Indianapolis 500: An Innovative Win

The 2016 Indianapolis 500 race winning driver Alexander Rossi, team co-owners Bryan Herta and Michael Andretti put on a show for the ages and a stunning demonstration of how true disruption works and a primer on success and single minded determination in pursuit of a goal.

Toward the end of the race, after taking an accurate assessment of their current situation, a rookie driver in only his second race on an oval track, driving a good but not great performing car with almost no chance of winning the race in a conventional manner, they decided to try something different.  Herta, acting as coach for driver Rossi, made a bold decision to run the rest of the race with only the fuel on board from the last pit stop while all of the other competitive drivers took a pit stop for additional fuel which cost them valuable time.


The Andretti-Herta Team tried something novel and different when all of the conventional wisdom said that they should stop again for fuel like all the other drivers.

However, they achieved their goal, barely, with nothing to spare but needing nothing more to be victorious.

There are many lessons that we can learn from the Andretti-Herta Team’s approach to problem solving and reaching their goal, in this case to win the Indianapolis 500 race by crossing the finish line first without running out of fuel.

First; when traditional pathways to success seem to be closed off to you, consider trying something novel and different. Take into account all of the possibilities. Question and challenge every assumption. Fight the temptation to do what everyone else is doing. There is a solution to every problem, usually multiple possible solutions, and one optimal one. Try to think creatively and outside traditional boundaries. Evaluate all of these possible solutions, quickly in this case. Make a decision and then execute using all of the resources of the team to the fullest, given this new and different set of circumstances.

Herta, Andretti and Rossi adapted to this decision by Rossi driving in a manner that conserved fuel and having Rossi draft behind teammates Townsend Bell and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The combination of these factors and superb driving by Rossi, allowed him to run out of fuel just short of the finish line and coast his car past the checkered flag.

Sometimes taking a calculated risk of success in an unconventional way is preferable to an almost certain guarantee of failure.

Having extra fuel on the last lap does no good if you don’t win the race. Those other drivers who had extra fuel don’t get to have their names on the Borg Warner trophy.

The fastest car doesn’t always win. It didn’t this time.

Sometimes there is no substitute for courage, boldness and persistence.

The true mark of a great idea well-implemented and successful is for everyone else to say “Why didn’t I think of that?” and afterwards for it to be self-evident and seem as natural as the sun coming up tomorrow.

So, Congratulations to the whole Andretti-Herta Autosports Team, but in particular Brian Herta and victorious driver Alexander Rossi.

Rick Miller is president / sole member of Innovative Drive Solution LLC, - an engineering consulting firm specializing in gears and power transmission devices.