Indy 500 postscript: An outcry over ending the race under caution

INDIANAPOLIS -- This year's Indianapolis 500 was, in a word, thrilling. There were a record 68 lead changes -- an astonishing number -- and winner Tony Kanaan set the fastest speed in the race's 97-year history.

But to a good number of folks in the Twitterverse and elsewhere, the race's climax was "lame," "a travesty," "no fun," "yuk" and "embarrassing." There were plenty of R-rated comments as well.

That's because the race ended under a caution period, which froze the field with Kanaan in the lead, after Dario Franchitti's crash with fewer than three laps left in the 200-lap race.

There wasn't enough time to clean up the wreck's debris and restart the race with so few laps left. So Kanaan patiently followed the pace car around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until he reached the finish line on Lap 200.

Ending the race that way after the furious pace that led up to it simply rubbed some people the wrong way, and immediately sparked comparisons between IndyCar racing and NASCAR stock-car racing.

NASCAR decided a few years ago that fans deserved seeing a race end with the cars at full speed if a late caution occurred. So it adopted the "green-white-checkered" finish, essentially a two-lap overtime shootout.

But in the Indy 500, tradition is everything and the race ends at 500 miles. If the caution flag is out at the end, so be it.

Last year, in fact, Franchitti crawled to the checkered flag under caution as well, after Takuma Sato tried to pass him entering the last lap but spun out instead.

After Sunday's race, third-place finisher Ryan Hunter-Reay was asked about ending the Indy 500 under a yellow flag.

"This is Indy, there's a certain way things are done," he said. And he allowed that the green-white-checkered format "can be a bit gimmicky."

But Hunter-Reay, the reigning IndyCar series champion, also said "what fans want is most important."

And because he finished third, Hunter-Reay quipped that "if you can talk [race officials] into rolling us back out there" for an overtime dash, "I'd be all for that."


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