Wheldon wins Indy 500 as Hildebrand crashes at last corner


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2011 Indianapolis 500

Dan Wheldon won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time after a dramatic end to the race.

JR Hildebrand led at the beginning of the last lap but crashed at the final corner of the race while lapping Charlie Kimball.

Hildebrand’s car skidded down the straight on two wheels as Wheldon passed him to claim a shock victory.

The Ganassi cars of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon led much of the way, but came unstuck on fuel strategy later in the race.

Franchitti made what should have been his final pit stop on the same lap as Hildebrand. But he failed to make it to the end of the race without a further stop and had to make a ‘splash and dash’ stop with one lap to go.

Hildebrand passed him for second place, which became the lead when Bertrand Baguette pitted.

Graham Rahal fought his way up from 29th to finish third ahead of Tony Kanaan, who started 22. Kanaan’s KV Racing team mates Takuma Sato and Ernesto Viso crashed out within the first 18 laps.

Front row starters Oriol Servia and Scott Dixon were fifth and sixth ahead of Baguette, who made his final pit stop on lap 197 of the 200-lap race.

Tomas Scheckter, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick completed the top ten.

It was an emotional victory for Wheldon who first won the Indianapolis 500 in 2005, the same year he won the championship. But he found himself without a full-time drive at the start of this year and today’s race was his first start of the IndyCar season.

The season continues with its first ever double-header meeting at Texas in two weeks’ time.


1Dan Wheldon6
2JR Hildebrand2.10862.108612
3Graham Rahal5.59493.486329
4Tony Kanaan7.4871.892122
5Oriol Servia8.87571.38873
6Scott Dixon9.54340.66772
7Bertrand Baguette23.963114.419714
8Tomas Scheckter24.32990.366821
9Marco Andretti25.47111.141227
10Danica Patrick26.44830.977225
11Ed Carpenter27.03750.58928
12Dario Franchitti56.416729.37929
13Charlie Kimball1 Lap1 Lap28
14Will Power5.85135.85135
15Vitor Meira21.939816.088511
16Justin Wilson39.081117.141319
17Helio Castroneves49.61810.536916
18Buddy Rice2 Laps1 Lap7
19Alex Lloyd25.56125.56130
20Pippa Mann41.041715.480731
21Ana Beatriz3 Laps1 Lap32
22John Andretti7.71297.712917
23Ryan Hunter-Reay34.230626.517733
24Davey Hamilton7 Laps4 Laps15
25Paul Tracy25 Laps18 Laps24
26Townsend Bell43 Laps18 Laps4Contact
27Ryan Briscoe0.10890.108926Contact
28Alex Tagliani53 Laps10 Laps1Contact
29James Hinchcliffe101 Laps48 Laps13Contact
30Jay Howard140 Laps39 Laps20Contact
31Simona de Silvestro156 Laps16 Laps23Handling
32Ernesto Viso173 Laps17 Laps18Contact
33Takuma Sato180 Laps7 Laps10Contact

Image © Larry Seidman

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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57 comments on “Wheldon wins Indy 500 as Hildebrand crashes at last corner”

  1. Wow, they’re using ten-thousandths of a second?

    Anyway, the last quarter of the race was super exciting, and the finish was spectacular.

    For anybody who didn’t see it – last lap replay:

    1. That was pretty hilarious, especially listening to the commentators when you know what’s coming XD

      1. Funny how they say how fitting etc. to win and then after he crashes, Wheldon all of a sudden has an amazing drive and they forget all about Hildebrand!

        1. Yeah, but it was largely due to the strategy and how the full-course-yellows came about that put Hildebrand in the lead.
          He didn’t lead the race on merit of pure speed.

  2. You couldn’t write the script.

    Two incredible finishes in two incredible races.

    What a day of motorsport we’ve had.

    1. Couldn’t agree more! :D

      1. Here’s a link of the Tanner Faust HotWheels jump at Indy… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SjX7A_FR6g&feature=player_embedded

    2. Actually three fantastic finishes if you cound Dale Jr. running out of fuel on the last lap of the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. What was really awesome was hearing Kevin Harvick talk abut how much he dislikes the track itself at Charlotte after his win…you’d never hear that from an F1 driver.

      1. Well, after this weekends Monaco, Hamilton might just have said something like that :-D
        And a lot of drivers talked like that about Valencia and Abu Dhabi.

    1. Would be nice to see a link for his post-race interview. Can anyone find it?

      Summary from memory: Didn’t want to slow for turns 3-4 as he was a) v. low on fuel b) concerned about being caught from behind. So he got up in the marbles going round that slower car and BANG.

  3. Absolutely remarkable, a 23 year old rookie crashes on the last corner of the Indy 500 handing the victory to a guy without a full time drive. As if that kind of thing happens in real life!

    1. Not only is it a guy without a full-time drive but it’s the guy who was fired to make room for the rookie.

    2. As a guy that first time watched an Indy 500 event and although that last corner scenario was amazing staff the reality is that the whole thing is beyond ridiculous.
      That ain’t even racing. And i though F1 was overdoing it with 4 and 5 pit-stops and things getting a little messed up and leaving too much things on strategy instead of racing. Well F1 is an easy watch in-frond of this guys.

      Indy is a complete joke of racing in-frond of F1 and not because the cars aren’t as advanced.
      I saw 4 races out of 5 this year and all i saw was a lottery with people getting out and in of the pits like a throw of the dice on whether they will find their self anywhere imaginable and all the pit stops just be a matter on when the safety car will appear so they can make them or whether they will be forced to come before that. And all this because the safety car WILL appear since it seems 3/4 of the race in Indy are happening behind safety cars.
      What a joke!!
      And this people have a problem embracing F1 and complain F1 isn’t exiting?!!!

      Sorry but after watching the bad show that is called Indy and the even worse abomination called Nascar i just can’t get what kind of taste they have not going crazy over F1. Even Gp2 and other like that look better than those.

      Maybe is just the time schedule and the bad coverage the problem.

      1. No offense, but I watched (most of) the Indy 500 this year, and I think the complete opposite of you. It was way more exciting than any Grand Prix in recent memory. The one thing i can agree on is the horrible coverage. Commercials every other minute, and the commentators seemed to have no idea what was going on.

      2. Hate to break it to you, but most of us watch racing because we don’t know how it’s going to come out. So F1 is just as much a lottery. As Monaco just proved. If you don’t like it, don’t watch. That simple.

        1. As the wise Greek philosopher Socrates ones said “everything with the right measure”.

          There is a limit to not knowing the resold and basically just making racing almost insignificant. From when is winning on the track too predictable?

          Besides F1 can get predictable and boring because some teams have amazing difference over others. I thought that in Indy their cars weren’t that different?

          Sure i enjoyed some moments too but in general it’s your tolerance over a different type of racing that allows you to be so forgiving.
          If F1 races had half there race be done behind safety cars and drivers weren’t even allowed to race each other(who made the silly rule about no defending? That’s crazy!) and all the cars enter and leave the pits all the time with Trulli finding himself once 24th and once 4th and then back to 24th and then again to 7th by the end of the race while not really himself doing anything, you will be screaming of how much of a joke racing in F1 has become.

          1. First of all I absolutely do not agree with the no defending rule. I don’t pretend the rules are perfect. However, the way Indycar handles cautions has always been very different to how Indy handles it. As you said, this plays a part in a bit of the chaos. However, keep in mind that you can’t let cars continue to circle ovals the same way you could with lots of run-off area on a road course. The yellows are simply a part of the game. They take this into account of their strategy the same way that other factors play into F1. If you watched, the cars that made their way up to first from very far back, managed that by a mix of strategy and attrition. The ebb and flow is essentially no different than F1 pit stops shuffling the order momentarily. The difference is that the yellows allow a bit more variety in how everyone plays their cards.

            That said, you’re HIGHLY unlikely to win with a slow car. The driver and the team are NOT insignificant in this as you might suggest. You still must have the right setup and you must know how to drive a long distance race such as this (F1 isn’t FULL BLAST all the time, is it? Same with Indy cars, so there is more to it than sheer luck). Even from the infield without a radio to know details of the strategy that’s unfolding, we knew Danica had pitted a long time ago and could not go the distance. More than that, she had had a slower car all day. Even with a yellow to allow her the flexibility to make it on fuel, she would have been eaten alive on the restart. So her chances of winning despite leading late in the race were absolutely slim to none.

            That’s just an example of how it might seem chaotic on the surface, but it’s not simply a crap shoot. I do not scream that F1 is a joke. I express my distaste for additions such as the DRS (which, btw, if you’re going to criticize the no defending rule, how is an unfair advantage given to the trailing car any different?). But in spite of a few rules which I disagree with, I LOVE watching F1. Just like I’ve loved watching Indy cars for so many years. If you don’t like Indycar, don’t watch it. But don’t consider it any lesser of a form of racing simply because it’s different. I don’t like NASCAR as much, but I understand oval racing requires quite a bit of skill that is NOT the same skill set as road course racing.

            Indy’s unpredictable nature is a result of the same unpredictable nature of F1: people make choices in response to the events around them and in turn every one else has to make choices in response to those and so on. You can never tell who is going to do what. And that is why I love racing in general.

          2. However, the way Indycar handles cautions has always been very different to how Indy handles it.

            I meant very different to how F1 handles it.

      3. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the 4 road course races I’ve watched this year. Not so bothered about the oval rounds but they’ve been just as exciting to watch as the F1 races this year, although maybe not knowing the cars, drivers and tracks has made it more mysterious and interesting. Either way, I’m enjoying my first season of indycar.

  4. damn, I’m feeling for Hildebrand.

  5. What a nice track !

  6. Unbelievable ending, Felt bad for Hildebrand, that back marker lost him the win, he should have slowed down and flatted it on the straight but i guess it wasn’t to be and he at least got 2nd.

  7. Poor boy. He must be feeling devastated, at least he ended up second.

  8. It couldn’t be less American, could it?

    It looked like Driven, starring Stallone. A guy crashing, almost getting the victory with him, and the underdog winning!

  9. Seems his head was a half kilometre ahead of his butt. I guess we all have something to regret in our lives due to brain fade. Then again Wheldon is just floating a few inches above earth at this moment.

  10. I find it just as amusing that of all people to finish last, it’s Takuma Sato. And for what reason? Contact!

    1. Contact with the wall, rather than with another driver.

  11. The Last Pope
    29th May 2011, 22:22


  12. just woke up to watch that ending wow! You’d rather break down on the first lap than to lose the race on the last corner, and of all places to make a rookie mistake, poor dude, thats nightmare material

  13. Incredible Race!
    I was shocked at the end (because of the crash … and because of the milk! :-) )

    But, I was quite disppointed with Bertrand Baguette, who had to pit at the very end while he was leading! :-(
    7th place is a good resut though!

    1. Yeah what is that milk thing? I couldn’t believe what i was watching.
      I was laughing like crazy.

      1. Haha, I don’t remember how it started, all I know is its been tradition since forever.

        1. Back in the day, Emmo tried drinking orange juice after his Indy 500 wins and caused a big stir.

        2. And pre-dates champagne in F1, which didn’t come about until the late 1960s or early 1970s.

      2. Apparently the milk thing started in the 1930’s as a marketing gimmick and it stuck.


        When the US GP was held at the Indy infield circuit from 2000 to 2007, the top 3 would drink milk before heading onto the podium. So it’s become a part of Indy tradition across disciplines.

  14. SennaNmbr1 (@)
    29th May 2011, 22:59

    How sad :(

    But odd things happen in this sport. Vettel wins his first Monaco GP and a rookie loses the Indy 500 on the very last corner on the same day.

    1. The Last Pope
      30th May 2011, 1:42

      How is that odd? The two things are unrelated.

  15. Gutted twice in the same day. First because we were robbed of an awesome climax in Monaco, and secondly because I was really gunning for Hildebrandt, what a gutting way to lose possibly the biggest race in your life.

    That has got to be the most awesome finish to a race though.

    1. I have to say, I was beginning to lose interest in Formula 1 disgusted by FOTA’s reluctance to radically alter F1 chassis design from 2013, the over-reliance on degrading tyres to spice up the action, and the propensity for F1 to produce predictable results every now and then (while it was Schumacher and the Red Mist boredom from 2000-2004, it was the Brawn domination in the first half of 2009, and in 2011 the Vettel juggernaut).

      But the Monaco Grand Prix changed everything, made life more exciting and renewed my interest in the sport. Add to that, the Indianapoils 500 renewed my interest in motor racing all together.

      IndyCars are providing great action, but Formula 1 needs to change a lot. It really has to. Hope you agree Keith (not counting this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, of course)!

  16. Wow. Just wow. I’ve been watching this race on TV for almost 2 decades now and I have NEVER seen a finish like this with an accident on the LAST corner of the LAST lap. Lo and behold this was my very first time to get to go and see the race in person (my brother is the engineer who designed the ramp structure for the jump stunt so he got us free tickets through his work). Since the jump was on the south end, after the stunt was over, we decided to sit right by the fence in the infield at the end of turn four since we were already in the area and it seemed like a good place that was very close.

    By the luck of our choice, I watched that accident happen right in front of me. After the insanity of the lead changes over the last 10 laps, we thought JR had it in the bag. I said to my brother “here he comes” as they came around, I turned and saw him go high and SLAP! Everyone was shocked. I hadn’t even been cheering for JR the rest of the race, but when it registered what just happened I started shouting “GO! GO! COAST!” We weren’t even sure if he won or not until we heard over the loudspeakers that Wheldon passed him before the line. As gutted as I am for Hildebrand, I have to say that I’ve been waiting my whole life to get to go to this race and this is a memory I will never ever forget. I feel like I got to see a historic moment that will be repeated again and again for years to come. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m bragging, I’m just still on a high that my first time going was so special.

    1. Congrats on a great day at the Indy 500; you were a witness to motorsport history!

    2. Great account Joey-Poey!!
      I can only imagine the noise the crowd made when he hit the wall and seeing thousands of jaws collectively drop. Historic indeed.

    3. Sounds like a good time to have been able to see it on track. That finish was amazing to see on TV, can’t imagine how it must have been sitting right there where it happened.

      I do try to watch the Indy 500, although it isn’t always easy to see it on tv here, and I tend to only look for the start and nearer the end – it’s very different from F1, in the how easy it is too lead, and then fall back far; quite challenging to follow too, but that’s part of the thing (although that now also goes for F1, apart from Monaco, with all the pitstops etc :).

    4. Say that again, WOW.


    Truly the best Indy 500 I’ve ever watched!

  18. hypothetically
    If the flag man had not been busy with the white and the checkerd flag, and he got the yellow flag out before the pass was made, would that have been passing under yellow flags or does it not count if your the car who caused the yellow flags?

    1. They have lights that show the flag color just like F1 does, so it doesn’t rely on when the flag man waves, simply when the lights come on.

  19. Dan Wheldon is the best for me and i think he deserves that price. Feel sorry for Hildebrand but…

  20. Hey, since this is no longer an absolutely F1 site, I’d like to see some World of Outlaws coverage too.
    The point is that if I wanted to read about Indy cars I’d go to an Indy car site, NOT a, supposedly, F1 site.

    1. Go read some other site then. I’ll publish what I choose to.

      (Incidentally, this is far from the first time I’ve had an article about something other than F1 up – there was a GP2 season preview here a few weeks ago).

      1. Thanks for it Keith, great you had the live blog up as well.

        I think its wonderfull, especially for special occasions like the Indy 500!

      2. I actually reposted a link to your Indy 500 preview on my facebook before the race, saying how I’m glad you cover other major racing events (and do a good job of it, too). So don’t let the naysayers get you down. I like being exposed to other forms of racing. You even got me watching GT1 last year!

        1. Yes, fully agree with Joey-Poey. Formula 1 is one of the motor sports out there. No motor racing fan can maintain a closed doors attitude by watching only one series. We have to watch the others and get the true idea about this marvelous sport.

          Based on the present state of affairs though, I can’t maintain that Formula 1 is the ultimate.

  21. Congrats to Wheldon! He receives a nice $2.6 million dollar pay day for his efforts. Gutted for JR. I was really pulling for him at the end. A FANTASTIC race! IndyCar as usual puts on a great show. Thanks Keith! I’d love to see more coverage for every race in addition to your fine F1 coverage.

  22. A fantastic race indeed! More IndyCar please. Sato must hold the record for crashing in the year and a half he has been in IndyCar. It’s unbelievable.

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