Pruett’s cooldown lap: Indy 500

Josef Newgarden is the one credited with the victory at the 108th Indianapolis 500, but I left the track late Sunday night as rain, thunder, and lightning lit up the skies, with the firm belief that IndyCar, Penske Entertainment and 300,000-plus devout fans who braved an exceptionally long day were the biggest winners of the event.

I feared the long weather delay would kill the TV ratings for the 500 as well, but it was actually up eight percent for viewers over 2023 and had the race’s largest streaming audience to date, so even that was a huge win for the series and NBC.

The hyper aggression from lap 1 onwards, and those insane restarts afterwards made for one of the most exciting start-to-finish 500s I can remember. My only concern is for any newcomers who attended the race or watched it from home for the first time…this was about as good as it gets, so please don’t be disappointed if the 2025 edition isn’t as crazy as what just happened on Sunday.


Bravo to everyone — including those daredevils in the cars — who put on an Indy 500 for the ages.


It’s a short week with practice kicking off on Friday at Detroit, so let’s fire through some (but by no means all) of the topics of interest from Indianapolis.


Having seen the recent examples of huge star drivers from other series who parachute into Indy and are pulled in 10 different directions at all times, it was delightful to see how Kyle Larson dealt with the non-stop demands on his time throughout the month.

What tends to happen with a giant name like Larson is they look distressed — almost like they’re under attack — whenever they’re out of the car as cameras and fans pounce on them from pit lane to Gasoline Alley and everywhere in between. Thanks to the constant bombardment, hiding in the garage or their motorcoach is the common response to create some calm and isolation amid the rabid attention they receive, and it’s here where Larson stood out in the most positive of ways.

Larson, here enjoying some downtime with Santino Ferrucci, seemed at ease from the start at Indianapolis despite all the tumult around him. Josh Tons/Motorsport Images

The Californian often took a different approach, and from what I observed, Larson rarely attempted to hide. In fact, he seemed to want to soak in as much of the Indy 500 experience as possible and was routinely found out and about at the Speedway. I lost track of how many times our paths crossed in places and at times where I would have never seen some of the other famous Indy rookies, and it spoke to his genuine passion for being part of the event. One exchange stood out above the rest.

Through the Arrow McLaren team, we’d arranged to shoot a quick video with Kyle and Tony Kanaan about their time together as IMSA teammates at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and their reunion as Indy 500 mentor and mentee. The team had added an impromptu competition meeting right when we were scheduled to film, so that meant we needed to stand around and wait an extra 10 or 15 minutes for Larson to arrive in his garage.

That kind of stuff is normal — expected, frankly — so it was no big deal on our end. But not for Larson. The standard routine is for the famous driver to breeze in, do the thing, and leave, all without giving the impression they were present and engaged for those few minutes together.

Larson did the opposite. He walked in looking somewhat embarrassed and made a specific point to apologize in the sincerest manner to us for being late. It wasn’t a throwaway line; he wanted to be sure his apology registered.

Here’s a guy, the most popular driver at the Indy 500, who would be excused for any tardiness due to his insane schedule, who didn’t play the usual “I’m big and important, so deal with it” routine like some of his predecessors did at the 500. It blew my mind.

He wanted to be treated like one of the IndyCar family, not a temporary guest at our house, and that’s remarkable. I hope this wasn’t his last time playing with us during the month of May.



A punishing 500 for Honda was underscored by losing three of its 17 drivers in the first corner, including 2022 Indy winner Marcus Ericsson, and the misfortune continued to build as the next out was Marcus Armstrong with a blown motor on lap six.

Katherine Legge’s Indy 500 was over on lap 22 as she became the second consecutive Honda-powered driver to suffer an engine failure. Rookie Linus Lundqvist was next to go after an optimistic attempt to hold the inside line into Turn 1 led to a solo crash on lap 27, which meant the first six cars to exit the race were from the Honda camp.

The strange streak extended to a seventh driver as Felix Rosenqvist — one of Honda’s strongest contenders — made it to lap 55 and coasted to a halt as his motor surrendered, leaving the same trail of smoke from the exhausts as seen with Armstrong and Legge.

Ryan Hunter-Reay’s crash on lap 107 capped things as he became the first Chevy driver to fall out of the race, but the misery wasn’t over as Honda’s Marco Andretti (lap 113) and Colton Herta (lap 170) brought the Honda DNFs to nine, or just over half of its cars.

Chevy’s tally was two with Will Power’s lap 145 crash added in.


A lot of good gets done over the span of two weeks at Indy as numerous charities hold fundraisers to benefit the racing community or those in need outside of the sport. A few that stood out were NBC’s Kevin Lee and his longtime radio co-host Curt Cavin of IndyCar who put on their “Burger Bash” at the Speedway the day after Pole Day; James Hinchcliffe’s Stop & Go Foundation, which was assisted by Lee; and the ongoing efforts of IndyCar technical director Kevin Blanch to give the hundreds of crew members at the Indy 500 something to take home as a token of his appreciation.

The Burger Bash generated $32,520, which is done in support of the Indiana University Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Hinch’s efforts, which supports autoimmune disease research through the Relapsing Polychondritis Foundation, climbed past $40,000.

Through cash, certificates, and merchandise donations gathered from throughout the paddock and many team and series partners, Blanch — aka “Rocket” — gave away $79,420 to the men and women who field the 33 cars at Indy, which was a new record through “Rocket’s Convenience Store” located in the garage next to where Indy 500 technical inspection is held.

Rookie of the Year

It’s time for the Speedway to change its ridiculous Rookie of the Year criteria, which states: “The Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award should be presented to the driver who has performed with the most distinction among first-year drivers in the Indianapolis 500. Criteria includes on-track performance in practice, qualifying and the race, media and fan interaction, sportsmanship and positive influence on the Indy 500.”

As it’s written, it turns the voting results into a popularity contest whenever a famous driver like Kyle Larson — this year’s RoY winner — takes part in the race. The same nonsense happened in 2017 when Dale Coyne Racing rookie Ed Jones finished third while chasing Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato to the finish line. Let’s say that one more time: Ed Freakin’ Jones, driving for the minnows at Dale Coyne, placed third as a rookie at the Indy 500. But he was not chosen at the RoY.

Instead, Andretti/McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who had a great month but lost a motor and finished 24th, was given the award because he led all of the criteria that had nothing to do with the race itself. Alonso’s teammate Takuma Sato won the race that year, which speaks to how good their cars were at Andretti.

When did the Indy 500 RoY selection process get confused for a beauty pageant? While we’re at it, let’s ask next year’s rookies to pose in swimwear and eveningwear, and then tell us how they’d like to change the world if they were given the award.

I ignore everything that’s written before and after “the race” in the guidelines because the only thing that truly matters is what happens in the race. Isn’t that why we’re here?

Also, there’s no way Ed Carpenter Racing’s Christian Rasmussen, the top rookie performer on Sunday who put on some wild displays of bravery, could ever match someone like Larson in all of the silly items involving fan interaction and positive influence on the Indy 500. Compared to a megastar like the NASCAR Cup champion, Rasmussen is an absolute nobody. But should that matter?

Christian Rasmussen was a standout rookie for Ed Carpenter Racing, in case you missed it. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Isn’t the performances of and results by the rookies where the focus should be placed? In their first Indy 500s, Larson made plenty of mistakes and went from fifth to 18th while Rasmussen, who’s made tons of mistakes prior to the 500, put in a flawless drive and went from 24th to 12th.

There’s a single criterion that matters for rookies, and it’s what they deliver in the race. But the kid who truly delivered is not the RoY. What a joke.


Here’s a collection of interesting stats from our friend Scott Richards:

Race Stats:

• 16 race leaders (amended by IndyCar from 18 to 16 after an audit was done), a new record (previous record: 15 – 2017 and 2018)

• 7 drivers led for the first time in a 500, the most since the inaugural running in 1911.

• 3 rookies led in the race, the first time that’s happened since 2002.

• 11 drivers leading 10 laps or less, a new record (previous record: 10 – 2018)

• 4th last-lap pass for the win (2006, 2011, 2023)

• 10th closest margin of victory (0.3417s)

• 4th most number of lead changes (49)

• 13 drivers finished ahead of where they started, the fewest since 2005 (12)

• The 2024 race took 28 seconds longer to complete compared to 2023, yet had 3 more cautions and 19 more caution laps.

• Starters from Rows 8-11 led 51 total laps, the most since 1974 (122)

• There were 3 leaders from the final two rows, the most ever for a 500

• Car No. 2 collected its 11th win in the 500, tying No. 3 for the most all-time.

• First time a number has won back-to-back since 1991-92 (No. 3 – Rick Mears and Al Unser); the first time since Bill Vukovich (No. 14) in 1953-54 it occurred with the same driver.


• 11 drivers did not finish. With 12 DNFs in 2023, this is the first time since 2009-10 that at least 10 drivers did not finish in two consecutive 500s.

• 9 drivers failed to complete 120 laps, the most since 2006 (10)

• 7 drivers failed to complete 100 laps, the most since 2009 (8)

• 5 drivers failed to complete 25 laps, the most since 1997 (9)

• 3 drivers failed to complete any laps, the most since 1997 (5)

• 3 drivers out with mechanical issues in the first 55 laps, the most since 2003 (also 3)

• Chip Ganassi Racing became the first team since KV Racing Technology in 2011 to have multiple cars out in the first 27 laps of a 500.

Newgarden’s led 31 laps in the past two Indy 500s, but they included the two most important ones. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images


Josef Newgarden (1st):

• 3rd straight year the defending winner finished inside the top 10, the longest such streak since 1968-71.

• Led a combined 31 laps over his two wins, the fewest for a back-to-back winner.

• Led the 100th lap, becoming the first halfway leader to win since Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014 and only the 5th since 1990.

Pato O’Ward (2nd):

• Joins Albert Guyot, Harry Hartz, Ted Horn and Roberto Guerrero as the only drivers to have 4 finishes of 6th or better in their first five 500 starts, yet not win.

Scott Dixon (3rd):

• Led his 16th different 500, breaking a tie with Tony Kanaan for the most individual 500s led.

• With 12 laps led, his record total number of laps in the lead during the 500 now sits at 677.

• After completing the 131st lap, he became the 4th driver in 500 history to complete 10,000 miles in race competition (A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Helio Castroneves)

Alexander Rossi (4th):

• Became the 5th driver to score 6 top 5 finishes in his first 9 500 starts, after Ted Horn (8), Rick Mears (6), Helio Castroneves (6) and Dan Wheldon (6)

Alex Palou (5th):

• Joined Frank Wearne, Ted Horn and Tony Kanaan as the only drivers to DNF in their first 500, then finish Top 10 in their next 4.

Scott McLaughlin (6th):

• Led 64 laps, the most for a first-time lap leader since Buddy Rice in 2004 (91)

Santino Ferrucci (8th):

• Became the first driver to finish inside the top 10 in each of his first six 500 starts.

• Has completed every lap in each of his 6 starts, joining Carlos Munoz (2013-18) as the only drivers to accomplish this.

Rinus VeeKay (9th):

• Joined Greg Ray, James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist as the only drivers to lead in 4 of their first 5 starts in the 500, yet not score a Top 5 finish in any of those races.

Conor Daly (10th):

• His 22 laps led was the most for any driver who started in the last two rows of a 500 since Jim Rathmann in 1957 (24 after starting 32nd)

• Conor has led 69 laps in his last 4 starts at the 500, yet not had a top-5 finish. That’s the most laps led for a driver with this stat since Tony Kanaan from 2007-10 (95 laps led)

Graham Rahal (15th):

• Became only the 4th driver to lead after starting 33rd (Tom Sneva – 1980, Alex Tagliani – 2016, James Davison – 2017)

Ed Carpenter (17th):

• Led his 8th 500, tying him with Marco Andretti for the 2nd most races among non-winners (Rex Mays and Michael Andretti each led 9 races)

Agustin Canapino (22nd):

• Finished in the same position he started, which he also accomplished in 2023 (26th).

• He is the first driver in 500 history to start and finish in the same position in each of his first two starts.

Will Power (24th):

• Once again, the 2nd-place starter failed to win. Only once since 1970 has a driver started 2nd and won (Juan Pablo Montoya – 2000)

• Did not lead a lap, the first time a 2nd-place starter didn’t lead since 2002 (Robbie Buhl)

Tom Blomqvist (31st):

• Became the first rookie to not complete a single lap since 1997 (Sam Schmidt, Affonso Giaffone, Kenny Brack)

Marcus Ericsson (33rd):

• His 33rd-place finish was the worst for a defending runner-up in 500 history.

• Ericsson did not complete a single lap, the first runner-up to have this occur since Roberto Guerrero in 1988, who was also eliminated in a first-lap crash.

• Ericsson’s finish along with Newgarden’s win was only the 2nd time in race history that the defending 1st- and 2nd-place finishers finished 1st and 33rd . The other was 1976-77 (Johnny Rutherford went from 1st to 33rd , AJ Foyt went from 2nd to 1st)

Best finish (among veterans and not including ties):

• Josef Newgarden – 1st (13th start – ties personal best of 1st from 2023)

• Pato O’Ward – 2nd (5th start – ties personal best of 2nd from 2022)

• Scott McLaughlin – 6th (4th start – previous best: 14th – 2023)

• Kyle Kirkwood – 7th (3rd start – previous best: 17th – 2022)

• Callum Ilott – 11th (3rd start – previous best: 12th – 2023)

• Christian Lundgaard – 13th (3rd start – previous best: 18th – 2022)

• Sting Ray Robb – 16th (2nd start – previous best: 31st – 2023)

• Romain Grosjean – 19th (3rd start – previous best: 30th – 2023)

• Agustin Canapino – 22nd (2nd start – previous best: 26th – 2023)

Worst Finish (among veterans):

• Pietro Fittipaldi – 32nd (2nd start – previous worst: 25th – 2021)

• Marcus Ericsson – 33rd (6th start – previous worst: 32nd – 2020)

It was a very busy day in the pits… Phillip Abbott/Motorsport Images


• Great to see Chevy lean hard into a new racing-themed national ad that ran during the 500.

• Reports of traffic nightmares trying to leave the Speedway Sunday night were rampant. By the time I left around 11:20pm, I figured the mess would be fixed, but with huge storms happening, power was out in some of the areas surrounding the track and Speedway police officers were diverting traffic to alternate routes that added a lot of time to the egress process.

•· IndyCar absolutely nailed the aerodynamic specifications for this year’s Indy 500. Everybody could pass everybody.

• Brutal race for Andretti Global with three crashes across Ericsson, Marco Andretti, and Colton Herta — only Ericsson’s wasn’t of his making — and unlike last year where Kirkwood was an innocent bystander in Rosenqvist’s wreck, he improved from starting 11th to finish seventh for the team, which were both career bests at Indy for the Floridian.

• Was that the most undisciplined use of pit lane in forever? Drivers blasting from their pit boxes straight to the fast lane — often in a cloud of oversteery tire smoke — and hits from behind and side-to-side contact and stopping short and running long…how we didn’t have 10 cautions from pit lane contact alone is a mystery.

• Seeing veteran racing reporter Holly Cain at Indy was a joyful thing. She continues to fight recurrences of cancer and refuses to give in.

• It was part of an alternate strategy that didn’t work out as desired but give credit to A.J. Foyt Racing and Sting Ray Robb who improved from 23rd to 16th, kept his car off the walls when others didn’t, finished on the lead lap in between Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter, and led 23 laps, only three laps less than Newgarden. Robb was the third driver out in 2023 — started and finished 31st — which speaks to noteworthy year-to-year growth at the Speedway.

• Speaking of Carpenter, he started 17th, finished 17th, and never featured. Same for Helio Castroneves who started and ended the race in 20th. He did reach as high as seventh as others pitted during a caution, but the four-timers quest for five wins continues.

• The return of Simon Pagenaud was a delight to behold and the same was true for photographer Chris Bucher. A familiar presence at IndyCar races, Bucher spent time away while dealing with serious health issues, and despite being a top agency shooter today, was drawn to help capture images of Pagenaud — who brought him to the fore in IndyCar many years ago — on the special occasion with the Frenchman’s piloting of Gil de Ferran’s 2003 Indy 500 winner. Great to have Simon back where he belongs, and for Chris as well.

Story originally appeared on Racer