96th Indianapolis 500 one to remember
May, 25, 2012
By Tom McKean, Chris Lees and Matthew Willis, ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
Andrew Weber/US Presswire Dan Wheldon earned his second Indianapolis 500 victory last year after a thrilling finish.
Rookie JR Hildebrand looked poised to claim the victory as he led on the final lap. But after attempting to overtake lapped traffic in the final corner, he ran too high and into the wall, allowing Wheldon to earn his second Indy 500 win and join an exclusive club of drivers with multiple wins.
Hildebrand, himself, is seeking to join an exclusive club. In the long, rich history of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, only three drivers which finished second in their Indy 500 debut came back and won the very next year.
They are Jacques Villeneuve (1995), Johnnie Parsons (1950), and Dario Resta (1916). One sign of bad luck for Hildebrand is his starting position of 18th, which has never produced a winner. In fact, it’s the only starting position inside the top 20 never to have a winner.
Overall, the Indianapolis 500 boasts some impressive numbers. Along with the 95 Indy 500s held, there have been 63 bottles of milk consumed by the winners. A total of 737 drivers have participated in the famed event, and the winners have driven a collective 46,432.5 miles.
This year, Ryan Briscoe will be looking to convert his pole position into victory. He has a good chance if history is any indication, as four of the last eight Indy 500 events have been won from the pole position.
Last year was not one of them, however, as Alex Tagliani finished 28th after starting up front. Briscoe has not faired well at this prestigious event recently, posting just a 22.3 average finish in four Indy 500 starts with Team Penske.
Teammate Will Power enters this year's race with huge momentum. He's won the last three IndyCar events, and is the first driver with a three-race win streak entering the Indianapolis 500 since Bobby Unser in 1968 (Unser would go on to win that year's edition). Power has four starts in the Indy 500, and has never finished better than fifth. He's led a mere five laps in those four starts.
A major storyline could also revolve around Helio Castroneves. He has three career Indianapolis 500 wins, and with a fourth, he would become just the fourth driver in history to claim four victories. Castroneves finished 17th in this event last year, his second-worst result of his career at Indianapolis (finished 25th in 2006).
This year’s edition will not feature Danica Patrick for the first time since 2004. Patrick was the first woman to lead a lap in Indianapolis 500 history, and owns the best finish by a female in history (third in 2009). Three women are in the field this year: Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge and Simona De Silvestro.
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