IRL: Race Day Notes: Indianapolis 500

It's about time things came together for Sam Hornish Jr. at Indianapolis. In his prior six starts, not only did he not win but he never even completed the full 200 laps. His best performance before today was in 2001, when he was flagged at 196...

It's about time things came together for Sam Hornish Jr. at Indianapolis. In his prior six starts, not only did he not win but he never even completed the full 200 laps. His best performance before today was in 2001, when he was flagged at 196 laps and credited with 14th place.

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In contrast, Hornish's teammate Helio Castroneves had completed all laps in his previous six 500 entries, winning twice, but today his run ended in a crash on the 110th lap.

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Everyone knows that this is Roger Penske's 14th Indianapolis 500 victory. That ties him with the total of the next four most successful car owners combined: Lou Moore entered five winning cars, while Mike Boyle, Bob Wilkie and Pat Patrick were successful three times each. Twelve owners have attained two victories apiece.

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This is the fifth time car number 6 won the race. The last win for number 6 was 2003, by Gil de Ferran. Sam Hornish Jr. took over that ride after de Ferran retired. The winningest car number is 3, with ten victories. Interestingly, the last win for number 3 was in 2002, by Hornish's teammate Helio Castroneves.

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Sam Hornish Jr. is the fifth Ohio native to win the Indianapolis 500. This puts Ohio into a tie, with Pennsylvania, for third place in producing 500 winners. First and second places are held by Indiana, with seven, and California, with six. Sam is the first driver from Defiance, Ohio, to win the race.

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Florence Henderson returned once again to sing "God Bless America" during the opening ceremonies. As always, her rendition was stirring, and considered by many fans to be a fitting tribute to Kate Smith, who made the song famous. In another long-standing tradition, Jim Nabors sang "Back Home in Indiana" before the balloon release and the command "Lady and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines" delivered by Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairman of the Board Mari Hulman George.

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As befitting a Memorial Day event, the National Anthem was presented by five members of the United States Armed Forces. The singers were: Staff Sgt. Edward "Justin" Allen, U.S. Air Force; Sgt. Jennifer Castle, U.S. Army Guard; MU1 Lisa Taylor, U.S. Coast Guard; Gunnery Sgt. Remayl Shaffer-Hardy, U.S. Marine Corps; Petty Officer (MU3) Landon Crissup, U.S. Navy. Allen and Shaffer-Hardy are Indiana Natives.

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The National Anthem concluded with a flyover by a diamond formation of F-16 Fighting Falcons, flown by the 181st Fighter Wing of the Indiana Air National Guard. The 181st operates from Hulman Field in Terre Haute, and is nicknamed the "Racers." The Wing has seen service in Iraq.

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The Indianapolis 500 has always had an allure for celebrities. Seen at this year's race were Carmelo Anthony (NBA star and co-owner, Carmelo-Hemelgarn Racing), Jack Niklaus (golfing legend), Patrick Dempsey (actor, co-owner, Vision Racing), Angie Everhart (model), Jorge Garcia (actor), Ludacris (musician, actor), Michael Madsen (Actor), Pat O'Brien (television host) and Lala Vasquez (MTV VJ).

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More than just a celebrity, Sugar Ray Leonard (boxer: Gold Medal Olympian and former Welterweight, Lightweight, Junior Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and Super Middleweight Champion of the World) was today's Honorary Starter, and waved the green flag to start the race.

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This year the cars were powered by a mixture of 90% methanol and 10% ethanol. This is a transition to next year, when the cars will be powered by 100% ethanol. Ethanol is a bio-renewable resource, made from various agricultural products, and is considered to be a path to U.S. independence from foreign fuel sources. Many US gas stations have converted to a 90% gasoline, 10% ethanol mix. The No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol entry driven by Jeff Simmons is sponsored by the ethanol industry. Thiago Medereios's No. 18 PDM entry is supported by Etanol Brasil. Brazil is the world's largest producer of ethanol, with annual production more than twice that of the US.

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Marco and Mario Andretti were the fourth father-son combination to race in the same Indianapolis 500. Three of the four pairs are Andrettis: Mario and Michael, Mario and Jeff, and now Michael and Marco. The only non-Andretti father-son pair was Al Unser and Al Unser Jr.

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The official high temperature during today's race was 89 degrees. This is the fourth hottest race day recorded since 1949. Of 225 fans who required medical attention, 90% were for heat-related ailments. The hottest race day temperature was 91 degrees in 1953. That year ten drivers required relief. After turning his car over to a relief driver, Carl Scarborough died of heat exhaustion in the field hospital. Bill Vukovich drove without relief, and scored the first of his two Indianapolis 500 victories.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Mario Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Bill Vukovich , Roger Penske , Patrick Dempsey , Sam Hornish Jr. , Al Unser