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Weekend Racing Recap: Wheldon Takes Indy, Vettel Wins In Monaco

Posted in Formula 1, IndyCar, Racing Coverage by Kurt Ernst | May 30th, 2011 | Leave a Reply |

Dan Wheldon and crew. Image: Andrew H., Bryan Herta Autosport

The Indy 500 is always unpredictable, but no one could have seen this year’s finish coming. With five laps to go, rookie J.R. Hildebrand had the victory all but wrapped up. Thanks to a conservative fuel management strategy early in the race, Hildebrand, who drives for Panther Racing, was able to turn laps north of 217 miles per hour. Dario Franchitti, running in second place, was clearly in danger of running out of fuel, and his speeds dropped from 208 miles per hour down to 204 with only a handful of laps remaining. It wasn’t enough to hold off the advance of Dan Wheldon and Graham Rahal, both of whom had enough fuel to go the distance and easily passed Franchitti.

On the final lap, Hildebrand went wide to pass fellow rookie Charlie Kimball. Doing so had proved disastrous for other drivers throughout the race, including polesitter Alex Tagliani, who smacked the wall for the very same reason. Hildebrand rolled the dice, but it wasn’t to be: caught in the marbles at the outside of turn four, his car slid high and smacked the wall hard. Hildebrand, realizing that the finish line was close, kept the accelerator to the floor, but victory wasn’t to be. With the yard of bricks in sight, Dan Wheldon passed Hildebrand’s damaged car to take the victory. Hildebrand crossed the bricks in second, with Graham Rahal grabbing the last podium spot.

The win is a triumph for Weldon, who has no full-time ride in the 2011 IndyCar season but managed to score a ride at Indianapolis with Bryan Herta Autosport. As AutoWeek points out, the victory over Hildebrand is especially meaningful for Wheldon, as it was Hildebrand who took Wheldon’s seat at Panther Racing for the 2011 season.

Across the globe, the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco once again turned out to be the Sebastian Vettel show. Unlike last week’s Spanish Grand Prix. Vettel found himself working hard for the victory in the closing laps. On badly worn tires, the RedBull Renault driver still managed to hold off challenges from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren Mercedes’ Jenson Button. With four laps remaining, a hard crash involving the Renault of Vitaly Petrov red-flagged the race, allowing cars to change tires and make repairs on the grid. After the restart and on fresh tires, Vettel had no problem defending his position for the closing laps, and the race finished with a win for Vettel, a second for Fernando Alonso and a third place finish for Jenson Button.

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