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Sunday, May 29, 2011
Dan Wheldon declared race winner

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Dan Wheldon drank the milk and celebrated in Victory Lane Sunday, but the it took a lengthy review by race officials before Wheldon officially was declared the winner of the Indianapolis 500.

Wheldon beat rookie JR Hildebrand's damaged car to the finish line, but that didn't matter since the caution flag came out before either driver reached the line.

Hildebrand had the race won before crashing into the outside wall as he exited the final turn. Wheldon zoomed past him, but officials had to review video of the final moments to determine when Wheldon was ahead of Hildebrand.

The field is frozen when the caution is displayed. Yellow lights come on around the track and inside the cockpit of the cars. Had Wheldon passed Hildebrand after the caution light came on, Hildebrand would have been the winner of the event.

A video of the final seconds showed Wheldon ahead of Hildrebrand before the caution lights came on. Wheldon passed Hildebrand with the green light on in front of him. A split second later, the yellow comes on before Wheldon reaches the finish line, but he's already ahead of Hildebrand.

John Barnes, owner for the Panther Racing team for which Hildrebrand drives, said he has no plans to protest the decision.

The Indy 500 had a similar situation in 2002 when Paul Tracy passed Helio Castroneves on the final lap. But race officials declared Castroneves the winner because they said Tracy's pass came after the caution was displayed.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com.