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Mike Conway survives nightmare crash at Indy 500

With 60 laps to go, the cars started a round of green flag stops, briefly giving Marco Andretti (who had been up to third and running strongly) the lead as the stops cycled through. And it was another poor stop for an element of the Penske line-up - who had come into this race as the favourites - when Helio Castroneves stalled and had to be refired. A very costly error.

At least Ryan Briscoe got through unscathed again, and indeed was one of the last to pit showing how well he was conserving fuel while still able to run up with the leaders. Unfortunately that luck came to a crunching end the minute he returned to the track, hitting the wall on the front straightaway on lap 147 and annihilating the right side of his car on the safety barrier. It looked as though the accident was possibly the result of pushing the tyres too far before they got up to temperature.

Briscoe had left a lot of debris and oil on the track, meaning a lengthy yellow flag period while the track was cleaned up. It was still too far from the chequered flag to make it by refuelling at this point, so most of the field stayed out and Dario was still in the top spot and rapidly pulled away from the field when the track went green on lap 156; Marco Andretti had returned from his previous stop in second place, but Tony Kanaan quickly wrested the position back from him.

The green flag was shortlived, as Sebastian Saavedra ended up spinning and planting the back of the 78 into the wall on lap 160. This time, the front runners all pitted and there was considerable congestion in the pit lane that saw Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon make contact. Will Power also had to return to pit lane next time round to replace a wheel - not a good day for the Aussie.

Several backmarkers stayed out, including Brits Mike Conway and Justin Wilson who led the field back to green and also giving Dario Franchitti the unfamiliar scenario of being stuck in among traffic in fifth. Would that put him of his stroke and leave him vulnerable to a charge by Tony Kanaan?

Conway was obviously far short on fuel and came in to the pits with 22 to go, the gambit of hoping for another caution not paying off. Wilson and Rahal made it to 10 to go, handing Helio Castroneves the lead briefly until the Brazilian's own pit stop two laps later. But fuel was marginal even for those drivers who had pitted under the last caution, and frantic calls were being broadcast from pit wall to all the drivers to get them to lift and conserve. Just when they most needed one, yellow flag caution periods were hard to come by.

Kanaan couldn't make it - he was in on lap 195, five short of race distance. And even Franchitti was on a knife edge, the Ganassi team finally ordering him to slow dramatically as they entered the final couple of laps. Further back, Dan Wheldon - not in danger on fuel - saw the opportunity to put the pedal to the metal and go for it, cutting chunks out of Franchitti's lead. If Dario really has nothing left in the tank, then he was a sitting duck. All that could save him now was a yellow flag.

Which is exactly what he got. As the leaders started the final lap, a massive accident was sparked by Mike Conway going into the side of Ryan Hunter-Reay. The angle was such that Conway was lifted up and launched into the air, spinning around wildly until he was collected by the wire fencing which duly tore the car apart, and then dumped the wreckage down on Hunter-Reay. A very, very nasty accident (which also collected others such as Helio Castroneves with debris and panicked avoidance measures, as well as a couple of fans from airborne debris that escaped the catch-fence). Conway's chassis was left upside down and the safety crews scrambled to extricate him, and for a moment the outcome of the race was secondary - but fortunately Conway was out and waving to the crowds moments later, clearly awake and alert albeit with a confirmed broken right leg and hence airlifted to hospital shortly after.

With relief that everyone was safe, the celebrations for the Flying Scotsman for his second Indy 500 victory (the first was in 2007) could begin, joined by his jubilant team boss Chip Ganassi and ecstatic wife, actress Ashley Judd. And in a day that had seen two Brits come top in the F1 Turkish GP half a world away, it seemed that the feat had topped by the Indianapolis 500 which saw not only Franchitti first and Dan Wheldon second, but their compatriot Alex Lloyd initially posted as coming third. However, a post-race hearing found that Marco Andretti had actually been running in third when the crash happened and that he had been wrongly overtaken during the confusion that ensued, so Marco had the position handed back by the race stewards with Lloyd fourth ahead of Scott Dixon (Ganassi) and Danica Patrick (Andretti).



Related Pictures

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3-4 September, 2010, Sparta, Kentucky USA #10 Dixie Target Chip Ganassi Racing`s Dario Franchitti.
Will Power celebrates with his team owner Roger Penske after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Team Chevy sweeps the podium as Tony Kanaan (center), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Saturday, August 30, 2014, during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Teammate Scott Dixon (left), driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes second, and Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes third. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg EllmanLAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, takes the chequered flag while racing to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, makes a quick pit stop while racing to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Brian Cleary/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by posing with the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by hoisting the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by kissing the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship with his wife Liz Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Confetti falls on the podium trio Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter celebrate after the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter celebrate after the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan celebrates with Chip Ganassi after winning the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan takes a selfie with his Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew in Victory Lane following the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Chip Ganassi congratulates Tony Kanaan on winning the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Saturday August 30 2014 (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
The #12 Penske crew celebrate title success (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon spins during practice (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves, Driver of the #3 Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the pole with the fastest qualifying time Friday, August 29, 2014, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Castroneves will start in the front row with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second fastest.  (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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