But then a blur of white and orange raced past, and Dan Wheldon materialised seemingly out of nowhere to take the chequered flag - an astonishing end to the race. Dan Wheldon could barely hold back the tears of joy as he gave his post-race TV conference.
"We came here to win," said his equally overcome car owner Bryan Herta, who was a driver here in 2005 when Wheldon won his first Indy 500. "We always said we came here to win ... But we actually won
The Panther team did file an appeal post-race on the technicality that Hildebrand was overtaken under yellow after his crash - a creative use of the rule book since no one would ever claim that a wrecked car could not be "passed" under yellow. But as the car was still in motion - and did indeed subsequently cross the finish line - the appeal had to be taken under serious consideration and may have technical grounds for overturning Wheldon's win.
Just because the chequered flag has come out doesn't mean that the drama is over, it seems.
Read: Panther appeal decision.