After one of the craziest finishes in racing history, Dan Wheldon emerged as winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Just when it looked like rookie J.R. Hildebrand was one corner away from giving Panther Racing its first Indy 500 victory, he got up into the marbles in the fourth turn, bouncing the right side of the car into the wall.
Wheldon avoided the accident, passing Hildebrand to become a two-time champion. Hildebrand still had enough momentum to limp across the bricks to a second-place finish.
“I was just trying to go as hard as I could,” Wheldon said.
Wheldon came to Indy with the promise of only one race with Bryan Herta Motorsports, a small team Herta called last year, “Two Men and a Truck Racing.”
“It’s a fantastic achievement for the fans and Bryan. He’s given me such a dream ride,” said Wheldon.
Hildebrand was more disappointed for his team than himself, saying “We should have won the race … we had an incredible opportunity.”
Team owner John Barnes said, “I couldn’t be prouder,” but he added, “I think he will re-think Turn 4 the next time.”
Wheldon started sixth, staying in the top 10 most of the day.
Pole-sitter Alex Tagliani quickly fell to third when Scott Dixon and Oriol Servia passed him before the end of lap one. Tagliani took over on lap 10 for 18 laps before relinquishing again to Dixon. Tagliani, the Cinderella story of the race, led just one more time before brushing the Turn 4 wall on lap 148, leaving him with a 28th-place finish.
Takuma Sato brought out the first yellow of the race on lap 21 after getting out of the groove in Turn 1, brushing the concrete retaining wall between Turns 1 and 2. Sato was uninjured, but it set up the very first double-file restart for the series on ovals.
Going into the first turn on the restart, E.J. Viso restarted on the outside and moved down into the grass causing the car to spin, hitting the right side on the SAFER barrier.
Dixon led until Target Ganassi teammate Dario Franchitti passed him for the lead. Jay Howard brought out another yellow when he crashed re-entering the track from the acceleration lane. He lost the right rear tire, then hit the inside retaining wall. Howard did not sustain any injuries.
Franchitti restarted lap 70 in the lead, followed by Dixon, Tagliani and Wheldon. For the next 70 laps, Franchitti traded the lead several times with Dixon, Hildebrand, Servia and Bertrand Baguette. Danica Patrick had been slowly working her way into the top 10 after starting 25th and Marco Andretti also managed to climb into contention.
Patrick took the lead on lap on lap 179. Reminiscent of her rookie run in 2005, Patrick was leading, but fuel would again be the enemy. She had to stop on lap 189, just after Baguette passed her for the lead.
Baguette, a one-off driver for Rahal-Letterman Racing, extended his lead over Franchitti and Franchitti began to slow his pace in fuel-economy mode.
Baguette’s lead was more than eight seconds when he also had to make a final fuel stop. As the race entered the final stages, it became clear that, although Team Penske had been a non-contender the whole day, the other powerhouse team of Dixon and Franchitti would get a run for their money from several drivers.
Franchitti’s team called him in for a last stop, something Franchitti did not understand.
“I’m disappointed with the result. I don’t second-guess these guys. I only have a narrow view. They have the big picture,” he said afterward.
Dixon also was confused.
“Why we short-fueled, I don’t know,” he said. “We stopped 10 laps before anyone else, there’s no way we should have run out of fuel.”
At that time, Hildebrand and Dixon went by Franchitti; by the end of the race, Dixon and Franchitti had fallen to fifth and 12th respectively.
In his first season for Chip Ganassi, Graham Rahal crossed the finish line third, his best-ever Indy finish.
“I thought we probably had the best race car of any of our teammates. We were excellent in traffic,” said Rahal, who started in the 29th position.
Tony Kanaan of KV Racing started 22nd and ran solid all day. He worked his way into the top 10 in the final 20 laps before finishing fourth.
“We had a good car,” he summarized. “I didn’t have the car to win. It was a good race for us. You have to remember five days before the race season, we didn’t have a team.”
Servia, Baguette and Tomas Scheckter finished sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.
“We were up there,” Servia pointed out. “We showed we have something for these guys.”
Andretti and Patrick finished ninth and 10th respectively, giving the Andretti Autosport team some redemption from the dismal qualifying efforts. Andretti at one point in the race had moved to fourth, but made a call that did not work out in the end.
“The car was good until we trimmed,” he explained. “We were sitting pretty with some track position and then we gave it away.”
At 14th, Will Power was the highest-finishing driver for Team Penske. Power’s trouble started early when on his first pit stop, he left the pits before getting the signal. Subsequently, his left rear tire was not tightened. It came off on the track, forcing him back to the pits.
Three-time winner Helio Castroneves finished 17th, while Ryan Briscoe finished 27th after getting caught up in an accident when Townsend Bell moved too far down on him into Turn 1 on lap 158. The cars became locked together along the retaining wall between the first and second turns.
Dixon and Franchitti combined for a total of 124 laps led.
Wheldon avoids Hildenbrand's crash to claim Indy 500
After one of the craziest finishes in racing history, Dan Wheldon emerged as winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- Auto Racing
Trackside: Valley race fans should be happy
Whether your preference is non-wing sprint cars or late-model stock cars, this is the week that Wabash Valley race fans look forward to all summer.
The best of the best is the only way to describe what will unfold this week at Valley ovals. First comes the continuation of the popular UMP Summer National “Hell Week” tour for late models and its annual stop at Terre Haute Action Track tonight. USAC’s Indiana Sprint Week opens later this weekend with stops at Gas City on Friday night, Kokomo on Saturday and Lawrenceburg on Sunday evening.
Metro sports: Pounds among winners at Crossroads Dragway
Ron Pound was one of the winners in Crossroads Dragway racing on Saturday.
Trackside: Rising costs make Valley racing more difficult than ever
The life and times of your weekly short-track racer has long lived up to the colorful and exciting ways coveted by those in the stands who gather each weekend to watch their favorite team or driver compete.
While the weekly trek to the race track has always presented its challenges, the task in recent times has made those trips to the many dirt ovals across the country a little more difficult to make.
Metro roundup: Lady Rex take Ohio softball tournament
The Lady Rex 18u softball team had a 5-1 record over the weekend to win the Ohio Premier tournament.
Trackside: Likable Dave Darland still chalking up victories at 48
One of short-track racing’s all-time open-wheel greats continues to add to his growing legacy.
When veteran racer Dave Darland rolled into victory lane at Lincoln Park Speedway last week, he notched his 94th USAC career win. Add the countless number of open-competition wins over the years and it’s easy to surmise the popular driver is approaching the lofty 200-win plateau.
His latest checkered flag came in the USAC Indiana Midget Week show at the same 5⁄16-mile dirt oval where he cut his teeth in an open-cockpit car more than 30 years ago.
Groomer among Lincoln Park winners; Bell, Abreu take Indiana Midget Week races
Ralph Groomer was a feature winner in racing on Saturday at Lincoln Park Speedway.
Trackside: Thumbs up given for upcoming Indiana Midget Week
In his many years of serving in the public relation department for the U.S. Auto Club, Dick Jordan has developed a keen sense for rating the overall health and future of dirt-track open-wheel racing.
So when the veteran publicist voices a note of guarded optimism for the running of an upcoming series, one knows something special looms on the horizon.
Metro sports: Cassell wins Lawrence County title
Chris Cassell put together two rounds of 4-under-par 68 for a two-shot victory for his first Albright Motors Lawrence County Open championship on Sunday.
Metro: White wins mile, Sebastian 5K at TH Memorial Day events
Nolan White won the mile run and Matthew Sebastian won the 5-kilometer walk during Terre Haute Parks Memorial Day events Monday at Deming Park.
Six former winners chasing Indy 500 championship
Angst, frustration and heartbreak are all part of the lore of the Indianapolis 500, but when a driver finally takes the checkered flag, all of those words are quickly relegated to the back of their mind and replaced with pure joy. That emotion keeps bringing them back, and for the 98th running of the Indy 500, six former winners will chase that passion again.
Darland wins Hulman Classic for 50th trip to USAC victory lane
For once, the Terre Haute Action Track and the U.S. Auto Club got a weather break Wednesday night, a window amidst threatening conditions to allow the 44th Tony Hulman Classic to go off without a serious hitch.
Some might say Dave Darland got a break too, but most would agree instead that the veteran sprint car driver has learned to make his own breaks by this time. He won the Classic for the second time in his career — the first coming in 1993 — and is a three-time USAC winner this season while no one else has won more than once.
Trackside: Tony Hulman Classic set for tonight at T.H. Action Track
Looking for a potential dark horse winner in tonight’s scheduled running of the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned running of the Tony Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track?
The task is indeed a challenging one. The USAC sprint circuit offers some of the most competitive forms of racing anywhere in the country and picking a potential winner out of a field that has at least eight to 10 drivers capable of making it to victory lane is very much a guessing game.
Unlikely duo on Indy GP pole
Verizon IndyCar drivers in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis showcased rooster tails Friday as the rains came down for the Firestone Fast Six qualifying. Red flag conditions briefly halted the final session as officials stopped action for safety reasons.
Owner-driver Ed Carpenter getting ready for Indy run
Before too many pages get torn off the May calendar, IndyCar team owner and driver Ed Carpenter is trying to enjoy his free time away from race tracks.
Wednesday afternoon was an example of that.
The Wabash Valley native — born in Paris, Ill., and lived in Marshall, Ill., until he was 8 — signed autographs and granted media interviews while the car he drove in the 2008 Indianapolis 500 sat in the parking lot of the 500 Automotive Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership in Vermillion County.
Drivers give thumbs up to Indy’s new road course
IndyCar drivers were unified Wednesday: The new road course at Indianapolis is a whole lot better than the old one.
Trackside: Track promoters realize rainy weather is part of territory
The life and times of a race-track operator or promoter is sure to test the patience and character of any individual adventurous enough to journey into such a risky profession.
Especially if your name is Bob Sargent or Reece O’Connor and your race dates are at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Metro roundup: ISU’s Wampler makes national watch list
Indiana State’s Tyler Wampler has been named to the watch list for the 2014 Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year award.
2014 KISS Series opener today at Terre Haute Action Track
When the 2014 King of Indiana Sprint Series gets underway today, it will be at one of the most challenging ovals on the schedule. The Terre Haute Action Track earned its name years ago.
The Action Track is a big half mile, with sweeping turns and high-speed straightaways that demand the best from drivers, cars and crew. This may be illustrated by mentioning previous KISS winners at the Terre Haute oval — Jon Stanbrough (three times), Levi Jones, Tony Elliott, Shane Cottle and most recently Robert Ballou.
VIDEO: Windom seeking strong start to USAC Silver Crown Series at Action Track
Chris Windom has big plans.
Sure, the 23-year-old would like to make the ascent from success in the U.S. Auto Club to the fame and fortune of the larger racing series of NASCAR.
The Canton, Ohio, native who makes his home in West Lafayette has his sights on a big USAC season in 2014. Windom was second in Silver Crown points in 2013 and ninth in the sprint series.
Trackside: If weather cooperates, racers are set to start their engines
With any assistance from the weather, the Wabash Valley motorsports season is expected to shift into high gear this weekend on several fronts.
Nabors to sing ‘Indiana’ one last time at IMS
INDIANAPOLIS — Beloved actor-entertainer and legendary Indianapolis 500 icon Jim Nabors will sing “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the final time prior to the start of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25. Watch YouTube Video
Action Track great Gary Bettenhausen dies
Gary Bettenhausen, a legend of the Terre Haute Action Track, has died at age 72.
Kurt Busch to try Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600 on same day
It’s been 10 years since a driver last attempted running both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, a feat so grueling that only Tony Stewart has successfully completed all 1,100 miles.
Now Kurt Busch wants to give “the double” a try and he will have cars capable of winning both races.
Kurt Busch 70 percent sure he’ll run in Indy 500
Kurt Busch put his chances at “70 percent” at running the Indianapolis 500 this year because of recent developments that have pushed a potential program along.
Doctors tell Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti he can no longer race
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti said Thursday that doctors have told him he can no longer race because of injuries sustained in an IndyCar crash last month.
Trackside: Burns, Fitzpatrick provide fun moments at Putnamville
In a season that has generated more than its share of down moments for Wabash Valley fans and racers, last Saturday’s “King of non-wing Sprints” program at Lincoln Park Speedway served notice that there are still a few positive storylines to be found in the wild and unpredictable sport of sprint-car racing.
One such storyline unfolded this past weekend on the rough and challenging 5⁄16-mile Putnamville dirt oval. That’s where the runs of Eric Burns and Blake Fitzpatrick sent fans home feeling that if the season has to come to a close, it couldn’t end on a happier or brighter note.
Coons Jr. wins USAC Tony Hulman/Jim Hurtubise Classic at Action Track
For all but one race during its 2013 racing season, the Terre Haute Action Track has taken a beating from Mother Nature.
Trackside: Stewart proves versatility is one of his strongpoints
At a time each summer when stock-car racing takes center stage in the heart of open-wheel racing territory, it was Tony Stewart who emerged the big winner last weekend.
No, not Tony Stewart the race driver but Tony Stewart the owner. He’s the undisputed leader on two racing fronts — the car owner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series with Ryan Newman as his driver and the owner-operator of Eldora Speedway. The popular Indiana native posted impressive showings in both ventures.
Precipitation has been unkind to Action Track in 2013
Bob Sargent has seen it all and done it all in 30 years of motorsports track promotion. The Terre Haute Action Track promoter isn’t going to be fazed by much, but even he had to admit there is one thing that has sent a shiver down his spine in 2013.
The weather forecasts. He was asked if watching the weather has given him anxiety in a wet year.
“Sometimes,” Sargent chuckled. “But doing it this long, it becomes normal. I don’t if it’s nervousness so much as it’s frustrating. Rain is a big letdown.”
Trackside: Sprint Week is fun week for USAC fans
With three rounds down and four to go, the 2013 version of Indiana Sprint Week is ready to take center stage at the Terre Haute Action Track tonight — weather permitting, of course.
It’s hard not to mention the elements when talking racing at the Action Track this season.
Race organizers Reece O’Connor and Bob Sargent have felt the sting of Mother Nature worse than most Midwest promoters this spring and summer with all five of their scheduled shows washed out.
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