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DATE News (chronologically)
05/31/11
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Indy 500 provides all the Edmonton Indy angles
It's a promoter's dream come true. There are Indianapolis angles all the way through July for the Edmonton Indy.

Have there ever been more storylines going forward to the rest of the series than the ones from the 100th anniversary edition?

The difference between the ChampCar Series and the merged IZOD IndyCar Series is that the Indy 500 winner comes to the Edmonton Indy every year.

This year the first question is “Will the winner of this one be coming?”

Surely, Dan Wheldon will now have a ride to finish the series.

He didn’t have one before rookie J.R. Hildebrand crashed into the wall on the fourth corner of the final lap to win Wheldon the cold bottle of milk in the winner’s circle.

Wheldon is even a local angle.

The English driver, who won the 2005 Indy 500, married Susie Behm, a born-in-Red Deer, raised-in-Lacombe girl who grew up with Kim Proud who still lives there. Kim was Susie’s bridesmaid when she married Wheldon four years ago.

Second twice

So there are those angles with the winner who was second in the 500 for the past two years and ended up as the Indy 500 winner who led the least number of laps, just the final few yards down the straightaway, to the checkered flag.

But there are so many others who will have this year’s Indy 500 in their rearview mirrors going forward as well.

It’ll be that way forever for J.R. Hildebrand, the driver who made the most costly rookie mistake in Brickyard history on the 799th turn of the 800 turn race sitting in first. The car rode the wall all the way to the finish to end up in second.

Hildebrand won the 2009 Edmonton Indy Lights race. He also raced two Atlantic Series races here on the ChampCar undercard without notice.

But he’ll now be hounded to tell his story again and again, not just between now and July 22-24, but for the rest of his life.

Or how about Graham Rahal who two years ago drove the Edmonton Indy with the Edmonton Oilers’ logo on his car thanks to a healthy six-figure donation by Oiler owner Daryl Katz to car owner Paul Newman’s Hole In The Wall Gang boys camps. Rahal knew what it was like not to have a series ride. He missed his only Edmonton Indy here last year dating back to an Atlantic Series championship the first year of the event.

Sunday, with 20 laps to go, Rahal was in the lead with a chance to win the race on the 25th anniversary of his dad Bobby Rahal winning it. He finished third.

The three Canadians, Alex Tagliani, James Hinchcliffe and Paul Tracy all hit a wall. And while Tracy at least finished the race in 25th, Tagliani and Hinchcliffe leave Indy with far more interesting tales to tell.

Tagliani will be in Calgary Tuesday, as the new Canadian Grand Prix promoters of the Edmonton Indy deliver a message to that city, as they intend to do throughout Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, that this race belongs to them as well.

Hustling deals

Tagliani, three years ago, lost the ride he had in Champ-Car with merger and won a Canadian Tire Series event here on the 2008 undercard and returned to drive in races the last two years by hustling sponsorship deals with Northlands and other local firms.

Or how about Canadian rookie James Hinchcliffe, the Indy Lights race winner here last year, who was in 11th halfway through the race when he made his rookie mistake and stuffed it into the wall?

Danica Patrick led late but didn’t have enough fuel to finish and wasn’t a bitch to anybody when it was over.

Have all the wheels fallen off Team Penske? Is the fuel strategy guy at Target Chip Ganassi going to lose his job?

And the double-wide restarts provided spectacular scenes as they made their Indy 500 debuts and will likely result in a quick sellout of the few remaining seats on Turn 1 at the new track here.

There was a whole lot of free promotion for the Edmonton Indy to come out of Indianapolis this year. slam.canoe.ca

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