Entering the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 as a lower-profile member of his own team, Alexander Rossi used an unconventional fuel gamble to make an unlikely stroll into Victory Lane on Sunday.
The rookie driver stayed out while the leaders pitted after a caution on Lap 34 and coasted to the checkered flag to become the first rookie to win at the Brickyard since Helio Castroneves in 2001. A Nevada City, California, native Rossi is only the second American to win at Indy in the past 15 years, joining teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won in 2014.
Oh, and it’s the 24-year-old’s first-ever IndyCar win. It’ll probably be his most memorable no matter how long he races on the circuit.
Residing nowhere near the leaders as they ventured onto pit road before the final restart, Rossi and his team opted to forgo the customary refueling that would have ensured he reached the finish line. The ex-Formula 1 reserve driver who is in his first full season with IndyCar beat the field by approximately a quarter of a lap, but did so by coasting to the checkered. Rossi radioed to his crew immediately after crossing the finish line and informing them he was indeed out of gas.
Carlos Munoz stood to win if Rossi’s gamble had failed, but he finished second, with Josef Newgarden placing third. Rossi teammates Hunter-Reay and Townsend Bell led 64 of the race’s first 115 laps before colliding on pit road, opening the door for their less-heralded cohort.
Rossi’s win doubles as another unconventional victory for team owner Brian Herta, who saw Dan Wheldon use a fuel gamble to glide to victory in 2011.