Day By Day At Indianapolis – Race Weekend

May 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500. Many special activities are planned for the month but this column will be a brief summary of the daily happenings at the track leading up to the Indianapolis 500 itself.

May 29 Race Day! – Wow! It was a finish totally befitting the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500, and Dan Wheldon has claimed his second Indy 500 victory.

On the final lap, rookie driver JR Hildebrand apparently had the race won when, as he approached Turn 4, he came up on a slower car. As he was in fuel conservation mode, rather than slow down and follow the lapped car, he made the decision to go high and pass the car on the outside. He had made that move a couple of times earlier in the race and decided to go for it again.

Unfortunately, he got a little too high as he came around the slower car, got into the marbles (the rubber accumulation on the top of the track), lost traction on his worn tires and the car hit the frontstretch wall with the side of the car as the checkered flag was in sight.

He stood on the gas and drove the car to the finish line, sliding along the wall, still hoping to win the race, but Dan Wheldon passed him just before the finish line while the yellow and checkered flags were waved from the starter’s stand. It was the only lap Wheldon led in the race.

Hildebrand was still able to finish second while Graham Rahal finished third, Tony Kanaan was fourth and Scott Dixon rounded out the top five.

Following the race, Hildebrand was obviously disappointed but kept his emotions in check as he spoke to the press.

“I wasn’t totally aware of where we were at until five or six laps to go,” he said.

His main disappointment was for his team, Panther Racing, as the team has finished second, including this race, for four consecutive years: ironically, in 2009 and ’10 with Wheldon as the team’s driver.

In speaking of the finish, Hildebrand said, “This not really about me at this point. My disappointment is for the team and the National Guard (the team sponsor) and I want to give thanks to all the servicemen and women that are here.”

The race itself was highly competitive. There were 23 lead changes between 11 different drivers.

In the early going, polesitter Alex Tagliani and center front row started Scott Dixon traded the lead.

The first yellow came out on lap 21 when Takuma Sato got out of the groove in Turn 1, brushed the wall between Turns 1 and 2 and came to a stop on the inside of the back straightaway.

On the yellow, 32 of the 33 cars in the field pitted, with only Simona de Silvestro staying out to get back the lap she had lost due to an early pit stop.

After going back to green on lap 27, the yellow came back out just one lap later when E.J. Viso got down into the grass entering Turn 1, spun up the track and hit the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier with the right side of the car.

There were no injuries in either incident.

The green came back out on Lap 33 with Dixon in the lead. Tagliani led the following lap but it was the last lap he would lead in the race. On lap 35 Dixon took the lead back and would hold it until he pitted on lap 60, turning the lead over to his Target Chip Ganassi teammate Dario Franchitti, who pitted one lap later.

Just as Franchitti pitted, the yellow came out when Jay Howard crashed while re-entering the track in Turn 2 from the acceleration lane out of the pits. The car wiggled, then spun, losing the right rear tire and then hitting the inside wall. Howard was unhurt in the incident.

Ed Carpenter led three laps under the yellow, but then relinquished the lead to Franchitti, who had completed his stop just after the yellow came out.

Franchitti was still leading when the green came back out on lap 70. The top five at that point were Franchitti, Dixon, Wheldon, Tagliani and Townsend Bell.

On lap 73, Dixon and Franchitti swapped positions, while Tagliani had passed Wheldon for the third position. Dixon and Franchitti continued to run in the top two positions, while Tagliani and Wheldon traded third until the next round of green flag pit stops began around lap 97.

Once again, Franchitti’s luck held as he was headed to the pits at the halfway point of the race when the yellow banner was again unfurled. The yellow was because James Hinchcliffe got out of the groove and hit the SAFER Barrier coming out of Turn 4 and slid along the wall, coming to a stop near Turn 1. Hinchcliffe climbed out of the car, unhurt.

Hildebrand took the lead for the first time at lap 100, leading until he pitted at lap 104.

As the field prepared to re-take the green on lap 107, the top five were Franchitti, Oriol Servia, Marco Andretti, Carpenter and Dixon.

On lap 113, Servia took the lead from Franchitti, making it the first time Servia has led the “500.”

While Servia continued to lead with Franchitti running second, Dixon worked his way up to third. Franchitti took the lead from Servia on lap 129 and the pair ran one-two until another series of green flag pit stops began around lap 136.

During the pit stop sequence, Hildebrand lead one lap and Bertrand Baguette led two. After the pit stops sequenced through the field, Franchitti reassumed the lead with Servia in second.

Franchitti continued to dominate the race, leading through a brief yellow which occurred when Tagliani brushed the SAFER Barrier in Turn 4 with the right side of the car. He continued on to the pits with a bent lower suspension arm on the right front wheel, which put him out of the race. The leaders stayed on the track during the yellow, while some cars further back in the field decided to pit.

While Franchitti led, Servia and Dixon traded second and third until the yellow came out on lap 158 for the most serious incident of the day. Ryan Briscoe was inside of Bell and the two collided while running side by side in Turn 1. Briscoe’s car carried Bell’s car into the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier, with the front of Briscoe’s car also hitting the outside retaining wall. Both cars stopped, locked together, along the retaining wall between Turns 1 and 2. Both drivers were helped out of their cars, but neither was injured.

Just after the incident, Helio Castroneves, who was having an uncharacteristically bad day, headed to the pits with no tire on his left rear wheel after the tire was shed from the wheel. He changed tires and returned to the race.

During the lengthy yellow, most of the field pitted. During the pit stop sequence, Franchitti dropped back into the field and was no longer a serious contender.

When the field was ready for the restart, Servia was in the lead, followed by Rahal, Dixon, Kanaan and Wheldon.

When the green came back out on lap 165, Rahal took the lead from Servia, who started to fade back into the field.

From this point on, the character of the race changed dramatically, and positions up front changed rapidly.

Rahal held the lead until lap 173 when Dixon reclaimed the top position. A couple of laps later, Kanann passed Rahal to go into second and, on lap 179, Danica Patrick inherited the lead as Servia, Dixon and Kanaan all pitted.

Patrick led until lap 188, when Bertrand Baguette passed her for the lead. Patrick pitted one lap later, putting her out of contention for the win.

Baguette extended his lead over second place Franchitti as the laps rapidly wound down toward the finish, and by lap 195 Baguette’s lead over Franchitti was almost 11 seconds. On lap 196, Hildebrand took second from Franchitti. The following lap Baguette was forced to pit for fuel, turning the lead over to Hildebrand.

The race had turned into a fuel mileage event as Hildebrand had pitted for fuel on lap 164. Franchitti fell back in the field as he tried to save fuel, but was forced to stop for a splash and go on lap 199 of the race.

On lap 198, the rookie, Hildebrand, had a 3.8 second lead over Dixon, who dropped back in the field as Wheldon moved into second and Rahal came up to third.

As Hildebrand took the white flag he had a three second-plus lead over Wheldon.

When Hildebrand was circling the track for the final time trying to save fuel and apparently on his way to victory, he hit the SAFER Barrier in Turn 4 while attempting to lap Charlie Kimball, and slid along the frontstretch wall, crossing the finish line after Wheldon passed him.

Wheldon crossed under the yellow and checkered flags for the win, while Hildebrand took his damaged car across the line in second, ahead of Rahal.

Wheldon pulled into the winner’s circle after leading only the last few feet of the race to claim his second Indy 500 win.

“I was just trying to go as hard as I could. I knew it was the last lap and I knew some of the guys were struggling with fuel,” Wheldon said. “I’m just extremely happy. I mean, this is obviously a very, very special racetrack to me. I love this racetrack. I love how the fans energize the Speedway. To think that I’m a two-time winner, I mean Bryan, who has been a teammate and a good friend for a long time gave me a fantastic opportunity to win this race,” he added.

This was a one-race only deal for Wheldon and Bryan Herta Autosport as the team planned only to run the Indy 500 and none of the rest of the races in the IZOD IndyCar World Series this season. It remains to be seen if this victory will change that plan.

IZOD IndyCar Series
100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS – Results Sunday of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (6) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
2. (12) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
3. (29) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
4. (22) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
5. (2) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
6. (3) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
7. (14) Bertrand Baguette, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
8. (21) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
9. (27) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
10. (25) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
11. (8) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
12. (9) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
13. (28) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running
14. (5) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running
15. (11) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running
16. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running
17. (16) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running
18. (7) Buddy Rice, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running
19. (30) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running
20. (31) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running
21. (32) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 197, Running
22. (17) John Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 197, Running
23. (33) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 197, Running
24. (15) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 193, Running
25. (24) Paul Tracy, Dallara-Honda, 175, Running
26. (4) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Honda, 157, Contact
27. (26) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 157, Contact
28. (1) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 147, Contact
29. (13) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 99, Contact
30. (20) Jay Howard, Dallara-Honda, 60, Contact
31. (23) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 44, Handling
32. (18) EJ Viso, Dallara-Honda, 27, Contact
33. (10) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 20, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 170.265
Time of Race: 2:56:11.7267
Margin of victory: Under Caution
Cautions: 7 for 40
Lead changes: 23 among 10 drivers
Lap Leaders: Dixon 1-7, Tagliani 8-26, Dixon 27-33, Tagliani 34, Dixon 35-60, Franchitti 61, Carpenter 62-64, Franchitti 65-72, Dixon 73-98, Franchitti 99, Hildebrand 100-103, Franchitti 104-112, Servia 113-128, Franchitti 129-137, Hildebrand 138, Baguette 139-140, Franchitti 141-163, Servia 164-165, Rahal 166-171, Dixon 172-178, Patrick 179-188, Baguette 189-197, Hildebrand 198-199, Wheldon 200.
Point Standings: Power 194, Franchitti 178, Servia 150, Kanaan 135, Dixon 129, Rahal 120, Briscoe 117, Hildebrand 113, Tagliani 110, Mike Conway 102.

Josef Newgarden celebrated his victory in the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 in Victory Circle. He is holding up the AeroCat ACR 500 monocoque carbon-fiber bicycle he was awarded as the race winner. To the left is Firestone Tire representative Al Speyer (red jacket) and car owner Sam Schmidt. [Russ Lake Photo]

Bryan Clauson (inside front row) and Josef Newgarden (outside front row) led the field to the start of the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100. [Russ Lake Photo]

As the green flag dropped on the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100, the cars of Josef Newgarden, Bryan Clauson and Stephan Wilson were three wide going for the lead heading into the first turn. [Russ Lake Photo]

Josef Newgarden (#11) and his teammate, Estaban Guerrieri (#7) battled for lead through much of the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100. [Russ Lake Photo]

The cars of Anders Krohn (#9), Jorge Goncalvez (#4) and Bryan Clauson (#77) were side-by-side going into Turn 1 just prior to a serious incident in which the cars of Clauson and Goncalvez touched. Subsequently, Krohn spun and hit SAFER Barrier, while Goncalvez hit the inside wall with tremendous force, then slid across the track with the car on its side, on fire, which then his the outside SAFER barrier. Goncalvez was hospitalized for evaluation of unknown injuries, Krohn was not hurt and Clauson went on to finish fifth in the race. [Russ Lake Photo]

Josef Newgarden (#11) took the yellow and the checkered flags ahead of his Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Estaban Guerreri (#7) at the conclusion of the Freedom 100. [Russ Lake Photo]

Ryan Briscoe holds the $50,000 check his Team Penske crew won as the winners of the IZOD Pit Stop Challenge. [Russ Lake Photo]

In the finals of the IZOD Pit Stop Challenge, the Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew of Dario Franchitti (left), was defeated by Ryan Briscoe’s Team Penske crew, who won with a time of 7.882 seconds. [Russ Lake Photo]

Friday, May 27 – This morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway it was the same song, different verse, as, when the track was slated to open at 9:00 a.m. this morning, it was cold and cloudy with light rain falling.

Today is Carb Day, the final day of on-track activity before Sunday’s 100Th Anniversary Indianapolis 500. Scheduled for the day are a 30-minute make-up practice session for the Firestone Indy Lights, the final hour of IZOD IndyCar Series practice, the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100, the finals of the IZOD Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge and an afternoon concert.

The half hour of Firestone Indy Lights practice, which was scheduled for 9:00 a.m., finally got the green flag at 10:09. This was a critical practice session as all but 10 minutes of what was supposed to be 90 minutes of Firestone Indy Lights practice was washed out yesterday, as was the series qualifying session. The Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race, scheduled for this afternoon, will be lined up according to owner points.

The practice session turned out to be even shorter than expected as it was flagged at 10:23 a.m. after an on-track incident involving David Ostella and Victor Carbone. Both cars suffered minimal damage and both drivers were unhurt.

Next, IZOD IndyCar Series cars went out for their final practice session prior to the Indianapolis 500.

The IndyCar Carb Day practice session normally consists of each team running a few laps shaking the car down and perhaps practicing a couple of pit stops, but that was not the case this year.

Because so much track time was lost to the weather this month, the teams took full advantage of the time to do a number of laps and dial in race setups. All 33 qualified cars took to the track and ran a total of 1,406 laps, without incident, in just one hour.

Scott Dixon ran 60 laps and posted the fastest speed of the day with a lap at 225.474 mph. Second quick was polesitter Alex Tagliani, who recorded a lap at 224.739 mph, while Dario Franchitti rounded out the top three with a fast lap of 224.658 mph.

Following the IZOD IndyCar practice session was the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100.

Unfortunately, the Freedom 100 turned out to be the free-for-all 100 as numerous crashes marred the event.

Due to rain yesterday, the event lined up by owner points, putting rookie Bryan Clauson on the pole in the car driven earlier in the season by Conor Daly, who did not participate in the event, while Josepf Newgarden was on the outside of the front row.

At the green, the cars were three wide as they passed over the yard of bricks with Newgarden jumping into the lead. He and Victor Garcia traded the lead with Newgarden crossing the line in the lead at the end of the first lap.

Stephan Wilson grabbed the lead from Newgarden while the field was working the third lap. Newgarden regained the lead on the next lap but on lap five Anders Krohn went from fourth to first to take the lead. Anders and Krohn swapped the lead during the next several laps with Krohn in the lead when the first yellow of the race came out when Victor Carbone crashed in Turn 1. He was uninjured.

While the field prepared for the green to come back out on lap 12, Krohn did a quarter-spin into the Turn 3 grass and rejoined the field in 17th place, giving the lead back to Newgarden.

The top five headed back to the green were Newgarden, Estaban Guerrieri, Jorge Goncalvez, Victor Garcia and David Ostella.

Guerrieri to the lead from Newgarden and held it for two laps until Newgarden got it back.

The yellow came back put on lap 21 when James Winslow, Gustavo Yacaman and Juan Pablo Garcia each spun separately coming out of Turn 1. Yacaman spun first and continued, while Wislow and J.P. Garcia spun behind him with Winslow hitting J. Garcia, who then hit Yacaman, who was almost stationary after his spin. Yacaman was transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital for further evaluation of neck pain. Winslow and J.P. Garcia were uninjured.

While the field was working the yellow, Peter Dempsey spun into the infield in Turn 2 and stopped in the grass.

On lap 28, the field got the green, which was quickly followed by the yellow when Duarte Ferreira spun in Turn 2 and his left-front wheel hit the right sidepod of Brandon Wagner’s car which then spun and stopped on the backstretch. Ferreira continued on to the pits with left front suspension damage and was out of the race. Neither driver was injured in the incident.

As the track went back to green on lap 33, the running order was Newgarden, Guerrieri, Goncalvez, V. Garcia and Clauson. At the line, Newgarden and Guerrieri got a jump on the rest of the field

A serious incident occurred on Lap 35, which again brought out the yellow. Krohn (inside), Goncalvez (middle), and Clauson (outside), were entering Turn 1 when Goncalvez and Clauson made light contact. Krohn then did a three-quarter spin to the left, hitting the SAFER Barrier with the front of the car. Goncalvez hit the SAFER Barrier with the entire right side of the car going out of Turn 1, then slid across the track and had heavy impact with the inside retaining wall in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 and burst into flames. The car then slid on its side across the track hitting the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2 with the destroyed left rear of the car.

Goncalvez was taken from the car by the Holmatro Safety Team and placed in an ambulance. He was transported to IU Methodist Hospital for evaluation, but was reported to be awake and alert. Krohn was uninjured in the incident.

Due to the serious nature of the accident, the race finished under the yellow, with Newgarden taking the yellow and the checkered flag at the end of the 40 laps. He was followed across the line by Guerrieri and V. Garcia, while Wilson was fourth and Clauson rounded out the top five.

It was a one-two finish for Sam Schmidt Motorsports and the the sixth Freedom 100 victory for the team.

Newgarden talked about his victory and the one-two finish for the team.

“This is a wonderful achievement for my team, and it means so much to me and Sam Schmidt. This race means a lot to Sam and I am grateful to give him the victory. I have to thank Estaban Guerreri for helping me the whole race. He is a great teammate to work with,” Newgarden said.

Following the Freedom 100, the finals of the IZOD Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge were held. Team Penske and Ryan Briscoe won the challenge over Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Dario Franchitti. The victory was worth $50,000, while the Ganassi Team picked up a $30,000 check for finishing second.

Tomorrow there is no on-track activity but is still a busy day as there is the annual rookie press conference, the ceremonial drivers meeting plus, this year, as part of the 100th Anniversary celebration, over 100 drivers who have participated in the Indy 500 will be available in the afternoon to sign autographs. There will also be a memorabilia show and a display of vintage race cars.

The Firestone Indy Lights were scheduled to practice and qualify today for tomorrow’s Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100. The weather, however, had other ideas, as the Indy Lights were only able to get ten minutes of practice today before the rains came in earnest. During those ten minutes all 18 cars in the field managed to get in some practice laps. Stefan Wilson (#5), shown here in a previous practice session, turned the fastest lap at a speed of 189.958 mph. [Russ Lake Photo]

2004 Indianapolis 500 winner, Buddy Rice, will start this year’s race in 7th position. He is happy to be back at the Speedway as this is his first “500” start since 2008. [Russ Lake Photo]

Probably the gutsiest driver in this year’s Indy 500 field is Simona de Silvestro. The Swiss driver burned her hands in a practice incident on Thursday, May 19 and, with her hands swathed in bandages, put her car in the field for the Indy 500 by qualifying on Saturday, May 21. She will still have bandaged hands on Sunday while competing in the Indy 500. [Russ Lake Photo]

Bertrand Baguette, who will be making his second Indianapolis 500 start on Sunday was interviewed during one of two sessions in which members of the media were able to hold one-on-one meetings with the starting drivers. [Russ Lake Photo]

Oriol Servia, who will be starting on the outside of the front row, was questioned by a reported during today’s media day opportunity for one-on-one interviews with the drivers who will compete in Sunday’s Indy 500. [Russ Lake Photo]

Dave Kallmann, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel auto racing writer, interviewed up and coming driver Bryan Clauson at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. Clauson won the 2010 USAC National Driving Championship and by doing so was given the opportunity to run in the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 as part of the IZOD IndyCar Series “Road to Indy” program. [Russ Lake Photo]

The ABC Sports team that will broadcast the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 held a press conference in the Economaki Press Conference Room today. Left to right are broadcast anchor, Marty Reid, and race analysts, and former drivers, Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear. [Russ Lake Photo]

Thursday, May 26 – After a three-day hiatus the Indianapolis Motor Speedway reopened with the month’s most unwelcome visitor, rain, in attendance.

Today’s schedule was relatively light with just two Firestone Indy Lights practice sessions scheduled, plus qualifying for tomorrow’s Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100.

As is turned out, the day was exceedingly short as the first practice session, which was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. was scrubbed due to light rain.

The revised schedule had one practice session for the Firestone Indy Lights from 10:30 – 11:15 a.m., with qualifying scheduled for 1:15 p.m.

The cars did go out for practice at 10:30, but the session was short-lived, as the rain began again at 10:40.

The rain persisted throughout the day and the track was officially closed at 2:50 p.m.

In the 10-minutes that was available for practice before the rain returned, all 18 Firestone Indy Lights cars were on track and ran a total of 162 laps. Veteran Indy Lights driver, Stefan Wilson, the brother of IZOD Indy Car Series driver Justin Wilson, turned in the fastest speed of the session with a lap at 189.958 mph.

Tomorrow’s already busy schedule has be re-arranged to allow Firestone Indy Lights practice from 9-9:30 a.m. Friday. There will be no qualifying and the field will line-up by entrant points.

In other news at the Speedway, it has been announced the Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was the last driver bumped from the Indianapolis 500 field, will replace Bruno Junqueira in the #41 A.J. Foyt Enterprises entry. Junqueira qualified in the 19th position for the Indy 500 but, due to the driver change, Hunter-Reay will start the race in 33rd position. The car has been renamed at the ABC Supply/DHL/Sun Drop entry.

Other car name changes announced are the #44 Panther Racing car driven by Buddy Rice has beeen named Fuzzy’s Vodka/Panther Racing and Takuma Sato’s #5 machine is now the Monavie-KVRT-Lotus.

Hopefully, the weather will be more cooperative tomorrow as it is Carb Day. The IZOD Indy Car Series drivers will have their final shakedown laps prior to the Indy 500, the Firestone Indy Lights will have a short practice when the track opens and will run the Freedom 100 in the afternoon. Also on tap will be the finals of the pit stop competition and a concert in the track infield.

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