O’Ward leads the way on a rough day for rookies

Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images

O’Ward leads the way on a rough day for rookies

IndyCar

O’Ward leads the way on a rough day for rookies

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Five rookies started the Indianapolis 500, two finished, and only one had an unblemished run during the 200-lap contest as Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward brought the No. 5 Chevy home in sixth place.

“The team did everything we could to get to the front today,” he said. “My crew did an amazing job in the pit stops. We were fighting up there with Dixon, Rossi and Takuma – great job to him. Towards the end we just didn’t have enough to get those in front of us. We were right behind Josef [Newgarden] in fifth for Chevrolet, so I think it was a good job for my first ever Indy 500.”

For the rest of the first-timers, the Speedway delivered plenty of hard-knock lessons.

Rinus VeeKay looked like Chevy’s top contender until he pitted from inside the top five, slid into his stall, collided with his crew, and was penalized for the contact, leading to a penalty and distant 20th-place finish in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy. And he was the lucky one among the four Indy 500 rookies who showed promise before being met with the wall or corrective actions from race control.

Completing the race one lap down, VeeKay climbed from the car and was promptly chastised by 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished 10th, and took the rookie to task for chopping and blocking those running on the lead lap.

Arrow McLaren SP’s Oliver Askew was another rookie who appeared primed for a quality finish, but he made heavy impact with the SAFER barrier after taking avoiding action when ECR’s Conor Daly crashed in front of the No. 7 Chevy.

“Not how any of us imagined our day ending and I feel very bad for everyone involved — just found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time with too much brake pressure trying to avoid the smoke,” Askew posted on Twitter. “I am OK, thanks for all the kind messages.”

Like VeeKay, Dale Coyne Racing’s Alex Palou, a star of qualifying in the No. 55 Honda, also featured early in the race. A tank-slapper on Lap 121 and the ensuing trip into the wall demolished the right side of his car.

“It’s a shame. I don’t really know what happened, if I was too low or too high,” he said. “It was my first Indy 500 and I wanted to finish. I think we had a car capable of winning. We’ll come back stronger, for sure. When I look at my experience as a whole, it’s been awesome being here — it’s really nice to drive at this historic place. I just want to go back out there now. I learned a lot about driving. I turned so many laps and I was learning every lap. It was a lot of fun. I just wish it didn’t end the way it did.”

A.J. Foyt Racing’s Dalton Kellett was the first rookie to exit the race. Attempting to pass DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley into Turn 3, Kellett struggled to motor past as the corner approached, and with Hanley’s No. 81 Chevy holding the low line, Kellett’s No. 41 Chevy drifted high and clouted the wall to finish his maiden Indy 500 on Lap 82. He was credited with 31st position.

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