89th Indy 500
Home

One Man British Invasion
By Esteban Morales

May 29, 2005

     Headed into the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 there were a slew of topics contending for the public’s recognition; veterans Jeff Ward, Jimmy Kite and former winner Buddy Lazier were back, Champ Car World Series Champion Sebastien Bourdais was making his debut at the Brickyard, Sam Hornish Jr. would be vying for the elusive Borg Warner, Kenny Brack substituting for defending champ Buddy Rice, and of course there was rookie Danica Patrick who had just come off an impressive showing at Motegi. However, a young Brit with a penchant for shoes no less managed to steal the limelight by crossing the yard of bricks ahead of 32 other contestants.

     Prior to Dan Wheldon’s victory, most were already giving last year’s series champion Tony Kanaan the nod. After all, he had just taken pole for the most important race of the season, a race that he had come close to winning in previous years, and was the lead driver for the series’ dominant team, Andretti Green Racing. Indy looked like the perfect venue in which to notch up that first win of the season. Sam Hornish Jr., however, quickly began to spoil his plans with the drop of the green flag. Hornish hounded the leader from the onset of the event, Kanaan eventually found some breathing room after Larry Foyt had an incident in turn 1. Following pit stops the field went back to green on lap 26. About a dozen laps later though Kanaan was taking a good look at Hornish’s gearbox. The Marlboro Team Penske driver led convincingly through the opening half of the 500-mile race, making it past a second yellow involving A.J Foyt IV’s lapped car and frontrunner Bruno Junqueira.

     Kanaan and Hornish continued their duel with the series champion taking the lead on lap 98 and swapping positions with the Penske driver a few more times. Not even a third caution on lap 114 halted them. No, instead, both decided to trade the lead in pitlane; Kanaan led the field in while Hornish took point on his way out. Kanaan managed to retake command under the restart with teammate Dario Franchitti in pursuit. While Franchitti challenged at the head of the field, Danica Patrick was relentlessly making up lost ground after a botched pit stop and made light contact with at least one car.

     With no let up in the pace, lap 147 ended half of Marlboro Team Penske’s charge as Hornish made contact with the turn 1 SAFER Barrier following a close battle with Frenchman Bourdais, a pivotal point in the event. Franchitti led the way into the pits while eventual winner Dan Wheldon emerged out in front. With the green in sight an over anxious Patrick half-spun her Honda powered G-Force leaving the two Panther Racing machines of Tomas Scheckter and Tomas Enge out on the sidelines. Patrick limped back to the pits with a broken front wing, her Rahal Letterman crew soon scrambled and sent her back into the race without losing a lap.

     The field assembled one more time and took the green on lap 162. Wheldon kept his car out front while Roger Yasukawa’s engine let go prompting another yellow. The leaders dove into the pits a final time while Patrick stayed out and inherited the lead. Concerned with fuel, the 23 year-old rookie was able to hold off Wheldon after the restart for a few laps and lost the lead just before the penultimate caution flew for Kosuke Matsuura grazing turns 3 and 4. With just 10 laps to go Patrick saw one last opportunity and retook the lead as the field was restarted. Again, she managed to stay ahead of Wheldon for a handful of laps until he unhesitatingly stormed past on lap 194. A final yellow was waved along with the white flag after Bourdais collided with the turn 4 SAFER Barrier. As Wheldon coasted across the yard of bricks one last time, team owner Michael Andretti had some difficulty holding back any tears behind his dark Gatorz shades.

     With the curse finally lifted the Andretti Green Racing squad can begin to focus its attention directly on Patrick and Rahal Letterman Racing. Clouted by gender, however, most seem to forget that Danica Patrick’s thrilling performance came in only her first start at Indianapolis. After leading at St. Petersburg as well as Motegi and coming very close to that maiden victory at Indy, AGR better be ready to have its hands full with the diminutive driver, she might just be ready to make a little more history at Texas.

Results:

1. Dan Wheldon
2. Vitor Meira
3. Bryan Herta
4. Danica Patrick
5. Buddy Lazier
6. Dario Franchitti
7. Scott Sharp
8. Tony Kanaan
9. Helio Castroneves
10. Ryan Briscoe
11. Ed Carpenter
12. Sebastien Bourdais
13. Alex Barron
14. Adrian Fernandez
15. Felipe Giaffone
16. Jaques Lazier
17. Kosuke Matsuura
18. Roger Yasukawa
19. Tomas Enge
20. Tomas Scheckter
21. Patrick Carpentier
22. Jeff Bucknum
23. Sam Hornish Jr.
24. Scott Dixon
25. Richie Hearn
26. Kenny Brack
27. Jeff Ward
28. A.J. Foyt IV
29. Darren Manning
30. Bruno Junqueira
31. Marty Roth
32. Jimmy Kite
33. Larry Foyt