Penthouse Perspective: 100th Anniversary “500” Features The Biggest Loser: EVER!

HAMMOND, IN: If they run the Indianapolis 500 a thousand times, folks will still be talking about the 100th Anniversary Race, when rookie J.R. Hildebrand became the biggest loser in the history of the Memorial Day Classic, if not all sports!

They say the second place finisher is the “first loser” but, after leader Hildebrand failed to negotiate the final turn with the checkered flag literally in sight during Sunday’s 100th running of the Indy 500, losing took on a whole new meaning.


In the early days of the “500”, there was a Speedway rookie who developed a reputation for wildness. His name was Ray Gilhooly and, for many years after, a loss of control at Indy was know as “doing a Gilhooly”.

I hate to say it, but “doing a Hildebrand” may become now synonymous with performing a rookie mistake at the Speedway.

Seriously, it’s hard to imagine how J.R. must feel. The satisfaction of being the leader on the final lap of his first Indy 500 must have been forever erased when it all went wrong in turn four. Viewing my 55th consecutive Race, this was beyond anything I had ever imagined that I would witness.

The last lap. The last corner. REALLY?

In 1912, Joe Dawson was out front for only the final two laps; the least number of circuits ever lead by a winner; until last Sunday. Dan Wheldon passed the damaged Hildebrand car only a few hundred yards from the finish line to earn his second bottle of milk, leading only the 200th lap. With this win, Speedway specialist Wheldon has now compiled a serious Hall of Fame record at Indy. As hard as it is to believe, Dan has finished first, fourth, second, second and first in his last five Indy starts! Other great finishing records compiled by former Indy legends are now in serious jeopardy. Ted Horn, Wilber Shaw, Bill Holland and Rodger Ward better keep an eye in their rear view mirrors, because Dan Wheldon is coming fast!

Other random observations from the top row of the Grandstand “B” Penthouse:

Tomas Scheckter is the master of the outside pass on restarts; very fun to watch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to take long for Tomas to give back the ground he gained. A full time ride would help.

Graham Rahal drove a storming race to finish third, gaining more positions than anyone in the process. Bobby’s son had a day he should be truly proud of.

Bertrand Baguette could be my new hero. Never putting a wheel wrong all day, the second year Speedway vet was leading with only three laps to go when the fuel ran out. I feel certain that big things are in store for this guy in the near future.

I’ve said it before: Townsend Bell should be racing Indy Cars full time. In a better economy, he would be. His talent should be impossible to ignore.

Teammates Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick should be proud of their performances. Both turned sub-par qualifying efforts into strong showings on Race Day. Real racers seem to always find their way to the front.

Dario Franchitti drives the Speedway as well as anyone in history. In the hot, windy conditions on Race Day, Dario really showed his stuff. Had it not been for a poorly timed yellow flag/pit stop situation, Franchitti would probably be a three time winner today.

If the stars ever line up, Tony Kanaan can still be an Indy winner. He proved that he still has the right stuff Sunday.

Team Penske. Hmmmm. Don’t really know what to say about this. Their performance Sunday is nearly as confusing as the finish of the Race. Maybe, “How the mighty have fallen” would cover it. Are changes coming in Roger’s camp? All I know for sure: The Captain is not happy.

To sum up: the 100th Indy 500 is certainly one that will be talked about and remembered long after many of us are gone. It was one of a handfull of Races that can, and will, be called a “classic”.

After 100 years, what could be more fitting?

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