Rookie Alexander Rossi ushered in a new era for IndyCar racing as the American rolled the dice on fuel and hit the jackpot to win the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Rossi, who only moved to IndyCar this year after losing his seat with Formula One tailenders Manor Racing, found himself on top of the motorsport world after squeezing just enough fuel out of his Andretti Autosport Honda to win at the `Brickyard’.
The 24-year-old American, who had never raced at the famous oval track until this month, coasted across the finish line more than four seconds ahead of a charging pack led by Andretti teammate Colombian Carlos Munoz and Josef Newgarden in third.
Will Power came home tenth, with fellow Australian Matt Brabham finishing 22nd.
Competing in just his sixth IndyCar race, Rossi had never led a lap until Sunday, his best finish a 10th at a road race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier in the month.
It marked the first win by a rookie since Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000.
While the leaders dove into the pits with just under 10 laps left, Rossi and team owner Michael Andretti gambled he had enough to make it to the end as he seized the lead.
It set up a nail-biting finish to the milestone 500 as Rossi nursed his car to the checkered flag then glided to a stop and was towed into Victory Lane where he received the traditional quart of milk.
“I have no idea how we pulled that off,” offered a disbelieving Rossi.
“I just can’t believe we’ve done this.
“I’m just so thankful to do this on the 100th running.
“I cherish the fact at one point we were 33rd. We rolled the dice and came through and made it happen.”