27 May 2013
Munoz proves the cream of the 2013 Indy 500 rookies
"It was almost too easy at times just to go by the guys," he marvelled. "It was probably the coolest feeling in my life to take the lead at Indy and lead the Indy 500. That's a feeling I'll never forget."
The biggest problem Allmendinger had was one outside his control, when the seatbelt in the car came undone - a scary thing to happen to any driver at speeds of over 200mph.
"I guess it's God's way of saying, 'Maybe you're not going to win it your first time,'" said Allmendinger philosophically. "I went down into turn 1. I mean, it was 130 laps in, so it wasn't like they were loose or anything, and it just popped out. Maybe it was because my heart was beating too hard from leading the race!
"But it came undone. I tried to do it down the back straightaway. I tried to loosen it back up and stick it back in but it wasn't going to happen," he lamented, having been forced into a premature stop on pit lane to have it taken care of by the pit crew. "The guys did a good job. The stops all day were phenomenal. We didn't lose a ton of time on the pit stop. The only thing that killed us is that it killed our pit windows the rest of the race."
Not that he'd given up: "I really thought, 'With eight to go, I still got a shot at this.'" Then the rest of the race was interrupted by two yellows and Allmendinger never had a chance to strike, ending up in seventh place when the field was frozen for the final time with three laps to go for Dario Franchitti's crash. "It wasn't meant to be. It's really cool for Tony Kanaan and Jimmy Vasser to get their first win here."
While Munoz and Allmendinger stole the headlines, it was also a very solid introduction to the greatest spectacle of motor sport for Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly.
Vautier - already an IZOD IndyCar Series regular this season with Schmidt-Peterson - never really sparked into the sort of form that many expected him to show at Indianapolis but still kept his nose clean and finished in a very creditable 16th place and on the lead lap.
"It was a good race," said Vautier. "We had a very good first stint, made a lot of progress, and unfortunately for some reason the tyre pressures and some other stuff needed to be changed. Nothing major, though, and halfway through, the car started vibrating and getting very loose.
"We were just happy to make up space on the second half of the race," he admitted. "I finished my first Indy 500, so I'm very happy. Big thanks to my team. All of the pit stops were perfect."
Daly on the other hand had a mountain to climb. Not only was he new to Indianapolis Motor Speedway competition (despite being born and raised as an Indiana native), his racing experience has been notable devoid of any oval-shaped circuits, as he's made his name in the European GP3 Series on street and permanent road courses. He was even handicapped by being two days behind the other rookies completing his ROP because he was in Spain competing in that series on the opening weekend of the Indianapolis activities.
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