I’m thinking everybody could use a little “Dan Wheldon luck” in their lives.

Wheldon had the good fortune of being in second place as the Indianapolis 500 veered into the final turn of the race. That is typically a very helpless feeling for a race car driver because it means you’re going to have a really good view of somebody else taking the checkered flag.

But playing second fiddle on this Sunday resembled a sweet hoedown sound for Wheldon as the unthinkable really did happen on the final turn.

Rookie JR Hildebrand had the race in the bag and was just seconds away from winning when he crashed into the wall on the final turn. Instead of slowing down a couple miles per hour and taking the safe approach, Hildebrand elected to pass fellow rookie Charlie Kimball on the turn and lost control.

Hildebrand was able to ride the wall down the straightaway to cross the finish line in second place but Wheldon easily passed him to win his second career Indy 500 title at the famed Brickyard.

Wheldon is the 18th racer to win multiple Indy titles – the Englishman also won in 2005 – and had finished second the two previous years. But he was an unlikely winner this year in that he doesn’t have a full-time ride.

Bryan Herta Autosport made the wise choice to give Wheldon a one-race deal for the 100th anniversary Indy 500 race. Wheldon certainly shouldn’t have problems landing more racing assignments.

Wheldon was highly emotional after winning and it wasn’t solely due to the unbelievably good fortune. His mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and Wheldon had partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to promote awareness of the disease less than two weeks ago.

Got to say winning the race will draw a lot more attention to the issue than finishing second would have.

It will be very interesting to see how the 23-year-old Hildebrand deals with his last-lap blunder. Navigating the first 799 turns without issue means nothing when you fail to make the final one. His adrenaline was surely sky high and his heart was undoubtedly pounding as he realized how close he was to a monumental achievement.

All he needed was a bit more patience and I’m sure there will be racing experts pointing out that his inexperience played a part in the last-turn blunder. It will certainly be a great learning experience for the Northern California native and will provide a great storyline if he someday wins at Indy.

Some other thoughts on Indy:

• Dario Franchitti’s late fade meant we all lost the opportunity for some nice post-race Ashley Judd viewing. You could see ABC was doing its part with its camera angle in the post-race interview with Franchitti by making sure Judd was in the background.

• I’m proud of Danica Patrick. She didn’t annoy me all week and she ran a good race Sunday and even had the lead with under 20 laps to go. There are rumors she will become a full-time NASCAR driver next season so there is a possibility it was her last Indy 500. Predictably, Danica slipped in a “pretty green GoDaddy car” reference into her post-race interview.

• The way Wheldon won reminds me of how important it is to just stay on the track and keep grinding away during an auto race. Bertrand Baguette looked unstoppable late in the race but didn’t have enough fuel to make it and had to take a pit stop with just three laps left. Think about that – Baguette needed to drive just 7 1/2 more miles to win the race. Hildebrand was going to be the beneficiary of Baguette’s fuel shortage issues until his mishap opened the door for Wheldon.

• Never been inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway but was amazed during a visit to Indianapolis that the racetrack is in a residential area. You know that high grandstand you see during the race? There’s a residential street – Georgetown Road – right behind it. I can’t even fathom how much of a madhouse the area is on Indy 500 race day. (http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&sugexp=lemsnc&xhr=t&q=indianapolis+motor+speedway&cp=19&rlz=1R2ADFA_enUS352&um=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&biw=1007&bih=465&wrapid=tlif130670358645710&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=nl … apparently, you will have to do the zooming in of the racetrack on your own).

  1. Craig hutskinov says:

    Your analysis of the last corner incident might have benefitted from a tiny bit more actual knowledge. First of all, Charlie Kimball was moving about 40 to 50 mph slower than Hildebrand in the corner not a few miles per hour. So Hildebrand would have had to slow to about 160 or thereabouts to stay behind him. All his spotter was telling him was that the competition (Wheldon) was coming fast. Wheldon was moving faster than Hildebrand already as Hildebrand was conserving fuel and was less than the short chute behind (during the post race interview in the pressroom, Hildebrand said he knew Wheldon was in the short chute between turn one and turn two when Hildebrand exited turn two). Could Hildebrand have slowed to 160 for a few seconds and then pull out and race the unimpeded Wheldon successfully to the finish line which was more than halfway down the straightaway? I personally doubt it though with some more specific speed, acceleration, and distance figures I might be able to make a better estimate. Admittedly though, your version of the situation allows you to make Hildebrand seem incompetent. “Blunder” has such positive connotations

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