Not every lap is going to have a pass for the lead. Not every race is going to have an iconic moment. Not every race is going to have a classic photo finish. Sometimes, races have to finish under caution contrary to what the brain trust in Charlotte/Daytona believes.
Sunday’s 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 had 22 lead changes, multiple strategies, brutal wrecks, a duel between two of the sports best and a very likable winner.
Yet, all people want to focus on is the race finishing under the yellow flag.
It’s Ok To Have A Caution Finish
Green flag finishes are a privilege, not a a right when it comes to IndyCar. While the series would love for a green flag finish at times they simply aren’t capable of making that happen. Sunday was one of those days.
With 4 laps left in the race Spencer Pigot spun off turn 4 resulting in a massive shunt with the pit wall attenuator. A violent wreck that sent Pigot’s #45 car back onto the front stretch spreading debris every where.
Fans begged for a red flag to avoid a yellow flag finish. Ultimately IndyCar decided a there weren’t enough laps left for a red flag finish. With realistically only 1 lap left after the red flag combined with the estimated 45 minute repair to the attenuator the correct call was made to finish the race under yellow.
This isn’t NASCAR, there are no green-white-checker overtime finishes in IndyCar. The advertised race distance is 500 miles, the race ends at the completion of 500 miles. This isn’t the Indianapolis 505 or the Indianapolis 512.5. Respect the race distance.
Let’s say IndyCar does red flag the race and they do run a 1-lap shootout. Takuma as the leader is a sitting duck on the restart. Scott Dixon would have gotten a massive tow down the front stretch, rocketed by Sato and won the race. Sato would have had no chance to counter and that’s unfair when you consider how hard Takuma worked in traffic before the caution to put space between himself and Dixon.
It Doesn’t Take Away From Takuma’s Win
Dario Franchitti is a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. All three of his wins came under caution.
Dale Earnhardt won his only Daytona 500 under caution.
Takuma winning his second Indianapolis 500, this time under caution doesn’t belittle the accomplishment. Sato earned his win on Sunday, he bided his time and when it mattered he and his RLL team made the right calls. Dixon and Ganassi perhaps played it too cautious at the end.
Sunday’s race was also the first caution flag finish since 2013 when Tony Kannan won. This isn’t an issue, respecting the race distance is the correct call.
Regardless of how you feel about the caution flag finish, Takuma Sato is a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. His face is now forever on the Borg-Warner Trophy twice.
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