anD THen iT sTarTs...
Crossing the bricks to win an Indy 500
sets in motion a maelstrom of
celebration that lasts right up until the
driver suits up for opening practice in
Detroit the following weekend.
Crew hugs, family, milk, kissing
the bricks, hours and hours of
interviews… The irony in winning the
biggest race in the world is that the
immediate aftermath can be too
manic for a driver to appreciate it –
unless they make a special effort.
“I remember trying to mentally
bank those moments, like seeing the
team and drinking the milk,” says
Ryan Hunter-Reay. “But it goes by so
fast, and then you’re doing interviews
all night long, and you’re on a plane to
New York. Then all of a sudden you’re
in pitlane in Detroit and you’re like,
‘How the heck did I get here?’”
The grind of Juan Pablo
Montoya’s victory tour last year left
the Colombian nursing a cold when
he arrived in Detroit.
“You get there on Thursday,
completely tired, and you really don’t
want to be there,” he admits. “But
that’s the good thing with Penske,
they really balanced it all out, and we
had a good weekend. All the interviews
merge into one. You don’t even think
about it, although you do get a bit
over it, like, ‘I’ve answered that a
million times this week already.’”
“Over time you come to appreciate
what you did,” says Tony Kanaan.
“Every once in a while I still watch my
race. A couple of weeks ago one of my
friends wanted to watch the end again,
so we did and my wife cried! I mean,
and we know what happened!”
(ABOVE) Clinging to the memories? The
day after his 2013 win, Tony Kanaan
poses with the Borg-Warner Trophy.
race can go. Until you cross the finish line
and see the checkered flag, you have no
way of really knowing that it’s done.
On the final lap under yellow I was thinking,
“Please don’t let anything happen here.”
Sometimes with these cars, when you’re
running fast they’re awesome, and then
when you slow down they break and you’ve
no idea why. That whole final lap, I was
hearing things and worrying that stuff’s
going to break. But I will never forget that
lap. If you look at the broadcast, on the
back straight before the checkered flag I
raised my visor and I was crying like a baby.
Realizing you’ve won takes a few seconds.
You’re still kind of in the zone. Then suddenly
you just explode, and you’re letting all of
these emotions out inside of your helmet
that only a driver can really understand.
The moment I crossed the line I flashed
through Turn 1. They finally came on the
radio when I was between 1 and 2 and
said “You just won the race,” and I was
like, “Oh, sweet.”
Winning the Indianapolis 500 is like…
Well, looking back, when I slowed down
and started to lift, I was thinking, “Woah,
let’s not crash after the finish line…” It
feels great, but to be honest with you,
winning is more relief than happiness.
You put so much time and effort into it
that, when it does work out, it’s a feeling
of total relief. It’s like when you work on
something for months or years and it
clicks the way you wanted it to click. A
plan comes together. It’s great.
“THaT wHole final lap i was
Hearing THings anD worrying
THa T s Tuff was going To break”
back to early days in my karting career,
wrenching on my go-kart in a hot Florida
pitlane. All around the cool-down lap I had
all the hardships, all the struggles to get
rides flashing through my mind. And now
here I am. Yeah, there’s a lot that goes
through your mind. It’s hard to put into
words, but it’s like a waterfall of emotion.
I wasn’t even paying attention to the lap
count. After the checker I still went flat
(ABOVE) Juan Pablo
Montoya takes the
checkered flag to win
the 2015 Indy 500.
(LEFT) Is it starting
to sink in yet...?
celebrates in Victory
Lane in 2014.