Dan Wheldon won the 100th anniversary edition of IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500 for the second time after rookie J.R. Hildebrand struck a wall on the final corner while leading.
Wheldon, a Briton in his first drive of the year who also won the race in 2005, collected the Borg-Warner trophy after completing 200 laps in two hours, 56 minutes, 11 seconds yesterday. Hildebrand’s battered Panther Racing car skidded across the line in second place, 2.1 seconds later.
“As soon as I knew it wasn’t serious, there was a little smile on my face,” Wheldon, 32, told reporters. “From that point, it was just making sure I didn’t do anything silly.”
Hildebrand, 23, looked set to become the ninth rookie champion when he passed two-time winner Dario Franchitti on lap 196 and took the lead seconds later after Bernard Baguette made a pit stop. Hildebrand ran too wide on the final corner and struck the wall, allowing Wheldon to take the checkered flag.
“My disappointment is for the team,” Hildebrand said. “We should have won.”
Wheldon, driving for Bryan Herta Autosport, never led until he entered the final straight, becoming the first driver to win the race having been in front for fewer than two laps. He won with an average speed of 170.3 miles per hour (274 kph). There were 23 lead changes, 10 different leaders and 40 caution laps.
Graham Rahal, the son of 1986 winner Bobby Rahal, finished third, 5.6 seconds behind Wheldon. Tony Kanaan was fourth, followed by Scott Dixon.
Ray Harroun won the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which opened two years earlier in Speedway, Indiana. This year’s edition of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was the 95th.
Each of the 33 open-wheel cars that began the 500-mile race around the 2.5-mile (4 kilometer) circuit known as the Brickyard were powered by a Honda Motor Co. 3.5-liter, 635-horsepower V-8 engine.
The race featured four women. American Danica Patrick, who was fourth in her 2005 debut, finished 10th. She led for 10 laps before being passed by Baguette with 11 laps remaining. It was Patrick’s seventh appearance in the race.
Pippa Mann, a 27-year-old Briton, was 20th, one place ahead of Ana Beatriz of Brazil, while Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland finished 10 places further back.
Janet Guthrie was the first woman to compete in the race, in 1977.
Helio Castroneves, the 2009 champion from Brazil who was seeking a record-tying fourth win and to become the first overseas racer to claim a quartet of victories, finished 17th.
Alex Tagliani, the first Canadian to win pole position, withdrew with broken front-wheel struts after he hit the outside wall on lap 148.
In addition to Wheldon, Franchitti and Castroneves, the grid featured former winners Dixon (2008) and Buddy Rice (2004), who was 18th.
The total purse for the race depends on attendance, which can be as many as 400,000 fans. Franchitti last year earned a record $2.75 million from the $13.6 million payout.