Wheldon Wins 89th Indy 500
Dan Wheldon won the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday to become the first British winner since Graham Hill in 1966
The Andretti Green Racing driver won the race from 16th on the grid - his fourth IRL win from five races this season. The win comes just two years after he flipped upside down in his maiden Indy 500.
Wheldon, who won the race under yellow flag, was followed by Vitor Meira of Brazil in second and teammate Brian Herta in third. Danica Patrick, who became the first woman ever to lead the race, was fourth.
Former race winner Buddy Lazier finished fifth ahead of Scotland's Dario Franchitti, Scott Sharp and early race-leader and pole-sitter Tony Kanaan.
Under clear blue sky and in front of 350,000 spectators, the 89th race saw seven different leaders and a record 27 lead changes - tying with the 27 lead changes in the 1960 and 1923 race.
The race began with a close battle between Kanaan and second placed Sam Hornish Jr., the two exchanging the lead between them, followed closely by Dario Franchitti, who moved from sixth on the grid to third.
The first caution period came on lap 18 of the 200-lap race, when Larry Foyt crashed his car into the barrier at Turn 1, bringing out the safety car. He was taken to the Indianapolis Methodist Hospital with back injuries.
The race resumed on lap 25, with Franchitti now taking the lead from Kanaan, only to lose the lead back the following lap. Some ten laps later, Hornish was back with the leaders and made a pass from third to first, claiming the lead again on lap 38 and remaining ahead until he pitted on lap 55.
By lap 56, Danica Patrick had moved up front, taking the lead for the first time - and becoming the first woman in the race's history to lead the event. A lap later, she went into the pits and Brazilian Bruno Junquiera assumed the lead for the first time in the race.
But Junquiera's race was soon to end, when 20 laps later he crashed heavily in Turn 2, after a collision with A.J. Foyt IV. Foyt did not appear to see the faster Junqueira try to lap him and the pair touched, sending the Newman-Haas driver into the SAFER barrier. He was taken to the Methodist Hospital, suffering from concussion and fractured vertebrae.
"It happened real quick," Foyt said later. "We got past Turn 1; Bruno came up on me. It's unfortunate for him. I hope he's all right."
Former winner Kenny Brack's race ended shortly after, on lap 99, with suspension failure, the Swede stating: "It's something you don't expect. The nut came loose on the wishbone. It is tough for this team. They worked very hard this month with Buddy [Rice]'s crash and then me coming in late.
"The car felt good early, but the track was dirty and had very little grip. I felt good out there today, and I thought we had a good chance to move up. It felt good to be back in the race car."
The next caution period came on lap 114, when Richie Hearn and 2003 series champion Scott Dixon collided at Turn one. Hearn spun and made contact with Dixon, the two drivers uninjured but out of the race.
In the mean time, at the front, Wheldon had moved up to third, with Kanaan and Hornish still battling for the lead. However, the duel ended on lap 146 when the American crashed at Turn One after understeering into the wall while battling with Sebastien Bourdais.
Hornish, who led 77 laps - the most of any driver in the race - remained tight-lipped about the incident, merely stating: "I haven't seen the replays close enough, but I felt I got pinched a little bit."
Wheldon took the lead for the first time after his Andretti Green Racing team made the best pitstop on lap 147, setting up the final tense stages.
On lap 162, Vitor Meira took the lead from Wheldon and became the race's seventh different leader. Wheldon, however, repassed the Rahal-Letterman driver three laps later.
Patrick then spun under yellow flag conditions causing a multiple car accident, later complaining that Scott Sharp had slowed in front of her. The resultant chain-reaction ended the race of Tomas Scheckter and Tomas Enge.
"It's unfortunate because I was having so much fun," Enge said. "Everything went according to plan. I was setting the car up during the race. After the restart, Danica... I was trying to get by her, and she ran into my car. It's really a shame because the guys at Panther and Chevy gave me a great car."
Patrick was able to pit to repair her car's damaged nose but was called in again by officials because she had pitted while the pits were closed. This allowed her Rahal-Letterman team to gamble on fuel strategy and top-off on fuel, which jumped her to the front of the pack when the rest of the field pitted.
While the watching crowd was cheering Patrick's lead, Wheldon was closing in, the Briton passing her a split second before the caution came out for Kasuke Matsurra's crash on lap 186.
Patrick, nevertheless, repassed Wheldon on the restart in lap 190 and appeared to build a gap, only to lose the lead four laps later, when she was asked by her race engineer to conserve fuel, allowing Wheldon to repass her for the lead, while her teammate Vitor Meira, as well as and Bryan Herta, also got past her, for second and third respectively.
"My engineer, Ray, told me we needed to have the restart of the century," Patrick said after the race. "I think we had it. It was pretty good. But in the end, saving fuel had to override everything else... I think it's pretty great where we ended up actually."
With just two laps to go, Indy 500 rookie Sebastien Bourdais crashed into the barrier in Turn 4, bringing the final caution period of the race and meaning the 89th Indianapolis 500 would finish under yellow and chequered flags.
As he crossed the finish line, Wheldon punched the air with delight to become the first driver in the race history to win from 16th place on the grid. He was also the first driver to win in car #26 - and, most significantly, the first briton in nearly 40 years to win the event, since Formula One World Champion Graham Hill won the race in 1966.
"This has been a dream come true for me," an emotional Wheldon said after the traditional milk-drinking celebrations on the podium.
"I've loved the Indianapolis 500 ever since I was a little kid in England. And you can see what a race it is. The best drivers in the world are here. The best teams in the world. I'm having an emotional moment. I'm just so glad. Thank you very much everybody.
"This is the Indianapolis 500. It's the best race in the world. It's the best place in the world right now."
The 89th Indianapolis 500 - Final Results:
Pos Driver Make-Engine Laps 1. Dan Wheldon Dallara-Honda 200 2. Vitor Meira Panoz-Honda 200 3. Bryan Herta Dallara-Honda 200 4. Danica Patrick Panoz-Honda 200 5. Buddy Lazier Dallara-Chevy 200 6. Dario Franchitti Dallara-Honda 200 7. Scott Sharp Panoz-Honda 200 8. Tony Kanaan Dallara-Honda 200 9. Helio Castroneves Dallara-Toyota 200 10. Ryan Briscoe Panoz-Toyota 199 11. Ed Carpenter Dallara-Toyota 199 12. Sebastien Bourdais Panoz-Honda 198 13. Alex Barron Dallara-Toyota 197 14. Adrian Fernandez Panoz-Honda 197 15. Felipe Giaffone Panoz-Toyota 194 16. Jaques Lazier Panoz-Toyota 189 17. Kosuke Matsuura Panoz-Honda 186 Accident 18. Roger Yasukawa Dallara-Honda 167 Retired 19. Tomas Enge Dallara-Chevy 155 Accident 20. Tomas Scheckter Dallara-Chevy 154 Accident 21. Patrick Carpentier Dallara-Toyota 153 Mechanical 22. Jeff Bucknum Dallara-Honda 150 Accident 23. Sam Hornish Jr. Dallara-Toyota 146 Accident 24. Scott Dixon Panoz-Toyota 113 Accident 25. Richie Hearn Panoz-Chevy 112 Accident 26. Kenny Brack Panoz-Honda 92 Mechanical 27. Jeff Ward Dallara-Toyota 92 Retired 28. A.J. Foyt IV Dallara-Toyota 84 Retired 29. Darren Manning Panoz-Toyota 82 Mechanical 30. Bruno Junqueira Panoz-Honda 76 Accident 31. Marty Roth Dallara-Chevy 47 Retired 32. Jimmy Kite Dallara-Toyota 47 Retired 33. Larry Foyt Dallara-Toyota 14 Accident
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