Hildebrand crashes, Wheldon wins dramatic Indy 500
Instead, Dan Wheldon beat the odds, and won the 100th Anniversary running. Hildebrand came in second, with Graham Rahal 3rd.
But with the win in sight and the crowd on its feet, Hildebrand drifted wide in final corner of the race getting around a slower car in the lower groove and slammed into the wall, crossing the line second in his wrecked car as Wheldon swept past to take the win.How it Happened
The press room at Indy is a pretty jaded place. They’ve seen it all, done it all, been there a long time. But when the entire press corp standing and cheering and screaming and yelling in the last ten laps, you know it was a race for the ages.
"Alex (Tagliani) has earned the Pole... He will pace the field down the front straight. Respect his position as a Pole sitter..."
So went the instructions in the driver's meeting before the race. So much for the rules – Scott Dixon went into the lead over the yard of bricks, holding it for the first couple of laps, before relinquishing it to Alex Tagliani takes lead on lap 3.
Crowd favorite Simona De Silvestro’ day came to an early halt, pitting on lap four. She finally retired her car – which she calls “Porkchop” (Porkchop has a Twitter account) -- on lap 44.
Sentimental favorite Paul Tracy also went into the pits on lap 19 for long stop. He soldiered on some 25 laps down, and finished 25th.
On lap 21, Takuma Sato hit the wall in Turn 1. In the ensuing pit stops, Will Power left the pits missing left rear tire, with his crew clearly yelling “don’t go”. It was the first of a long line of woes and missteps for Team Penske on the day. Power went a lap on three tires, and fell as many as 3 laps down. He finally finished 14th, 1 lap down, the best Penske finish of the month.
Worse yet, Davey Hamilton and EJ Viso collided as EJ Viso left his pits. Hamilton stalled, and his car was wounded. Hamilton would finish 24th.
"Also be aware of the possibility of someone who gets on your outside down the straights. Make sure you don't pinch someone who gets on your outside."
More words of wisdom from the driver’s meeting. Some drivers forgot them. Davey Hamilton got lucky with his encounter with EJ, as EJ made it 3 wide on the restart as he passed on the outside. EJ bumped James Hinchcliffe, went into the grass, and ended up in the Turn 1 wall. EJ Viso finished 32nd.
This marked the second time that drivers were supposed to be making 2-wide restarts. IMS had employed at least several street sweepers to clean up the outside groove, but the drivers didn’t believe that 2 grooves in turn 1 would work. The drivers were 2-wide in the short chute between 3 and 4, but as they sped up they went 1-wide down the front stretch.
The race restarted on lap 33, with Scott Dixon in the lead, followed by Alex Tagliani, Townsend Bell, Oriol Servia, and Dario Franchitti. The Ganassi team was strong early, with either Dario or Scott leading and pulling away at will. By lap 44, Ganassi's drivers were 1-2
Green flag it stops began on lap 55, with Dario Franchitti taking the ad on lap 61, only to have Jay Howard crash after a tire came off in the warm up lane. Vitor Meira came in too, but his car stalled, beginning a series of missteps and woes that ended a top-10 run. Vitor ended up 15th. During the caution, Team Penske cars were 14 (Briscoe), 19 (Power) and 21 (Helio).
When the race restarted on lap 70, the drivers suddenly figured out that Indy will really hold a 2-wide restart. They remained single file until start-finish line, but then they were suddenly 4-wide, giving some of the most spectacular – or scary, depending on how you look at it – racing in Indy history through the south end of the track.
Likewise, the restart after a lap 100 James Hinchcliffe accident looked more like an amoeba than a lineup, but that was NOTHING compared to a restart on lap 155, when cars went 4-wide in the turns, with another diving onto the warm up lane!
The lap 155 restart was necessitated because on lap 147 one of the best stories of the month came to an end. Alex Tagliani slid into the wall when he got into the marbles. “All of a sudden we kinda lost the rear of the car… Pretty much the rest of the time we were really, really loose.” Tagliani started strong, but had faded in the laps leading up to the crash. He finished 28th.
On the afore-mentioned lap 155 restart, Dario Franchitti pulled 8/10 second lead, and seemed to be invincible. When the drivers went to the 4 -- maybe 5 – wide restart, even jaded media people began ‘whoopin’ and ‘hollerin’ and jumping out of their seats.
“If you stick the nose under someone entering the corner, it is difficult to expect them to give up a lane and give you the bottom. You should expect them to come down as they turn into the corner.”
More words of advice from the driver’s meeting that was forgotten. On lap 157, Ryan Briscoe and Townsend Bell crashed when Bell came down on Briscoe, ending great day for Bell and making a bad Penske day even worse. Helio Castroneves limped in w/ rim only on right rear after shredding tire on debris. Kudos to the TV people, as there was awesome video and audio of crash, including audio of Bell’s spotter clearly telling him to hold high line. Team Penske for the day placed Will Power in 14th, Helio Castroneves in 17th, and Ryan Briscoe in 27th.
“You have to be around at the finish and put yourself in a position to compete. This race is won by survivors and smart thinkers, not just the fastest race car.”
Those are the final words of advice in the driver’s meeting, an elaboration on the Biblical observation that the race doesn’t always go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.
When the green flag flew on lap 165, the race ceased to be a contest of speed – where the Target – Ganassi team clearly was superior all day long – into a strategy and luck game. Oriol Servia, Graham Rahal, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, and Dan Wheldon were the top 5, but none had made pit stops. The first car on fuel run was Danica Patrick with 6 laps of caution laps, and Dario Franchitti with a couple of laps under caution.
After some very spirited racing, the pit stops began on lap 178 for those who didn’t pit in the previous caution period. First was Dan Wheldon pits, followed by Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia, Scott Dixon, and Tony Kanaan. At that point Danica Patrick lead the race, but needed 41 laps from her tank of gas to finish without a pit stop. Dario needed 36 laps, and both obviously were hoping for a late-race long caution.
Danica started slowing on lap 189, allowing Bertrand Baguette to take the lead, with Marco Andretti in third, Dario in fourth, and Jay Hildebrand in fifth.
Finally, on lap 191, Danica and Marco pitted, leaving Bertrand Baguette to continue the fuel run. However, on lap 197, Bertrand was forced to pit, giving the lead to Panther Racing’s Jay Hildebrand, who had just passed Franchitti’s fume-driven car.
What then transpired is one of the most memorable finishes in Indy history. Suddenly, it looked like Jay Hildebrand – and Panther racing – would win the race if they could just hang on to a fuel run. No one breathed as the entire world watched for one bobble. With one lap to go, he was 3.8 second ahead of Scott Dixon, who was running out of gas. And, as he entered turn 4 on the last lap, it looked like he would be this year’s winner.
What follows is probably a matter of debate for many years. Whether Hildebrand just choked, or whether his car just was handling that badly, we will debate for years. What is fact is that Hildebrand went high in turn 4, hit the marbles… and then the wall. “I went to the high side… I got into the marbles and that was it” Hildebrand said after the race. Hildebrand’s car skidded along the front stretch wall to finish second, with Graham Rahal finishing 3rd.
We might’ve seen a great race, but the result will be debated for years.
The rule is that when the yellow flag is thrown, no more passing is allowed. Just ask Paul Tracy about that rule – he’ll tell you that Indy enforced it in his case. At the end of the race, Panther Racing filed an appeal with the Indy officials, and the entire world waits for a verdict. Either way, it will be debated for years.
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Monavie-KVRT – Lotus, 33rd): “I couldn’t see that the car was inside of me, and by the time I got into Turn 1, it was full speed and the car was there and I had to lift. I am very disappointed, and it is quite unfortunate that I am not a part of the race. I wasn’t supposed to be hanging on that way, and it is very disappointing. I really wanted to finish the race.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing, 29th): “It was a disappointing day. A disappointing end for the Sprott car because we rebounded pretty well. At that point, we were driving on borrowed time after what happened with Viso and I forget who else it was on that restart. He got into us, we got hit and had to come in and save the car from going into the wall on that one. I'm not quite sure how we managed that, so we were sort of driving on borrowed time. We were just trying to be a bit conservative. We got lucky on a yellow and got in around the top 10. We were just about to pit; the tires were just starting to go off. Bertrand got a good run on me, and I was really just trying to let him go. I backed off early and was giving him the corner but unfortunately got a little bit in the grey. With how worn the tires were, at that stage of the stint I was just a passenger.”
E.J. VISO (No. 59 PDVSA-KV Racing Technology-Lotus, 32nd): : “I was running with Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe, and I believe that James Hinchcliffe missed a gear and he lost his momentum out of Turn 4. Graham Rahal went on the inside, and I went on the outside. Then when we were approaching Turn 1, I got hit on my rear left tire and it spun me.”
JAY HOWARD (No. 88 Service Central Schmidt-RLL Racing, 30th): “I was having a great race. I've got to thank my Service Central guys, Sam Schmidt and Rahal Letterman Lanigan for giving me an opportunity here. Everyone worked really hard. I had a great car. I was loving every minute of it. We were making our way through the field. I think I got as high as 12th or 13th. The car felt really good. I'm not sure exactly what was wrong, but I lost the right rear wheel. I don't know if it was an issue with the nut gun. I'm not sure what happened.”
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy HVM Racing, 31st): “I made contact with the wall in Turn 1, and it bent the upright and the rear suspension. It didn’t feel real good, and we realized that the upright was bent. A big thanks to HVM Racing for all they have done for me this week and to Nuclear Clean Energy. The car felt really good until I made that little mistake in Turn 1.”
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 99 Herbalife Schmidt Pelfrey Racing, 26th): “It’s a shame. The Herbalife 24 car was competitive here, running up front. I've got to see the replay, but it seems like somebody hit me in my left rear, I think it was Ryan. I saved it in Turn 1 and whammo, it got me again and pinned me in the wall.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 IZOD Team Penske, 27th): “I saw Townsend brush the wall in Turn 4. Everyone was going down the inside. I was just following through on the inside into Turn 1. I just think he didn't know I was there, and he just came down and pinched me. As soon as we made contact, the wheels interlocked. And that was it.”
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 07 Team REDLINE Xtreme – Circle K, eighth): “I had to work hard for what I had today. I pushed hard on the restarts, and that’s how I gained positions. A big thanks to REDLINE and all the people who put their effort in this, Circle K. We struggled a bit on straight-line speed, but we made up for it in other places. We made up for it with a consistent car.”
VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing, 15th): “It was a long day. We had great pit stops. We picked up a lot of positions after every time. It’s hard to predict. As windy as it is and as hot as it is today, we didn’t have any practice in conditions like this. In hindsight, we may have done too much qualifying work and not enough race work. That was just how the weekend was with the rain and everything. We couldn’t really plan well. We did everything we could. It’s hard to guess on these things. I think we got a good result. We brought it home. Let’s go to the next one. It’s not the first, and it’s not the last. It was just one of those days where you flip the coin and see what happens. In the end, it wasn’t the day for us. We are definitely not pleased with this. We were expecting a top 10. It just wasn’t the day for us.”
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy, 10th): “That’s what you have to do here at Indy; you have to take that chance because it’s win or bust here, for the most part. While it’s great to have top-five finishes every weekend, Indy is about winning. And I was just saying, ‘Every time I come here and see someone else win, I hate it more every time.’ So the more times I come here the more I love it, the more I want it. I have to say thanks to the fans for coming out. It was a packed house today. Everybody was great. The sun was shining. It was a good Memorial Day weekend.” (On leading the race): “I was thinking, ‘OK, I kind of know that I’m doing this on strategy right now.’ But I did know that there were lots of yellows coming out around pit stops. So I thought, ‘Just keep your head down, keep running.’ And I picked up a vibration. We tend to pick up a vibration at the end of every tire life, so it was kind of throwing me off a little bit. But you’re just hoping for that break. Whenever you’re trying something, to make that jump up to the front, there’s always a downside.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO-KV Racing Technology-Lotus, fourth): “We had a problem on a pit stop because of somebody else. We had a good car. We drove hard all day. It was a lot of fun. I am surely happy for Dan (Wheldon). He’s been through a lot. He got thrown out the window. A lot of people said that he wasn’t good enough. I’ve been through that at the end of last year. I didn’t have the car to win. It was a good race for us. I’m happy for the KV guys. You have to remember, five days before the race (season opener in St. Petersburg), we didn’t have a team.”
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 24 Team Ipiranga/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, 21st): “The conditions were pretty difficult. We made a mistake on our fuel calculation and had to stop a little bit earlier than everybody. That cost us a lap. We got left behind and couldn’t really recover. It’s a shame. The car was pretty good. Hopefully we can put it together next year. I mean, it’s tough. It was very competitive, and we just couldn’t get the yellows where we wanted so that we could get our lap back. We can’t really accept mistakes anymore. We need to understand how to get it right. If we do that, maybe we can have a chance at getting a win at the Indy 500.”
ALEX LLOYD (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America, 19th): “It was a difficult race. We didn’t quite have the car we needed. We tried our best; we had a shot at the top 15 near the end and tried to turn it into a top 10. We took a gamble on fuel and it didn’t work, so we landed outside the top 15. We didn’t have the speed; we haven’t had it all month. It was a difficult day, but the big thing was getting this car in the show. We almost missed it. The crew got us in the show. We ran a clean race, and we did the best we could with what we had.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, 14th): “At the first pit stop, the wheel came loose and knocked the lead screw off, so I had no brakes. So we did a stint like that, came in, and had to fix that, got a lap down, and that was it for the day. We just had to try and fight our way back.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom, ninth): “We made a call to lose track position, and we were trim. So we were trimmed in the back. So the car was good until we trimmed. We were sitting pretty with some track position, and then we gave it away. It’s a team effort. They were all running out of fuel at the end. If there is wasn’t one more yellow, maybe we’re coming full tilt and they’re all slowing up. We went for it as a team.” (What were you thinking when the early caution helped you?) “I was thinking: ‘All right. Now we’re in it to win it.’ We were coming in trim. We were sitting pretty for a minute, but we gave it away.” (What did you think of the double-file restarts?): “I’m going to be very frank about that and say they’re trying to kill somebody. I’m glad it’s great for the fans, but the risk where we’re at is just ridiculous. It’s a lottery.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 22 Z-Line Designs/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, 16th): “It started out pretty tough. It was a bit of a handful, but we kept working on it. So it was a tough day, but we just kept working on it trying to make it a little bit better, bit more consistent. By the end it was OK, but we got caught in the pits on one of those occasions and went down a lap. So that was a little frustrating. We kept trying to get a lap back, but there’s just no way. So that just limited the possibilities. We just kept working at it. It’s not the result we’re looking for, but we can build from here and try and keep improving throughout the season.” (About double-file restarts): “The double-file restarts were a little frantic, but fortunately they did a great job of sweeping the track so we could race side by side, so that was quite fun. So all credit to INDYCAR and the Speedway because it allowed us to go racing, and I enjoyed it. It was close at times. There was a lot of close racing. But it was great that they swept the track because then we could actually race.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 12th): "I thought our Target car was as good as anything out there today. The engineers made good calls fixing the balance of the car. The mechanics, the pit stops were fantastic. And we're leading the race, and we came in to do that stop. But I don't know. I don't understand right now. They're going to have to explain that one to me. I'm proud of the Target team for the job they did today. And as sad and disgusted as I feel right now, I have to say congratulations to my old teammates, Dan Wheldon and Bryan Herta. That's pretty cool. As sad as I feel right now, there's still a little smile in there for those boys. And I will say, it's going to be one hell of a party tonight. But I feel really bad for my team. I feel bad for myself right now, and I feel bad for Scott. It's a good race, sad end." (You're disappointed with why they brought you in at the end?): "I'm disappointed with the result. I don't second-guess these guys. I only have a very narrow view of what's going on. They have the big picture. These guys have won me a lot of races and some championships, and I don't second-guess them.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 2 CDW/Telemundo, sixth): "Listen, when you've been leading the race like that, fifth doesn't feel enough. And fifth is the lowest we've been in the whole race, so it doesn't feel enough. But great effort. We were up there. We showed we may have something for these guys. And we'll take the fifth. You know, this is the Indy 500. It's the centennial, and when you smell it, you really, really want it. Nothing else satisfies you. But everyone involved is really happy, and that's what we need: happy sponsors and keep moving forward. I'm not disappointed but definitely frustrated. Honestly, I thought there was going to be a last restart. I knew with the downforce I had, I had something for those guys. I kept thinking, ‘There's going to be a yellow, there's going to be a yellow.” No yellow. But anyway, we'll take the fifth." (On the restarts): "You know, there were a couple of hot moments out there. But I think everybody behaved. We all knew what was at stake. I'm just really glad nobody got hurt.”
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 Bowers &Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, 28th): "The Bowers & Wilkins 77 car was fairly competitive early in the race. I can't thank enough my team. They did a fantastic job all month long. We had a really good, balanced car early on. It was nice to drive it. Then all of the sudden, it became very loose. I couldn't really get it back on track, you know, with all the tools I had in the car. So we were struggling with a very nervous car. In one of our pit stops, we thought we fixed it, but we didn't. It's a shame, because early on the car was so good I thought we had a shot at it all race long. But we kind of lost the car at some point; very curious. When the car became loose, I don't think we were going to become a threat for Dario (Franchitti) and Scotty (Dixon). It was a shame, because early on I think we had something for them. It's something we're going to have to look at. I don't know why exactly the car became loose.”
DAVEY HAMILTON (No. 11 HP/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, 24th): “It was tough right from the start. We had way too much understeer early on. We came in for our first stop and had to fix that, so I kind of started out in a bad position. It wasn’t that we were out of balance or anything. We just had understeer. We fell back and just tried to survive. We came in for a stop, and Viso ran right into the side of us and broke a steering link. We spent the rest of the day trying to fix that. We got it kind of right by the end, but we were laps down at that point, so it didn’t make any difference. The team did great for all of the adversity they faced. It’s not that easy to make all of the changes that we had to make during the race. They did it, and they did a good job doing it. They kept me out there, but it’s tough when you get run into early in the race. We’re not really satisfied with it. We had high expectations with this team. The bottom line is that we just missed it by a little bit, and that’s part of racing.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske, 17th): “The turbulence of this season has continued. We had a very big vibration at the beginning, and we had to do an unscheduled pit stop. And then we had a flat tire. We were able to try to get back on the lead (lap), and then we had that flat tire. So it was one of those things. In the end, we were just trying to do something crazy, but unfortunately we couldn’t do it. We’ll go for the next one. Certainly, we learned a lot. This was the first oval (of the season). I do believe we learned a lot because this car wasn’t a strong one. We’ve got to keep fighting because one day we’re going to get it.”
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Team Window World, 22nd): “The race didn't go as expected. At the start, we felt good about the Window World Dallara. We were moving up; the car felt great. But all of a sudden in one lap I just lost everything with it. I don't know if we had a damper go bad or something else happen. But the rest of the day I just fought it, and it's really disappointing because like I said at the start, I was passing a lot of guys and I really felt like we could do something good for today, and then it was mere hanging on the rest of the day.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fifth): “Between Dario (Franchitti) and myself, we had this one pretty well covered. This is one of those places where it’s tough to win. We went on a bit of a run fuel-wise late in the race, and that’s what paid off for us last year. The yellow came a lot later. We short-fueled, and why we short-fueled, I don’t know. We stopped 10 laps later than anybody else on any strategy, there’s no way we should run out of fuel. My car was pretty quick. When we were up front, we were burning the left front tire off early in the race. We finally made a few changes near the end, and the car was pretty good. It just didn’t go our way. I definitely leave here thinking that I should have won my second ‘500.’”
BUDDY RICE (No. 44 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Panther Racing, 18th): “The race was long. I got hung out by two yellows. It went green when we were half a lap down, so that wasn't real exciting to do on top of that. It wasn't another second-place finish, so in that aspect it was disappointing. (The team) had one car up top, so that was the most important.”
PAUL TRACY (No. 23 WIX Filters/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, 25th): “The race was OK. We had some type of issue going on with tire vibration. We picked up a really bad vibration in the first stint, and then I started sliding and brushed the wall. We decided to fix the WIX car, get it back out there going. We have all the sponsors: WIX, Motegi Wheels, ARMA Energy. This was their first ‘500,’ so we wanted to run it all day, pick up as many spots as we could and not end up in 33rd. We survived the rest of the day, stayed out of trouble and picked up the 25th.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing, 11th): "I started eighth, finished 11th. But, you know, I've had 11th and eighth and better. I come here to try to win. We had a good car. We looked good early. When the wind picked up a little bit, we lost a little bit of balance. We made some changes to get it back. I got really hosed on one of the two-wide restarts. You know, it made some people's races, ruined some other people's races. I'm still not a fan of it because it takes racing out of it. You've got lapped cars in a two-wide restart. They block up the track, and there's nowhere to go. If that's what the fans want, that's what the fans want, I guess. But I'll keep complaining about it. Overall, it was a good month for the team. We just had a better car than 11th. That's the bottom line. The way the circumstances worked today and things that happened, we didn't get the finish. I can handle that, but it's still frustrating.”
BERTRAND BAGUETTE (No. 30 The RACB/Aspria RLL Special, seventh): “My car was really great. I was hoping for better, but that’s racing. We tried. We failed. I would love to be back with this team. They did a fantastic job. They deserve to be full time in the championship. We’ll see what we can do.” (How did it feel to lead the race?): “It’s incredible – leading the 100th Anniversary of the race. It is something unbelievable. We had a good chance to win the race. We were hoping for a yellow, but unfortunately we were two laps too short. We had to pit for some more fuel in the car and go again. I enjoyed my time out there, and it was a great day for me.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 41 ABC Supply/DHL/Sun Drop, 23rd): “We dealt with a lot of issues today, but everybody dealt with tricky conditions today, which made for a loose race car. But we really struggled more than others. It was a monumental task to prepare a car in 30 laps of warm-up for the longest race of the year and most important race of the year. The ABC Supply and DHL/Sun Drop guys did a great job preparing the car; we just missed the balance. For me, all day, it was an exercise of just keeping the car out of the wall. I almost lost it at least 12 times.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen, 13th): “It was a very successful effort at my first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Top 15 is what we were shooting for. That last stint, we went on an alternate fuel strategy, trying to make a gain. I went a lap down there at the end. The No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen car was amazing. I feel like I let it down. All day, we didn’t miss a beat in the pits. The whole NovoNordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team. When I was wrong on the marks, they’d get it right. When I was short, they’d get it right. They covered a lot for me. I have to appreciate them for that. It was a big effort all day. We brought home a 13th.”
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