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Hunter-Reay wins first Indy 500

IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrates at the finish line after winning the 2014 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sunday in Indianapolis. (Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS — A late pass to win the Indianapolis 500, a sweet ending Sunday for Ryan Hunter-Reay, the newest member of the Borg-Warner Trophy club.

Hunter-Reay scooted around three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in Turn 3 to win his first race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and become the first American since 2006 to take the checkered flag.

Hunter-Reay was in an exchange with the Team Penske driver at the end — the two bright yellow cars racing wheel-to-wheel under the white flag in a thrilling final lap and swapping positions like they were late for dinner.

Milk awaited after all.

“I’m a proud American boy, that’s for sure,” Hunter-Reay said in Victory Lane. “I’ve watched this race since I was sitting in diapers on the floor in front of the TV. This is American history, this race, this is American tradition.”

The margin of victory was a scant 0.06 seconds, the second-closest in 500 history.

“I really didn’t think Ryan was going to go on the outside,” Castroneves said. “But I had gone on the inside, and I think I had shown my cards.”

Hunter-Reay became the first U.S.-born winner since Sam Hornish Jr.

“It’s a dream come true, man; I can’t even believe it,” he said. “This is just the most fantastic team for what they’ve given me.

“My dream has come true today.”

Castroneves held off Marco Andretti to finish third.

Castroneves was trying to become the fourth driver to win a record fourth Indianapolis 500. He needed several moments to compose himself, slumped in his car, head down and helmet on, before he was ready to speak.

“It was a great fight,” the Brazilian smiled. “I tell you what, I was having a great time. Unfortunately second. It’s good, but second sucks, you know what I mean?”

Carlos Munoz finished fourth with Kurt Busch sixth to give Andretti Autosport not only the winning car but also four in the top six.

Busch had a stellar day, running all 200 laps in his first Verizon IndyCar Series race. After celebrating with the crew, the 2004 NASCAR champion headed off to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Sprint Cup Series race.

The win was the third for Michael Andretti’s team. Dan Wheldon won in 2005, Dario Franchitti in 2007.

The race was one of the cleanest in 500 history, with hardly a wiggle in the first 150 laps.

Ryan Briscoe had trouble in Turn 2 of the opening lap. He had momentum on Jacques Villeneuve, but the 1995 race winner appeared to move up in front of him. Briscoe bumped the back of Villeneuve’s car, turning Briscoe to the left, but that’s where the car of rookie James Davison was. They touched wheels.

Davison was able to continue without damage, but Briscoe had to bring his Ganassi Racing car to pit lane for modifications. And it was only Lap 1.

James Hinchcliffe, who sat out five days with a concussion from the May 10 road race at IMS, started second but jumped to the lead in Turn 1 as pole sitter Ed Carpenter let him go. Hinchcliffe led the first nine laps before letting Carpenter take the position back in a fuel-saving calculation. Hinchcliffe jumped in behind him and settled in.

The first caution didn’t come until Lap 150, and that allowed the field to cycle through four rounds of pit stops. Carpenter was the first to stop at Lap 30. Hinchcliffe and others went to Lap 31, Will Power to Lap 32. It was the longest stretch without a first caution since the statistic was first recorded in 1976. No race has gone green the entire 500 miles.

The first retirement came from Graham Rahal, whose father, Bobby, won the 1986 race. He completed only 44 laps because his engine kept shutting off.

Tony Kanaan’s problems started when he missed the call to pit on the second stop. Kanaan ran out of fuel, igniting a series of problems.

Carlos Munoz, who finished second last year, got a warning for hitting pit equipment (a tire). Two other drivers got a drive-through penalty on that sequence for speeding on pit lane, and they were contenders.

First it was Power on Lap 127, then Juan Pablo Montoya on Lap 131.

Montoya’s penalty hurt the worst as he was positioned, with all those green flag laps, of making it to the finish with minimal amount of fuel consumption needed. That mistake effectively knocked him out of contention just as the one did in the 2009 Brickyard 400 when he took himself out of the lead with a speeding penalty.

Charlie Kimball brought out the caution on Lap 150. He nearly crashed in Turn 3 the lap prior as Takuma Sato scooted around the outside of him. He made a quick save.

In Turn 2, Kimball couldn’t keep the car from spinning, but it was a light hit with the left front corner. He was even luckier that no car struck him as he spun to the infield grass.

The caution allowed Power and Montoya to get back into the mix.

Kimball finally brought out the first caution, spinning off Turn 2. There was light damage.

Scott Dixon’s car crashed in Turn 4 on Lap 168, causing him to hit the front straightaway inside wall. Behind him, Josef Newgarden was struck from behind, ending his race.

On the restart at Lap 176, Carpenter was third with Townsend Bell challenging on the outside. They had slight contact, bumping Carpenter to the left just a bit, but that’s where Hinchcliffe had made it three-wide. It didn’t work. Hinchcliffe and Carpenter slid to the outside wall in a crash.

“Amateur moves,” Carpenter said. “Townsend and I would have been fine, but the moment Hinchcliffe decided to make it three-wide it was more than any of us could handle.”

Hinchcliffe said he thought Carpenter gave him enough room to make it safely through, and he expected Bell to back out of the throttle.

Hinchcliffe said it was “100 percent not Ed’s fault.”

“I was last guy on the scene, so I guess (Carpenter’s finger-pointing) is fair,” he said.

Bell crashed hard in Turn 2 on Lap 191, spraying debris all over the track. IndyCar officials decided to stop the race to allow proper cleanup. The irony was, IndyCar was about to call for a caution just before Bell’s crash after Sebastian Saavedra and Villeneuve made contact just a little farther down the track on the previous lap.

Bell had been fifth at the time, so that opened another position for the taking.

Everyone wanted a piece of it. It’s Indy after all.

NOTES: Helio Castroneves was denied a chance to match A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time winners of the prestigious 500. ... In 14 Indy 500s, Castroneves has three wins, two seconds, a third, a fourth, a sixth, three ninths and a 10th, one of the best resumes in IMS history. His only two bad finishes came in 2006 (25th, an accident) and 2011 (17th). ... IndyCar officials stopped the cars after Townsend Bell’s crash, a decision that some questioned but the crowd loved. Rather than a caution-ending race, the 500 saw its first green-flag finish in five years.