Dan Wheldon Wins the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 After Dramatic Last Lap Crash
INDIANAPOLIS, May 29, 2011 - Dan Wheldon has driven into history by taking the checkered flag at the famed Brickyard for the centennial anniversary of the Indianapolis 500.
Wheldon inherited the lead when rookie J.R. Hildebrand hit the wall coming out of turn four on the final lap of the race. Sunday’s victory was the second for Wheldon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he won in 2005 with Andretti Green Racing.
Wheldon said he felt “a lot of relief” as he saw Hildebrand’s car scrubbing against the outside wall. “I knew it was the last lap and knew a lot of those guys were struggling on fuel,” Wheldon said. “I just kept pushing. I love Indianapolis. I love the people. I love everything about it - the tradition, the history. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Hildebrand, driver of the No. 4 National Guard Dallara/Honda, skidded across the finish line with a smashed car to finish second for Panther Racing - the Indianapolis-based team for which Wheldon formerly drove.
“Just a bummer to come home second again,” said Hildebrand, referring to the fact that Panther cars have now finished as runners-up at IMS three straight years. “I really felt like we had an incredible opportunity to get on the big stage.”
Second-generation driver Graham Rahal of Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing finished third – gaining 26 spots from his starting position, earning him the Lincoln Electric
Hard Charger Award. This award is given to the car that starts the furthest back in the field and leads at least one green lap at some point during the race. The Hard Charger award included a $10,000 cash prize. Rahal will be presented this award once the IndyCar series returns to action June 11 for the Firestone Twin 275, in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Obviously, I feel great about it,” said Rahal. “At the same time, if it were two laps longer, I'd probably be drinking milk right now. Someone just told me we passed 67 cars today and didn't win. We knew we had probably one of the best cars out there. At the end, we were running probably a little bit too much downforce to do some of those big numbers, which is why Dixon passed me after that last restart. I didn't quite have the pace out front. But in traffic, I was as good as anybody.”
Tony Kanaan of KV Racing Technology-Lotus placed fourth while Oriol Servia of Newman/Haas Racing finished fifth.
Pole-sitter Alex Tagliani’s bid for a victory ended against the wall out of Turn 1 with 52 laps to go.
The Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers looked strong through much of the race as both Dario Franchitti, the 2010 race-winner, and Scott Dixon, the 2008 champion, led for a significant part of the race. Dixon, who started from the middle of the first row, finished sixth. Franchitti, defending champion of the series, finished 12th. Their bids ended when the 500 became a fuel-mileage race late in the going.
Danica Patrick of Andretti Autosport had an up-and-down day. She fell behind early but pitting off- sequence, she led the race late before having to pit for fuel with 10 laps to go en route to a 10th-place finish.
As the official welder of the IZOD IndyCar Series
, Lincoln Electric provides equipment, trackside services and expertise to teams who need to fabricate their vehicles in order to reach optimum performance and safety.