Indy 500: De Ferran takes first Indy win

Gil de Ferran took his first Indianapolis 500 victory on Sunday, after a six-lap final dash fought out with team-mate Helio Castroveves. The Brazilian's victory provided Penske Racing with a third consecutive win in the race, but denied Castroneves the chance to score a historic treble

Indy 500: De Ferran takes first Indy win

The triumph was an emotional reprieve for de Ferran, who has missed the previous round of the IRL IndyCar Series while recovering from a concussion and back injuries. The win extended Penske's record to 13 Indy 500 victories.

"Something like this comes as a surprise," said the Brazilian. "You never know what this is going to feel like. It's a great sense of accomplishment, coming back from injuries like that. You have no idea what went on behind the scenes for this month of May to turn out like it was. I'm overflowing with emotion."

"I've always dreamed of winning this race," de Ferran said. "This is one of the most prestigious prizes in motorsports. I don't allow myself to get carried away. Over the final laps, it was very difficult to maintain focus."

De Ferran passed Castroneves for the lead 30 laps from the finish, and then resisted intense pressure from his team-mate until the flag. "It is a little bit about disappointment, but I guess that's part of the game," Castroneves said. "The good news is it's my teammate, so at least it's part of the team. The team is the one that is winning."

The team won with a driver who was in pain. De Ferran sustained a spinal fracture and concussion when he crashed March 23 during an IRL race at Phoenix International Raceway. "My shoulders started cramping halfway through the race," de Ferran said. "It was getting more and more painful and more and more difficult to block it out. The area behind my shoulders is very painful."

He wasn't the only one in pain. Andretti Green Racing star Tony Kanaan held on to third place despite similar pain in his shoulders. Driving with a cast on his left wrist as a result of broken bones sustained last month in a crash in Japan, Kanaan tried driving the car with one hand until he couldn't take it anymore.

"I wore my right shoulder out trying to hold the steering wheel with one hand," Kanaan said. "I just wanted it to look OK on the in-car camera. Toward the end of the race, I started to get a huge pain in my right shoulder, so what could I do? I started driving with my left arm."

Tomas Scheckter, who led the most laps - 63 - for the second consecutive Indy 500, finished fourth. Rookie Tora Takagi was fifth, and Alex Barron, a late replacement for Arie Luyendyk, finished sixth. Rounding out the top 10 were Tony Renna, Greg Ray, Al Unser Jr. and Roger Yasukawa.

Early on in the race it looked as if Michael Andretti might finally break his Indy curse, but alas it wasn't to be and almost exactly at the halfway mark the veteran rolled into the pit with his Honda engine terminally unhappy.

It marked a sad end to a great career in American single-seater racing for Andretti who retired today. "It was destined never to be," he said. "But at least I can say I led my last race."

Another AGR driver to make an impression was Daniel Wheldon. The British rookie was one of six drivers fighting for the lead in the last quarter of the race and looked to have probably the fastest car. But after blocking Sam Hornish Jr going into Turn 3 on lap 186, he lost control, hit the wall and rolled. He emerged unscathed from the car and it was just a shame that he couldn't finish a race he had done so well in.

But the day belonged to de Ferran. Emotional, it took several moments for him to compose himself before taking the traditional swig of milk in Victory Lane. "If ever there was a guy who deserved to win this race, it's Gil," said Team Penske president Tim Cindric. "He's truly a champion."

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