END OF RACE: Ryan Hunter-Reay held off a hard-charging Helio Castroneves to take Sunday's 98th running of the Indianapolis 500. Hunter-Reay and Castroneves traded first place three separate times over the final few laps, but Hunter-Reay maintained the lead by a car-length, marking the second-closest finish in 500 history.
"It's a dream come true. It hasn't even sunk in yet. This is just the most fantastic team, the support they've given me. To give me this race car two years in a row, to have a shot at winning the greatest race in the world, that dream has come true today," Hunter-Reay told ABC. "I'm a proud American boy, that's for sure."
Marco Andretti, Hunter-Reay's teammate, finished third, leaving the famed Andretti family with still just one Indianapolis 500 victory (1969) to its name. Carlos Munoz finished fourth while Juan Pablo Montoya, who won it in 2000, finished fifth.
The final seven laps were marred by a Townsend Bell crash that brought a red flag and yet another delay. Crews worked to clean up heavy debris as the cars waited in pit lane until the restart. From there, it was Hunter-Reay and Castroneves, each car attempting a more daring pass than the last.
"The stop kind of like breaked the rhythm," Castroneves said to ABC. "Congrats to Ryan Hunter-Reay, they did an outstanding job. ... I want to thank everyone because it was close, it's a shame so close but today it's Ryan Hunter-Reay's day. It was a great fight, it was great TV, I was having a great time. Unfortunately, it's good when second sucks, if you know what I mean," he said, smiling.
At one point, Hunter-Reay nearly clipped the grass on the inside turn in an effort to overtake Castroneves, who was seeking his record-tying fourth Indy 500 title. The maneuver worked, propelling Hunter-Reay to the lead.
"There was no practice for it, we never really ran those lines at all, the whole month. It was all new. Everything everybody was doing at the end was all new," Hunter-Reay said of his heart-stopping inside pass of Castroneves. It's safe to say his improvisation earned him the checkered flag.
His crew pushed him up Victory Lane where he was greeted by his wife before chugging the celebratory milk.
Hunter-Reay started in 19th after a poor qualifying, but worked his way back up towards the front throughout the final 50 laps on Sunday -- which didn't see a caution until lap 150.
Kurt Busch, who also worked his way up from 12th to begin the Indy 500, finished sixth and immediately hopped on a jet to Charlotte to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 later this evening. He's the first driver to pull "the double" in 10 years.
Pole-sitter Ed Carpenter was in contention before he, James Hinchcliffe and Townsend Bell tried to go three-wide around a turn in lap 175, sending Carpenter and Hinchcliffe careening into the wall. Hinchcliffe expressed remorse for Carpenter and took partial blame for the crash.
3:07 p.m. ET: Keep in mind that Kurt Busch (currently 6th), still plans to take a private jet to Charlotte after the Indianapolis 500 to take part in the Coca-Cola 600 later this evening. He's probably not a fan of all these delays. The race should re-start in a few minutes.
2:58 p.m. ET: The red flag is out after Townsend Bell crashed with just 8 laps left. The race has been temporarily stopped to clear the track of heavy debris in an effort to give the drivers a clean, green-flag finish. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti were the top-3 before the stop.
2:48 p.m. ET: Twenty laps left and we finally have a green flag. It's Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Townsend Bell and Helio Castroneves vying for the lead.
2:44 p.m. ET: Indy native Ed Carpenter is out of the running after Carpenter, James Hinchcliffe and Townsend Bell tried to go three-wide out of the first turn from a restart. Carpenter went into the wall as Hinchcliffe pinched him from the back. Townsend Bell, amazingly, came out clean as he maintained the inside track. Carpenter was furious and exchanged words with Hinchcliffe after the crash, but Carpenter could just as easily blame Bell. Huge development and disappointment for Carpenter with just 21 laps left.
2:36 p.m. ET: 29 laps left and we have the second caution of the day after Scott Dixon's car hit the wall as he was leaving turn four. Every turn, pit stop and pass is absolutely crucial at this point with Ryan Hunter-Reay holding a narrow lead over Ed Carpenter and Townsend Bell.
2:20 p.m. ET: The final 47 laps could be fascinating as Andretti drivers Marco and Ryan Hunter-Reay jostle for first place. Marco has a chance to end the family's "curse" while Hunter-Reay could upset that fairytale ending, even though the two are teammates under the Andretti name.
Keep an eye on Indy native Ed Carpenter, who's led at various times on Sunday as well.
2:13 p.m. ET: We have our first caution, 150 laps into Sunday's race.
First yellow flag on Lap 150. Charlie Kimball with a spin. #indycar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 25, 2014
2:04 p.m. ET: Two contenders, Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya, were each penalized for speeding in pit lane.
140 laps in and it's Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves as the top-3. The pit violations could prove extremely costly, and the two Andretti racers up front could block for one another, should they maintain the lead down the stretch.
1:47 p.m. ET: The 2014 Indy 500 has been run at a record pace, likely a result of how clean it's been thus far.
At 100 laps, 2014 Indianapolis 500 race set record for average speed (211.871 mph), shattering previous mark of 177.687 last year. #indycar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 25, 2014
1:44 p.m. ET: More than halfway through the Indianapolis 500, we've had 17 lead changes (far off the record-pace of 68 changes from last year's race) and 10 different drivers have owned the top spot. Helio Castroneves has led the most laps (26), Will Power has been in front for 22, and Ed Carpenter has led for 21.
More interesting, though, is how clean of a race it's been. There have been a few tire-to-tire brushes, but 109 laps into the race, there still hasn't been a caution flag.
1:30 p.m. ET: Halfway through Sunday's Indianapolis 500, Juan Pablo Montoya led, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon, Ed Carpenter, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, J.R. Hildebrand and Carlos Munoz.
It's Montoya's first visit back for the IndyCar race since 2000, when he won. One hundred laps in and Montoya was averaging around 223 MPH.
1:18 p.m. ET: Last year's Indy 500 champ Tony Kanaan won't repeat this year as a Kanaan ran his Target car out of fuel and coasted into pit lane, only to discover even more mechanical problems.
Helio Castroneves held a tenous lead 80 laps into Sunday's 500. He's seeking his record-tying fourth victory at the speedway. Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti were just fractions of seconds behind.
1:10 p.m. ET: Your top-10 as of lap 65:
1. Marco Andretti 2. Will Power 3. Helio Castroneves 4. Ed Carpenter 5. J.R. Hildebrand 6. Scott Dixon 7. James Hinchcliffe 8. Juan Pablo Montoya 9. Ryan Hunter-Reay 10. Tony Kanaan
The 230,000+ fans rose to their feet and roared as Marco Andretti, seeking his family's first Indy 500 win since 1969, took over the lead.
12:58 p.m. ET: Not good news for 20th-position starter Graham Rahal. He sputtered into pit lane around the 45th lap, and according to radio via ABC, Rahal said that "the engine just shut off." He remained in pit lane for an extended trip.
As for the leaders, Will Power, now at lap 51, snuck ahead of Ed Carpenter and J.R. Hildebrand, averaging just over 213 MPH. All three front-row starters have led for portions of the race so far.
12:42 p.m. ET: We're 25 laps into the Indy 500 and there hasn't been a ton of parody at the front. James Hinchcliffe had the early lead for the first few laps (he began in the front row), before ceding the spot to hometown boy Ed Carpenter, who has maintained a steady pace up front. Carpenter's led for 16 of the 25 laps.
Just two weeks ago, Hinchcliffe wasn't even sure he'd be in the field of 33. He suffered a concussion after some stray debris knocked him in the head at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, but despite missing practice time, he managed to qualify second overall. So far, the concussion doesn't appear to have hindered him, whatsoever.
12:25 p.m. ET: ....and with Mark Cuban's flag-waving blessing.... we're off.
Mark Cuban is much better at starting races than talking about them.— Cindy Boren (@CindyBoren) May 25, 2014
12:19 p.m. ET: For the 36th and last time, Jim Nabors sang "Back Home Again in Indiana," and his voice sounded pretty incredible for an 83-year-old. Fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gave him a fitting farewell before Nabors ordered drivers to "start your engines."
Thank you Jim Nabors! pic.twitter.com/eKuqsKbhfy— BK (@brianking118) May 25, 2014
12:05 p.m. ET: Indianapolis Bishop Christopher Coyne offered this prayer to the 230,000+ fans before LeAnn Rimes nailed the national anthem: "On this Memorial Day weekend we remember and lift up our heartfelt gratitude for the men and women who died in defense of our nation. Keep those in harm's way safe and bring them home to their families healthy and well. Can I hear an amen? ... And now lord this race will soon start, may it be a good race, may it fast and tight, may the pit stops be quick and the track be quicker, may the roar of the 2.2 liter v-6 twin turbo charged engines be constant. May the best team win. Can I hear an amen?"
Sooooo, that was a pretty awesome prayer. Here's Kurt Busch taking in all the pageantry.
11:50 a.m. ET: No driver got a louder applause during introductions than Indy native (and pole-sitter) Ed Carpenter. Introduced as a Butler Bulldog, Carpenter finished 10th at the 500 last year and is hoping for a better showing this time around.
"I love race day here. Just hoping and praying that today is our today. It's what we prepare for all year," he told ABC.
11:35 a.m. ET: Colts QB Andrew Luck accompanied two kids from Riley hospital for Children to the 500 on Sunday. After getting flown in on a chopper, the trio took a 2.5-mile lap in an official pace car before Luck handed off the green flag to Mark Cuban.
11:25 a.m. ET: In one of those strange-but-true stats, Tony Kanaan is seeking his second-straight Indy 500 victory, but he's not the only such driver. Two former winners -- Jacques Villeneuve (1995) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2000) -- are making their highly anticpated returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway after chugging the milk on Victory Lane. Both went to Formula One the next season. Montoya, known as an aggressive racer, is expected to be in the mix on Sunday.
10:55 a.m. ET: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, an Indiana University graduate, will wave the green flag to begin Sunday's race. Looks like Cuban's rocking Indiana QB Tre Roberson's jersey, (or generic player-number combo, as the NCAA would like you to believe).
Race preview: Can Tony Kanaan take a second-consecutive checkered flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Will pole-sitter Ed Carpenter win the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in front of his hometown crowd? How about Kurt Busch, who'll be racing the double on Sunday – that is 500 miles at the Indy 500 and another 600 at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte later this evening? (He'll be the first driver in the past 10 years to attempt that, by the way).
The 33-car field boasts no distinct favorites (yet more than a dozen realistic contenders) ahead of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
Penske racer Helio Castroneves has already won at Indy three times (the last was in 2009), and another victory would vault him to elite status, tying him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears for most wins all-time at the hallowed race.
Another driver seeking to make history -- or erase it, depending on your perspective – is Marco Andretti. The legendary racing family has won the race just once (1969), and 27-year-old Marco nearly earned the checkered flag in 2006 before a last-second charge from Sam Hornish Jr. stole the win. That, along with dozens of other close calls, has fueled the myth of the “Andretti curse.” Mention Andretti at the Indy 500, and it's an inevitable topic of discussion. Although 0-of-8, Marco has four top-five finishes, and many believe this could be his year.
The festivities begin early Sunday morning, including honorary laps from former race winners all the way up through the national anthem sung by LeAnn Rimes at noon ET. Drivers will officially be off at 12:12 ET, as will we, taking you through the entire 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 with our live blog. Enjoy and happy Memorial Day weekend.