Photo from foxsports.com.au
Team Penske’s – and all IndyCar’s – least likable driver won the series’ biggest race, sadly. For the Cap’n, it was his seventeenth 500 triumph – a towering record never to be surpassed. AA’s Englishman Stefan Wilson, brother of the late driver Justin, led until the final stages before being forced to pit for fuel.
With seven cautions in all, the race – and particularly the start and restarts – were thrilling, right up until the end when Wilson pulled into the pits with only four to go. This handed Will “sour grapes” Power the event, to every single thinking race fan’s chagrin. It’s one race at long last that he can’t complain about.
Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au
ABC’s pre-race coverage of course featured a lengthy Danica interview, followed by some yahoo named Marty Smith with a NASCAR accent screaming into a mike from the snakepit. Thanks for the memories, ABC.
From the green flag, Danica dropped five spots as predicted, then embarrassingly lifted completely off the throttle in turns during early in-car camera coverage. Her owner Fast Eddy Carpenter led from the pole, while ragin’ Graham Rahal jumped seven spots almost immediately from his dismal starting spot. He’d wind up tenth.
Photo from indystar.com
Driving AJ Foyt Racing‘s always tenuous third car, James Davison was waaaay loose and waaaay slow, and finally on lap 47 Taku’d had enough and simply Satoed him. The defending 500 winner closed quickly and smacked him from behind in between turns 3 and 4, nearly going airborne and bringing out the first of seven cautions.
Only a few laps following the restart, Ganassi’s Ed Jones spun and hit the wall in turn 2, the first of several incidents there on the day. A restart on lap 64 saw the aged Tony Kanaan flash around Ed for the lead, only to see Ed take it back on the next lap heading into turn 1. Dixie and Bourdais made contact low on the track during the frantic restart, with Scotty getting around but touching and nearly trimming some grass in the process.
Photo from nypost.com
Widespread lifting off of the throttle (totally, completely) in the turns was evident in the new cars, as TK joined Danica in televised telemetry telling the secrets. Then on lap 68 her highness spun and crashed in turn 2 in an incident similar to Jones’. She was running 17th when she wrecked out of her final ever race – and finished 30th.
Yet another restart on lap 74 had TK going around Ed on the outside to retake the lead, as Power stayed in close contact managing to get around Pags for position. The thrilling oval action again saw cars two and three wide going into turn 1, sometimes with utter edge of your seat four wide racing on the historic circuit. By this point a hard charging Rossi was already up to twelfth from 32nd; the 500 winner would finish an impressive fourth – gaining an improbable twenty eight positions.
TK opened up a lead as the increasing heat in Indy became a story; 130º track temps were recorded during the early going. By lap 83 TK led Ed, Power, Pags and Helio while Rossi continued to slice his way through the field, going low on the back straight around Bourdais for position, again almost trimming the lawn.
Agonizingly, ABC went to commercial just as green flag stops commenced, so on side by side fans had to watch Veach leave his pitbox with his sunburst car awash in flames during one of the scarier moments of the race. In a harbinger of dreadful things to come, Power soon took the lead, opening up an almost five second gap over Ed, Pags, RHR and Helio.
The clearly out the door network missed yet another restart, leaving it again to side by side tiny coverage as Carlos Munoz jumped two spots up to second behind Rahal, eventually taking the lead. Just as quickly Bourdais crashed, getting loose by himself in between turns 3 and 4.
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With nearly three quarters of a rapidly moving race done, the restart on lap 147 proved important, as Power easily led. Running fifth, his teammate Helio spun and crashed hard near the pit entrance. He snapped loose and spun down low, with RHR and Rossi narrowly avoiding him. It brought out the fifth caution of the day and didn’t hurt Power’s cause. “Ahhh! Lost it . . .” was how he summed up the accident, already publicly begging the Cap’n to come back next year for another shot at his fourth 500 win.
Still another frenzied restart saw Rossi fearlessly go high around both RHR AND Pags before Sage Karam got loose and crashed into the wall on the front straight, checking off his annual race day wreck. “I really don’t know what happened, man!” he yelled. The replay showed a trailing Marco Andretti‘s camera sprayed with oil and debris to the point of obscurity.
Image from youtube.com
Yet another restart came on lap 162 with more relentless action, as was the norm. Rossi was challenging Ed with Power in front of him when things settled down with 32 to go – or seemed to. By lap 176 green flag pit stops were taking place and Munoz was back in the lead, but Oriol Servia soon took over. He’d taken P1 after being a lap down early on and benefiting massively from a generous wave around. At this point, Allen Bestwicke muttered something about “Scott Pigot.”
The Catalan Spaniard driving for RLL/Scuderia led with twenty to go, followed by Wilson, fellow Brit Jack Harvey, Dixie and the aforementioned villain, Power. TK joined the pricey party in getting loose in turn 2, spinning and hitting the inside wall and ruining yet another excellent car. The 43 year old was fine (as he can be), as were Danica and the others, with Jones being the only injury – making a trip to Methodist hospital after his early wall contact.
TK’s blundering set up a shootout to the finish with a whopping nineteen cars remaining on the lead lap. When ol’ man Oriol’s up there, you know lots of drivers still have a shot at winning. The ancient Spaniard (minus a mirror), Wilson, Harvey and Power restarted the field with seven to go. With the skill of a seasoned veteran, Wilson pounced for the lead and seized it, for a few moments making the incredible seem possible. But then with only four to go both Brits – Wilson and Harvey – peeled off into the pits, giving Power the lead. It was a lead he never relinquished.
The ungracious Aussie winner then proceeded to have a conniption fit while getting out of his car in victory lane. Soooo uncouth. Ed Carpenter finished a best ever second, while Scott Dixon rounded out the podium with a large pay day in third. Unfortunately, you’d better get used to the bitter taste of Vegemite with your milk for the next year.
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