In the end, the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 came down to which driver was best at conserving fuel. In the final ten laps, it looked like the race could still be a toss-up between Dario Franchitti, whose Target Chip Ganassi car led the majority of race laps, Tony Kanaan, whose last place to second place run was nothing short of brilliant, or even Marco Andretti, who drove the most intelligent race of his career. When Andretti Autosport realized that neither Kanaan nor Andretti would have sufficient fuel to finish the race, it looked like a sure bet for Franchitti.
But no one on the Target Chip Ganassi team knew if Franchitti had enough fuel to finish the last lap, and Panther Racing’s Dan Wheldon, in second position behind Franchitti, had plenty. What could have been a nail-biter finish to the bricks was cut short by a horrific accident on the last lap. Mike Conway, driving for Dreyer & Reinbold, got loose coming off pit lane. He bumped wheels with Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter Reay, then Conway’s car got airborne. In what could have easily been a career-ending or life- threatening accident, Conway’s car disintegrated as it hit the concrete retaining wall, then slid up into the catch fence. The car sheared in two at the firewall, and when the cockpit landed, it very nearly collided with the helmet of Ryan Hunter Reay; instead, both drivers were spared by inches and milliseconds.
The ensuing yellow gave the victory to Franchitti, who crossed the line followed by Wheldon. Alex Lloyd crossed the line in third, but was later penalized for passing Marco Andretti under the closing lap yellow flag. The final podium spot went to Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti.
And the good news? Both Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter Reay walked away from their last lap accident. If I were them, I’d be stopping to buy lottery tickets on the way to the hospital.