and ran off with the Borg-Warner. Competitors arrived in May to find a few facility improvements including a new flag stand with a space-age cantilevered design, replacing the old tower-style stand. For the first time in several years, qualifying returned to a two-weekend format, with two days the first weekend and Bump Day standing alone the second weekend. Speeds rose rapidly as practice and qualifying progressed, ending with Scott Sharp taking the pole with an astounding 226.037 run, an all-time record for the IRNLS new-car formula introduced in 1997. Greg Ray and his last year's teammate Robby Gordon (now driving for the Foyt team) filled out the front row. For the first time since 1995, an Andretti was in the field, as CART's Team Green contracted with Panther to supply a turnkey car for Michael Andretti. Roger Penske also put cars in the field for the first time since 1994 (when he won the race with Al Unser Jr.); Gil de Ferran qualified fifth for his second 500 with hopes of lasting longer than in his first one (in 1995, when he was eliminated in a first-lap crash). Bump Day was the most exciting in years, as five cars were bumped, two other completed runs were too slow, and three drivers -- Andretti, Buzz Calkins, and Eddie Cheever withdrew qualified cars that they thought were too slow (in all three cases, they were right) and re-qualified backup cars at faster speeds. (Cheever struggled all month with mysterious alternators problems in his new Infiniti 35A engines, which were making their first Indy appearance; the alternators had regulation problems and kept burning out the car's electronics.) The CART Ganassi team also turned up to defend its race title, unfortunately without the previous year's winner, Juan Montoya, who had gone over to Formula 1. In a bizarre turn of events, the team started the month with two drivers who were both rookies to Indy racing, those being its two new CART drivers Bruno Junqueria (the previous year's international F3000 champion) and Nicolas Minassian. Just before qualifying, the team concluded that both drivers were too slow and put together a last-minute deal to substitute two veterans. At considerable cost, they obtained permission to put their former Jimmy Vasser in Junqueria's car, and signed a deal with NASCAR's Joe Gibbs and Home Depot to put former IRNLS champion Tony Stewart in Minassian's car. Both drivers qualified easily the first day. So the second weekend the team decided to give their rookies another shot with the T-cars. Somewhat surprisingly, both got up to speed and qualified, leaving the team scrambling to put together a four-car effort for race day.
Unfortunately, several IRNLS regular teams didn't make the race, and in some cases this proved to be their swan song. Dick Simon's team, operating with little funding since the unexpected loss of its primary sponsor at the begnning of the season, couldn't get a car up to speed with either Stephan Gregoire or Roberto Guerrero (Gregoire eventually qualfied a Heritage T-car) and the loss of income caused the team to fold after the race. (This was a particular tearjerker since Simon had loaned a car at the beginning of practice to Lyn St. James, so that she could take a few ceremonial hot laps, after which she climbed from the car and announced her retirement.) Lee Brayton entered two cars from his engine shop, with Steve Knapp and Memo Gidley up; neither of them made the show. And for the second year in a row, Tyce Carlson was injured in practice and unable to qualify. A happier story was that of Airton Dare, who was bumped out of the field on Bump Day but bumped his way back in in his T-car. Billy Boat survived an hour on the bubble at the end of Bump Day to take the last qualifying spot. Donnie Beechler got in a Foyt T-car at the last minute and qualified at a speed only 1/2 MPH slower than his teammate Gordon's front row speed. The Treadway team made three qualifying runs with their rookie Felipe Giaffone supplanted with veteran Raul Boesel and the out-of-retirement Arie Luyendyk; when Giaffone subsequently got bumped, the IRNLS granted the team permission to substitute Giaffone in Boesel's car (normally rookies are not permitted to substitute for other drivers at Indy) and Boesel, having done his job well, was out of his ride. Luyendyk qualified safely but appeared rusty, having not driven an Indy car in two years.
Perhaps this slight explains the ugly events of race day. The day dawned cloudy and cool, and many expressed concern about tire temperatures and grip, recalling the near-disasterous 1992 race which was run in cold weather. They had good reason to be concerned, as it turned out. Incredibly, in turn 1 of the first lap, polesitter Sharp's car wiggled, and then when he tried to save it, it took a right turn into the wall. Sharp was unhurt, but he took an ignominous place in history as the first polesitter ever to fail to complete a lap. During the ensuing caution several cars made pit stops as a precautionary measure; it was a good thing in Jaret Schroeder's case as his crew found a cut in his right front tire. The green waved on lap 7 but right away there was another crash, as Sarah Fisher appeared to drive below the line in turn 2 and spun, collecting Scott Goodyear (driving a backup car for Eddie Cheever). Fisher was unhurt but Goodyear suffered a season-ending back injury. During this pit stop Buddy Lazier pitted with a flat engine; the crew changed the engine computer but to no avail. And it wasn't over yet: the green waved on lap 17, but only for a few seconds as Sam Hornish spun in front of the pack exiting turn 4. Cars went everywhere trying to avoid Hornish, and the unlucky Al Unser ran out of room and hit the outside wall. Hornish took no damage but lost several laps being towed back to the pits so that his engine could be restarted.
Finally on lap 21 the race got under way in earnest, with Gordon leading Ray, de Ferran, Dismore, Luyendyk, and Jeff Ward. Ray got the jump and passed Gordon going into turn 1 to take the lead. Meanwhile Andretti pitted, thinking he had a flat tire, but it turned out to just be more of the same problem with cold tires. And, Jaques Lazier pitted with a broken gearbox, which had to be changed. By lap 25 Ray led a bit over Gordon, while Buzz Calkins had moved up to 12th and Boat had advanced from his last starting position to 18th. But then the pack started to gain and Gordon challenged for the lead, while de Ferran and Dismore gained on them. Ward passed Luyendyk to move into the top-5 on lap 28, followed by Buhl on the next lap, and it became apparent that Luyendyk, who was reporting having a severe push, was holding up faster cars. On lap 30 the running order was Ray, Gordon, de Ferran, Dismore, Ward, Robbie Buhl, Luyendyk, Helio Castroneves (in the other Penske car), Stewart, and Vasser.
On lap 32, with the leaders in traffic, Gordon dived under Ray to take the lead in turn 1, but Ray retook it on the back stretch. The next lap Gordon got tied up behind a lapped car and Ray sped ahead to a 1.5 second lead. None of the leaders had pitted during any of the early cautions, and so by lap 38 green flag pit stops began. Buhl made a routine stop on this lap, bringing Cheever into the top-10. On the next lap Cheever pitted, but his crew had a problem with the right rear tire and Cheever lost time to the field. The following lap, Gordon pitted, and his crew had problems with the fuel nozzle and he also lost time. Dismore, de Ferran, and several others made routine stops; Minassian pitted but was unable to select the correct gear at the end of his stop and his engine stalled. (He would later retire due to gearbox problems.) On lap 46, Ray pitted, handing the lead to Stewart, his first laps led in the IRNLS since 1998. He pitted on the next lap, handing the lead to Luyendyk. On the following lap, he in turn pitted, and for the first time in many years an Andretti led at Indy as Michael assumed the lead. That lasted until lap 53, when he pitted.
The lead at this point cycled around to Dismore, with Ray in second, followed by de Ferran, Ward, Castroneves, and Buhl. Dismore proceeded to stretch out a lead of over five seconds and clearly was the class of the field at this point. On lap 60 de Ferran reeled in Ray and they dueled for second, while Castroneves and Buhl engaged in an ongoing battle that would go on for most of the day between those two. The overcast was getting heavier and reports began coming in of rain near the track. By lap 69, with the long stretch of very fast green-flag action, the field needed to pit again. Buhl and Gordon went first, and Dismore pitted on the next lap handing the lead to Ray. Unfortunately, after his pit stop Dismore reported not being able to get the gearbox past 4th gear; he nonetheless continued to turn very fast laps. de Ferran and Ward pitted on lap 74. Castroneves made a routine stop on lap 78, and then Ray and Stewart on lap 80 handing the lead back to Andretti. Stewart stalled his engine and lost some time.
On lap 83, Andretti, after waiting as long as possible to see if it would rain, finally pitted, handing the lead back to Dismore. The Hoosier continued clocking very fast laps despite not having a high gear. On lap 87 Gregoire pitted with an oil leak, and three laps later a yellow was throw because of the oil. This was where things went bad for Dismore. After the leaders pitted, with Dismore emerging with the lead, his team asked him to try to force his gearbox into 5th. When he did so, the gearbox broke, and under caution Dismore coasted back into the pits with no drive. Schroeder meanwhile was having the opposite problem: his gearbox was stuck in 6th, making pit stops rather difficult. Robby McGehee's team reported having no radio with their driver. With Dismore going to the garage, Ray assumed the lead with Andretti in tow. As the green flew on lap 96, dark clouds appeared to the west. Ray, assuming that rain might end the race, charged off and ran the fastest laps he was capable of, with Andretti applying the pressure. However, Ray had some bad information: weather radar showed not a massive storm system but only a small line that would pass over. Pushing his car too hard, Ray pushed up into the wall exiting turn 4 on lap 103, and Andretti slipped by into the lead as Ray slowed with suspension damage. Even then, the sitiuation might have been salvagable with a caution flag, but that caution came when Jon Herb hit Ray in the rear on lap 107, causing further damage and putting Ray out of contention.
The leaders all pitted during this caution. Cheever never re-emerged: his car had once again suffered the peculiar alternator problem that the 35A Infiniti had been having all month, and all of his car's electronics were malfunctioning. Ward unfortunately had his gearbox break during his pit stop; his crew changed it but he lost many laps. During the caution it began to rain at the north end of the track. However, as the weather radar had indicated, the shower passed over in a few minutes and the track dried quickly. The green waved on lap 119 with de Ferran leading his teammate Castroneves, the first time since 1994 that a car owned by Roger Penske had led at Indy. de Ferran quickly built a 2.5 second lead, which was erased when rookie Cory Witherill cut down a tire and spun in turn 4, bringing out a caution. Witherill hit nothing and returned to the race after a pit stop for new tires.
During this caution all of the leaders pitted. Stewart got a good stop, but in exiting the pits he was cut off by the Penske cars who both drove directly into the rightmost lane of the pit road from their pits. In the resulting traffic jam-up, Andretti drove into the rear of Stewart's car. Stewart suffered no damage but Andretti's left front wing was cracked; nonetheless, he continued. The IRL penalized the Penske cars, moving them into second and third behind Stewart. The green waved on lap 139 with Stewart leading Castroneves, de Ferran, Andretti, and Buhl; Vasser and Junqueria held down the next two spots, followed by the Foyt cars of Beechler and Gordon, both of whom had made up laps thanks to the last caution. Beechler looked to have a fast car and he quickly began harassing the two Ganassi cars in front of him, passing Vasser for 7th, but on lap 148 his oil cooler sprung a leak, bringing out a yellow and putting Beechler out of contention. The caution was a huge break for Andretti, whose front wing was falling apart; he pitted and the efficient Green and Panther crews installed a new nose without losing a lap. Stewart also pitted, trying to play some fuel strategy. On lap 155, with the field still under yellow, it began to rain again and the race was red flagged.
An unusual scene took place during the red flag. Stewart was reporting severe leg cramps, and after being helped from his car, he was taken to the infield hospital for treatment. After an IV and some massage, he returned to his car. (The team had IRNLS and CART veteran Ritchie Hearn standing by just in case.) Again the shower passed over quickly and after 17 minutes, the race resumed under yellow. Under Indy 500 rules, teams are not allowed to work on cars during a red flag (different from other IRNLS events), but the Foyt team changed Gordon's oil cooler on suspicion that it might have the same problem as Beechler's, so Gordon was assessed a drive-through penalty before the restart. On lap 158, the green finally flew with Castroneves leading Buhl, who appeared to have the faster car. Castroneves made multiple moves over the next several laps as Buhl, one of the few IRNLS regulars still running near the front, pleaded with IRNLS officials to impose a penalty for blocking. On lap 166 Buhl spun exiting turn 2 and backed into the inside wall. The car was towed back to the pits and repaired, but Buhl was out of contention.
Everyone took advantage to make their final pit stops of the day, which wiped out the fuel strategy that Andretti and Stewart might have otherwise gained an advantage with. The green waved on lap 171 with Castroneves leading his teammate de Ferran, Andretti, Junqueria, Stewart, and Vasser; the other remaining cars on the lead lap were Gordon followed by Davey Hamilton, Eliseo Salazar, and Airton Dare, all of whom had made up laps under the last caution. Hamilton appeared to have a fast car after the green, but the incredible string of events that had befallen the IRNLS regulars continued; his engine blew on lap 183. Two laps later, Gordon lost his engine. At this point, it was nearly all over. de Ferran's car appeared to be not as good as it had been earlier, and Castroneves drove away to the victory. Helio delighted the crowd by parking his car at the start-finish line after the cooldown lap and performing his trademark fence-climbing routine before proceeding to Victory Lane.
For the second year in a row the Indy 500 was won by a CART regular, and the defeat was totally humiliating as no IRNLS regular finished in the top-5; Eliseo Salazar was the highest-finishing one in 7th and one of only two (Dare being the other) to finish on the lead lap. Indy car rookie Junqueria finished a very respectable 5th, and Stewart headed off to Charlotte for another 600 miles of racing with a 6th-place finish having completed all 500 miles at Indy. The IRNLS regular teams were left to ponder issues of preparation and performance under pressure, as well as a certain amount of luck.
Fin St Qual Car C/E/T Driver Entrant Laps Status Laps Pts Spd # Led 1 11 224.144 68 D/A/F Helio Castroneves Penske 200 Running 52 52 2 5 224.407 66 D/A/F Gil de Ferran Penske 200 Running 27 40 3 21 223.441 39 D/A/F Michael Andretti Panther 200 Running 16 35 4 12 223.455 44 G/A/F Jimmy Vasser Ganassi 200 Running 32 5 20 224.208 50 G/A/F Bruno Junqueria Ganassi 200 Running 30 6 7 224.251 33 G/A/F Tony Stewart Ganassi 200 Running 13 28 7 28 223.740 14 D/A/F Eliseo Salazar Foyt 199 Running 26 8 30 222.236 88 G/A/F Airton Dare Xtreme 199 Running 24 9 32 221.528 98 D/A/F Billy Boat Beck 199 Running 22 10 33 221.879 21 G/A/F Felipe Giaffone Treadway 199 Running 20 11 14 222.607 10 D/A/F Robby McGehee Cahill 199 Running 19 12 24 222.467 12 D/A/F Buzz Calkins Bradley 198 Running 18 13 6 224.258 5 G/A/F Arie Luyendyk Treadway 198 Running 1 17 14 13 223.344 4 D/A/F Sam Hornish Panther 196 Running 16 15 9 224.214 24 G/I/F Robbie Buhl D&R 196 Running 15 16 4 224.964 28 D/A/F Mark Dismore Kelley 195 Running 29 14 17 2 225.194 2 D/A/F Greg Ray Menard 192 Running 40 13 18 10 224.194 91 D/A/F Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn 192 Running 12 19 31 221.621 16 G/A/F Cory Witherill Indy RÕgcy 187 Running 11 20 23 222.786 9 D/A/F Jaret Schroeder PDM 187 Running 10 21 3 224.994 41 D/A/F Robby Gordon Foyt 184 Engine 22 9 22 17 222.398 77 G/A/F Jaques Lazier Xtreme 183 Running 8 23 26 221.696 99 D/A/F Davey Hamilton Schmidt 182 Valve 7 24 8 224.228 35 G/A/F Jeff Ward Heritage 168 Running 6 25 27 224.449 84 D/A/F Donnie Beechler Foyt 160 Oil Leak 5 26 25 222.152 51 D/I/F Eddie Cheever Cheever 108 Alternator 4 27 18 222.015 6 D/A/F Jon Herb Tristar 104 Crash T1 3 28 29 222.888 36 G/A/F Stephan Gregoire Heritage 86 Oil Leak 2 29 22 223.006 49 G/A/F Nicolas Minassian Ganassi 74 Gearbox 1 30 19 221.616 3 G/A/F Al Unser Galles 16 Crash T4 1 31 15 222.548 15 D/A/F Sarah Fisher Walker 7 Crash T1 1 32 15 222.529 52 D/I/F Scott Goodyear Cheever 7 Crash T1 1 33 1 226.037 8 D/A/F Scott Sharp Kelley 0 Crash T1 1The #21 car was qualified in 31st position by Raul Boesel; Felipe Giaffone was substituted after qualifying. By rule, the car was moved to 33rd starting position.
Laps under green: 143 of 200 laps (71.5%)
Caution flags: 8 for 57 laps (28.5%)
#1: lap 1, crash (Sharp), T1, 5 laps
#2: lap 8, crash (Fisher, Goodyear), T1, 9 laps
#3: lap 17, spin/crash (Hornish, Unser), T4, 5 laps
#4: lap 90, oil on track, 6 laps [during caution: stalled car (Dismore), T3]
#5: lap 107, crash (Herb), T3, 12 laps
#6: lap 134, crash (Ray, Witherill), T4, 5 laps
#7: lap 148, rain, 10 laps
#8: lap 166, crash (Buhl), T2, 5 laps
Red flags: 1 for 17 minutes
#1: lap 155, rain, 00:17
Lead changes: 13, number of different leaders: 8
St: Gordon 1-22
#1: Ray 23-45
#2: Stewart 46
#3: Luyendyk 47
#4: Andretti 48-52
#5: Dismore 53-74
#6: Ray 75-80
#7: Andretti 81-84
#8: Dismore 85-91
#9: Ray 92-102
#10: Andretti 103-109
#11: de Ferran 110-136
#12: Stewart 137-148
#13: Castroneves 149-200
C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 20 / 17.4
G-Force: 13 / 16.4
Aurora: 30 / 16.3
Infiniti: 3 / 24.3
Firestone: 33 / 17.0