INDIANAPOLIS — Column by Race Chaser Online Open Wheel Correspondent Joel Sebastianelli — Bret Kelley/IndyCar photo —
Running out of gas and momentum, Alexander Rossi stepped out of his Indianapolis 500-winning car in turn four to salute the fans, then headed straight for victory lane with no time to let his monumental upset sink in en route to stardom.
The crowd in excess of 350,000 had nowhere to go besides sit in traffic. So we stood in our sections and waited.
We waited for the post-race interview and the sweet sip of milk; for the victory lap and the kissing of the bricks. At no point on Sunday did any of this sink in for us.
Rossi didn’t have much time to soak up the moment either. Whisked onto a plane after the race for a full week of media appearances, it seems as though IndyCar’s latest hero is moving just as fast as he was during the 500.
For the 24-year-old American, this victory is huge. Although we don’t yet know which doors will open for him, he ought to have his pick of sponsors, teams, and series within due time.
A oval novice winning the Indianapolis 500 was nearly unfathomable. But perhaps what’s hardest to imagine was the magnitude of the moment itself:
The Indianapolis 500 has made it to 100 years. What will it be like 100 years from now?
I found myself caught in that thought loop driving from Florida to Indianapolis last week. After chatting with drivers, media, and fans, the prevailing thought was that this race needed to go well. We tried not to talk about the worst-case scenario. Internally acknowledging its existence — whatever it may be — was enough to steer the conversation elsewhere.
Racing isn’t just a sport, it’s a way of life. That’s not a hyperbole, it’s the truth for the men and women at all levels of competition who have devoted every ounce of their ambition through the years to reaching the finish line first. And just like in day-to-day life, racing is permeated by a sense of uncertainty.
In that moment in time, it felt like this was IndyCar’s day to seize its destiny, whatever that might be. Maybe this was hyperbole, but there’s no denying that sentiment existed somewhere within all of us.