Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dan Wheldon Takes 2nd Indy 500 Win - Rookie Hildebrand Crashes on Last Lap

Dan Wheldon led only one lap today to win his second Indy 500, but it was the most important one: the last lap. Rookie JR Hildebrand pushed into the wall in Turn 4 coming to take the checkered flag and Wheldon scooted by for the win. Hildebrand still finished second just 2.1 seconds behind in his wrecked Dallara. In a race where two-wide restarts were implemented on an Indycar oval for the first time, drama seemed to pop up at every corner. Cars lost wheels in the pits (Will Power) and just after leaving the pits (Jay Howard). Another top rookie James Hincliff skated into the Turn 3 wall after Betrand Baguette passed him down low. Ryan Briscoe and Townsend Bell interlocked wheels and went into the Turn 1 barrier together. KV Racing's bad luck continued as Takuma Sato and EJ Viso were the first two cars out of the race in separate crashes. Yet the story ultimately was a win for the little guys, Bryan Herta Autosport, as Wheldon stalked the leaders throughout the day and never seemed to be out of the top five.

Indy 500 Winner Dan Wheldon Salutes Fans

Ten (10) different drivers led laps and for the first half of the race, it looked like it was going to be another Target Chip Ganassi Racing blowout as Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti took turns battling with polesitter Alex Tagliani for the lead. Together the Target boys led 121 laps and Tagliani led 20 before fading late in the race and also sliding into the wall to end an otherwise incredible month of May for another small team, Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Behind them, Graham Rahal roared through the filed to lead six laps and finish third on the 25th anniversary of his father's Indy win. Orial Servia was also impressive running up front all day and leading a handful of laps. Danica Patrick, Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter and Betrand Baguette also led laps on a hot and breezy spring day at the Brickyard.

The most exciting driver today was Tomas Scheckter in my opinion. Scheckter was a demon on restarts and consistently passed multiple cars through Turn 3 on the high side, seemingly at will. He was incredible to watch and finished 8th ahead of another hard charger, Marco Andretti who came from the last row to take 9th. Danica ended up 10th and looked like she would luck into the win on fuel strategy late in the race but it wasn't to be. One of the most interesting things to me was that the accidents all involved either multiple car tangles or cars pushing on marbles into the wall - no one ran loose and spun to wreck today, which is somewhat unusual for Indy. But with the amount of downforce they currently run, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. What was surprising was how poorly the Penske team ran: Briscoe crashed out, Power had his pit problem and Helio was never really that competitive, especially after he cut a tire in the aftermath of teammate Briscoe's accident. So much for my pre-race prediction of Helio becoming the next 4-time Indy 500 winner.

So another Indy 500 is in the books and the huge crowd on hand thoroughly enjoy the show. This was a race for the ages as a rookie almost won and a veteran who does not have a full season ride did. I look forward to the rest of the season and know this race now sets the stage for how ovals may look for the rest of the year. To see a sampling of photographs from my Turn 3 vantage point, please enjoy the following slideshow.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nice photos, as usual. I paricularly like the ones that show skid sparks before the tires got up to pressure. Great race for the smaller teams, and probably a function of a stagnant formula for so many years. Interesting to see what a new car brings next year!