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Indy 500: Wheldon takes second title as JR crashes

An amazing final 25 laps of the Indy 500 saw the favourites falter and one unlikely name after another look set to win. One heartbreaking crash later, it was a Brit on victory lane.
If you'd asked the bookies, Scott Dixon was pretty much a lock for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 victory; or if not him then his Ganassi team mate Dario Franchitti.

They looked quietly confident throughout the whole of practice week, and would surely have locked out the top two spots on the grid if not for a puzzling fumble with insufficient fuel on their final pole shootout runs, so it seemed that it was a just matter of time before the true natural order was restored come the race start.

Just as expected, Dixon got a flying start and easily passed polesitter Alex Tagliani at the start of the race, but once again Tag showed that he and the Sam Schmidt Motorsport team were not to be underestimated. He wasn't going anywhere, and on lap 8 he stole the lead straight back from the race favourite and stayed there.

A couple of drivers toward the back were not so happy. Paul Tracy was into the pits early: "We had some type of issue going on with tyre vibration. We picked up a really bad vibration in the first stint, and then I started sliding and brushed the wall. We decided to fix the WIX car, get it back out there going ... We wanted to run it all day, pick up as many spots as we could and not end up in 33rd." The Dreyer & Reinbold team did indeed get Tracy back out and he ran to the end, albeit the last of the runners and 25 laps down.

Simona de Silvestro was another backmarker to have early handling problems leading her to brush the wall and damage her suspension: "I made contact with the wall in turn 1, and it bent the upright and the rear suspension. It didn't feel real good, and we realized that the upright was bent." There would be no fairy tale reward for her courageous comeback from the huge crash she suffered during practice week that left her qualifying despite badly burned hands. She would finally call it a day on lap 44.

Before that, Takuma Sato became the first retiree of the 2011 race when he got up too high on the race track and skated into the wall in turn 5. "I couldn't see that the car was inside of me, and by the time I got into turn 1, it was full speed and the car was there and I had to lift," he explained. "I wasn't supposed to be hanging on that way, and it is very disappointing. I really wanted to finish the race."

During the pit stops that ensued, Will Power got a nasty shock when he pulled away from his pit box only to have his left rear tyre suddenly fall off: the tyre changer had been frantically signalling a problem, but his warnings had been missed. Power would have to go round a full lap and come in again for a new set of tyres, and that put him off the lead lap - a set-back from which he was never to recover. "That was it for the day. We just had to try and fight our way back," he said after finishing 14th.

And then it was time for the first double file restart the Indianapolis 500 had ever seen: and they almost got away with it, if only EJ Viso hadn't tried to go three wide into turn 1. "I was running with Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe, and I believe that James Hinchcliffe missed a gear and he lost his momentum out of turn 4," he explained. "Graham Rahal went on the inside, and I went on the outside. Then when we were approaching turn 1, I got hit on my rear left tire and it spun me."

It was Hinchcliffe who had made contact with him: "[EJ] got into us, we got hit and had to come in and save the car from going into the wall on that one," he said. Viso spun off into the wall with a nasty crunch, enforcing a rapid return to a second caution.




Related Pictures

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Pippa Mann is delighted, giving interviews after succeeding in qualifying for the Indy 500 grid. Bump Day, Sunday May 23, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. [Picture credit: Dana Garrett for IndyCar Media]
Andretti Autosport`s Danica Patrick during Indianapolis 500 qualification weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 2011. [Picture credit: IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon, who crossed the line first at the 2011 Indianapolis 500 race on Sunday May 29. [Picture credit: IndyCar Media]
The start of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29: Alex Tagliani (bottom), Scott Dixon (middle) and Oriol Servia (top) form the front row. [Picture credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
JR Hildebrand (Panther Racing) wrecks on the last turn of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 while running in the lead. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 29 2011. [Picture credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon celebrates with the traditional drink of milk at end of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29. [Picture credit: LAT Photo USA]
Dan Wheldon celebrates at the 2011 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29. [Picture credit: LAT Photo USA]
The start of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29. [Picture credit: Larry Seidman for IndyCar Media]
The eyes of Scott Dixon look down track prior to practice for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon on course during practice for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
The Team Penske crew of Juan Pablo Montoya simulate a pit stop during practice for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay waits on pitlane prior to practice at Pocono Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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