"It's heartbreaking," said Kiwi racing driver Wade Cunningham after his debut drive in the Indianapolis 500 ended just 41 laps into the 2012 race on Sunday. ((1403081|right|s3}}
After qualifying in 26th position the former World Karting and Firestone Indy Lights series champion's race ended in the pits with what is thought to be electrical issues on his AJ Foyt Racing No. 41 ECAT/ABC Supply Honda.
Before the problem manifested itself the 27-year-old New Zealander had moved up to 24th and after his first scheduled pit stop had worked his way back up to 23rd. However his car's engine began to misfire so he pitted on lap 38 thinking he might be out of fuel - which he wasn’t. Several attempts were made to fix the problem but Cunningham returned to the pits each time and the car was finally retired to the garage.
"The engine wouldn’t go over 11000 rpm so rather than get in the way and potentially ruin someone else’s race, we pulled it back here to the garage," he explained.
Having won the Indy 500-supporting Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights class race a record three-times Cunningham was one of the best credentialed rookies in this year's field. Aware of just how big a task it is taking on the 500 he had, in fact, been planning this year's effort for the past 18 months, choosing to contest three IZOD Indycar Series rounds last year in order to be well and truly up-to-speed for his Indy 500 debut this year.
Just getting an entry in the event was a massive undertaking, Cunningham spending the best part of the last six months working with sponsors ECat and ABC to cement a spot partnering the team's lead driver in the AJ Foyt Racing team.
This year's race was won by Dario Franchitti from 2008 500 winner Scott Dixon and 2004 IRL champion Tony Kanaan.