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Wheldon takes dramatic Indy win

Dan Wheldon celebrates Indianapolis 500 victoryDan Wheldon took an incredible second Indianapolis 500 victory in Bryan Herta Autosport's second ever IndyCar race as JR Hildebrand crashed at the final corner while on course for a shock rookie win.

Panther Racing driver Hildebrand had looked set to pull off a breathtaking win after making his last tank of fuel last a surprising 36 laps, which allowed him to sweep to the front as others pitted.

But with the win in sight, Hildebrand unbelievably drifted wide at the final corner of the race while lapping Charlie Kimball and slammed into the wall, crossing the line second in his wrecked car as Wheldon swept past to take the win.

Graham Rahal took third for Ganassi ahead of KV's Tony Kanaan and Oriol Servia (Newman/Haas).

On pure pace, the Ganassi cars of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti had the edge all day, but both fell down the order at the end and they finished only sixth and 12th.

Dixon exchanged the lead several times with polesitter Alex Tagliani (Sam Schmidt Motorsports) in the opening stints, while Franchitti worked his way forward from ninth on the grid.

Franchitti hit the front for the first time in the second stops, and though Dixon repassed him at the next restart, a slow third stop for the New Zealander left Franchitti firmly in control of the next stint - leading by as much as 8s at one stage.

As the final stops neared, Ganassi opted to take Franchitti out of the lead for a final pit visit under yellow with 36 laps to go, a strategy Panther also employed for Hildebrand, who had run in the lower half of the top 10 for most of the race.

The pair edged towards the front as others pitted, but while Franchitti had to admit defeat and pit with one lap to go, Hildebrand looked like he had made the strategy work until his final corner error.

Wheldon had been a top five factor all day in what he had expected to be his sole IndyCar start of 2011, and as the Ganassi cars faded, he moved into position to benefit from the last lap drama.

Rahal became ever more competitive in the second half of the race to come through for third, leading for a while before the last stops. Kanaan had to charge through the field twice, reaching the top six from his 23rd place start before losing 20 places again when he overshot his pit while dodging around Pippa Mann. He still fought back to fourth ahead of race-long lead factor Servia.

Dixon faded to sixth in the closing laps, followed by Bertrand Baguette - who led several laps for Rahal Letterman Lanigan as he tried to pull off a fuel mileage miracle in the last stint before finally pitting on lap 197 of 200.

Tomas Scheckter took eighth for KV/SH after a quietly competitive afternoon, ahead of Andretti Autosport's top runners Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick, Ed Carpenter (Sarah Fisher Racing) and late-stopper Franchitti. Patrick led for a while as she too tried an alternative fuel strategy in the late laps, while Andretti managed to get as high as third despite his team's struggles in qualifying.

After his brilliant pole and strong challenge for the lead in the early laps, Tagliani faded as the race progressed. His car fell completely off the pace after the third stops and he tumbled as low as 19th before brushing the wall and breaking his suspension.

The sister Sam Schmidt car of Townsend Bell was a top six contender for much of the race before a late collision with Penske's Ryan Briscoe. The Australian had been Penske's strongest runner on a very tough day for the multiple Indy winning team. Will Power lost a wheel at his first pitstop and could only recover to 14th, while three-time winner Helio Castroneves was never on the lead pace and finished 17th.

Other drivers to hit trouble included KV's Takuma Sato and EJ Viso, who both crashed - the former solo and the latter in a restart tangle with James Hinchcliffe. The Newman/Haas driver escaped that incident unscathed but crashed on his own later.

Simona de Silvestro (HVM) and Paul Tracy (Dreyer & Reinbold) both damaged their cars in brushes with the wall, though the later rejoined to finish 25th after lengthy repairs. Jay Howard also crashed when his Rahal/Schmidt car shed a wheel as he rejoined after a pitstop.

Results - 200 laps:

Pos  Driver               Team                          Time/Gap
 1.  Dan Wheldon          Herta                    2h56m11.7267s
 2.  JR Hildebrand        Panther                      + 2.1086s
 3.  Graham Rahal         Ganassi                      + 5.5949s
 4.  Tony Kanaan          KV                           + 7.4870s
 5.  Oriol Servia         Newman/Haas                  + 8.8757s
 6.  Scott Dixon          Ganassi                      + 9.5434s
 7.  Bertrand Baguette    Rahal Letterman Lanigan     + 23.9631s
 8.  Tomas Scheckter      KV/SH                       + 24.3299s
 9.  Marco Andretti       Andretti                    + 25.4711s
10.  Danica Patrick       Andretti                    + 26.4483s
11.  Ed Carpenter         Sarah Fisher                + 27.0375s
12.  Dario Franchitti     Ganassi                     + 56.4167s
13.  Charlie Kimball      Ganassi                        + 1 lap
14.  Will Power           Penske                         + 1 lap
15.  Vitor Meira          Foyt                           + 1 lap
16.  Justin Wilson        Dreyer & Reinbold              + 1 lap
17.  Helio Castroneves    Penske                         + 1 lap
18.  Buddy Rice           Panther                       + 2 laps
19.  Alex Lloyd           Dale Coyne                    + 2 laps
20.  Pippa Mann           Conquest                      + 2 laps
21.  Ana Beatriz          Dreyer & Reinbold             + 3 laps
22.  John Andretti        Petty/Andretti                + 3 laps
23.  Ryan Hunter-Reay     Foyt                          + 3 laps
24.  Davey Hamilton       Dreyer & Reinbold             + 7 laps
25.  Paul Tracy           Dreyer & Reinbold            + 25 laps


     Townsend Bell        Sam Schmidt                   157 laps
     Ryan Briscoe         Penske                        157 laps
     Alex Tagliani        Sam Schmidt                   147 laps
     James Hinchcliffe    Newman/Haas                    99 laps
     Jay Howard           Rahal/Schmidt                  60 laps
     Simona de Silvestro  HVM                            44 laps
     EJ Viso              KV                             27 laps
     Takuma Sato          KV                             20 laps
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Tagliani confused by race slump
Wheldon thrilled to win for Herta
Hildebrand most upset for team
Drivers still angry over restarts
Kanaan doubts he could have won
Patrick: Strategy gamble right call
Servia hoped for last shot at lead
Ganassi pair puzzled by strategy
Baguette rues lack of yellows
Power relieved to keep points lead
Rahal not surprised to reach third
Ganassi controls first half of Indy
Sato first out of Indy 500