Honda engines have always been known for their exceptional fuel economy. On Sunday, May 29th, Indy rookie Alexander Rossi stretched his final tank of fuel for 36 laps to the checkers – four more laps than any other competitor – to win the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. On a similar strategy, Carlos Munoz ran an impressive 32 laps after his final fill-up to make it a 1-2 finish for Honda and the Andretti Autosport team.
But Sunday's victory for Rossi and Honda wasn't just about saving fuel. He also turned the fastest lap of the race, at an average of 225.288 mph, with his Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti producing the second-fastest race lap, at 224.772 mph.
The victory was a record-extending 11th for Honda in 16 attempts at the "500", starting in 1994, the most of any major automobile manufacturer.
Honda Racing at Speed: Episode 3
The victory was a record-extending 11th for Honda in 16 attempts at the "500", starting in 1994, the most of any major automobile manufacturer. Rossi was one of seven Honda drivers to lead portions of today's race. Pole qualifier James Hinchclife and outside front-row starter Ryan Hunter-Reay combined to lead all but two of the first 30 laps. Other Honda leaders included Munoz, Townsend Bell, Bryan Clauson and Alex Tagliani.
A series of mid-race incidents led several teams – including those of Rossi, Munoz and Tagliani – to go "off-sequence" on their pit strategy. That proved to be the correct call when Takuma Sato brushed the wall on Lap 163, bringing out the caution flag just inside the final pit window for both Rossi and Munoz. Restarting in seventh and eight, respectively, the pair cycled up the order as the leaders made their final stops for a splash of fuel in the closing laps. It was only on Lap 197 that Rossi assumed the lead, taking the checkers one lap later as the newest American winner of the Indianapolis 500.
Video recaps from Honda racing activities at Indianapolis, including the Indianapolis 500, have been posted on the "Honda Racing/HPD" YouTube channel. Produced by the Carolinas Production Group, the video packages can be found in the 2015 HPD Trackside Video Playlist at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.
Alexander Rossi (#98 Andretti Herta Autosport Honda) started 11th, finished 1st, first rookie 500 winner in 16 years, first IndyCar Series victory: "I have no idea how we pulled that off! We struggled a bit in the early pit stops, but then Bryan [Herta, team co-owner] came up with an unbelievable strategy. Ryan [Hunter-Reay] was incredibly helpful, he gave me a tow at the end to produce an amazing 1-2 result. It's phenomenal. It will change my life, for sure. I have to thank Michael Andretti and Bryan for giving me such a wonderful race car all month. I'll cherish the fact that, at one point, we were last, but we rolled the dice and we came through and made it happen. The [winner's] milk tasted better than anything I've ever had."
Carlos Munoz (#26 Andretti Autosport Honda) started 5th, finished 2nd: "I knew I had the car to win in the first half of the race. I was just holding my position, the engine was pulling so good. But the last part of the race, I was pushing really hard. I was sliding everywhere the last two stints. I was really disappointed to get second, just half a lap short. But man, it was a close one. I am happy for the team, 1-2 for Andretti, 1-2 for Honda. One day, I will win this race."
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on the 11th Honda victory at the Indianapolis 500: "That 100th running of the Indy 500 had a little bit of everything: clean, long runs at the beginning, followed by unfortunate incidents in the pits mid-race, to finish up as a strategy and fuel economy nail-biter – all the things that make Indy car racing exciting. After dominating the first half of the race, it was gratifying to know that we had enough depth to cover both the fuel economy strategy, and the max power strategy. It makes all the incredibly hard work performed by HPD over the past year worthwhile.
Congratulations to Alexander Rossi for an incredible performance in his '500' debut."