The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat summed up the final lap of the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 as Dan Wheldon took advantage of rookie J.R. Hildebrand’s misfortune on the final corner to sweep past and win his second Indy 500 and the first one for his Bryan Herta Autosport team. Hildebrand, who went wide to lap a slower car, hit the marbles and then the wall in turn four to the shock of all. He coasted across the line to finish second. Third through fifth were Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon.
Vitor Meira and Indy teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay had a tough day in their ABC Supply Dallara/Honda cars as a series of circumstances combined to produce a tough day for both.
Meira started off with a good race as the ABC Supply crew pitted him quickly enough to move him from 11th to eighth during a caution period for E.J. Viso. When the yellow came out for Jay Howard on lap 62, Meira was about to pit but the pits closed. He pitted for a splash of fuel but the car stalled as he went to leave.
When the engine refired, he’d dropped back to 16th. Pitting for a full stop two laps later, Meira was trying to enter his pit as Ed Carpenter was trying to leave his pit. Neither car made contact but Meira had to be pushed back after the stop as his car was angled wrong because of the near miss. He dropped back to 18th.
With Meira lacking straight-line speed, the team made changes to take away some downforce about midway through the race. During that green flag stint, Meira slipped from 12th back to 17th as he struggled with the car in traffic. He went a lap down on lap 138. The team added some of the downforce back in on the next stop. Then the car ran laps as fast as the leaders but there was never an opportunity to get his lap back. He soldiered on to finish 15th.
"It was a long day,” said Meira. “We had great pit stops. We picked up a lot of positions after every stop. As windy as it was and as hot as it was today, we didn't have any practice in conditions like this. In hindsight, we may have done too much qualifying work and not enough race work. It just wasn't the day for us."
It just wasn't the day for us.
Asked about the double file restarts, Meira added, “They weren’t so bad after all. Everyone behaved pretty well and the track and IndyCar officials did a good job of cleaning off the track during the caution periods.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay struggled with the No. 41 ABC Supply/DHL/Sun Drop car throughout the race despite running a different set-up from the 14 car. In an effort to keep Hunter-Reay comfortable after the driver switch, Foyt arranged it that Hunter-Reay work with his regular Andretti Autosport engineers and pit crew on Carb Day and in the race. Unfortunately, Hunter-Reay’s race was also frustrating. He finished 23rd.
"We dealt with a lot of issues today, but everybody dealt with tricky conditions today, which made for a loose race car,” said Hunter-Reay. “But we really struggled more than others. It was a monumental task to prepare a car in 30 laps of warm-up for the longest race of the year and most important race of the year. The ABC Supply and DHL/Sun Drop guys did a great job preparing the car; we just missed the balance. For me, all day, it was an exercise of just keeping the car out of the wall. I almost lost it at least 12 times."
The only one on the team who didn’t have trouble with his car was Foyt who drove the Chevrolet Camaro to pace the field at the start of the Indy 500. “Who would have thought I would be leading the Indy 500 fifty years after winning my first race here?” said Foyt. “It was a lot of fun. Not as much fun as driving a race car but it is second best.”
Today his drivers might have disagreed with him.
The next race for the IZOD IndyCar Series will be at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, June 11th. The Firestone Twin 275s will be broadcast live at 8pm ET on Versus.