Wheldon wins Indy 500 thriller

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British star joins Jim Clark and Graham Hill in the history books

Dan Wheldon has inscribed his name in racing history alongside motorsport legends Jim Clark and Graham Hill by becoming only the third British driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

Wheldon, 26, came from 16th on the grid in his Andretti Green Racing Dallara-Honda to win the self-proclaimed ‘biggest race in the world’ on May 29. It was his fourth victory in five races this season, putting him on course to become the first driver since Jacques Villeneuve in 1995 to win the Indy 500 and an Indycar series title in the same year.

The last British driver to conquer the 500 was Hill in 1966, a race that Jackie Stewart looked set to win until the oil scavenge pump on his Lola failed in the closing stages. After witnessing Wheldon’s historic performance at Indy, Stewart hailed it as “a bloody good drive.”

“Before the race I would have named him among six drivers who could win,” said Stewart. “He is an aggressive, fearless driver who was a threat even when he wasn’t leading. It’s a very important result for him.”

The reputation of the Indy 500 has been damaged by the split in US single-seater racing between CART and the IRL, but Stewart believes it is still a race of huge importance. “The split did take the shine off the race for a while, but it is back to being a big race with significance.”

The result also provided a major breakthrough for Wheldon’s team boss Michael Andretti, the son of 1969 Indy victor Mario Andretti, who failed to win the 500 in 14 attempts as a driver.

But the biggest story for the US media was the speed of Danica Patrick, whose fourth-place finish was the highest scored by a woman in the Indy 500. She also became the first woman to lead the race.

***

Fact File — Brits at the Brickyard

Brits who won at Indy…

Jim Clark                        1965

Graham Hill                    1966

Dan Wheldon                 2005

 

And those who missed out…

Hughie Hughes, 3rd      1912

Jackie Stewart, 6th        1966

David Hobbs, 5th           1974

Jim Crawford, 6th          1988

Nigel Mansell, 3rd          1993

Dario Franchitti, 6th       2005

 

British-born drivers (naturalised Americans)…

George Robson, 1st       1946

Henry Banks, 6th            1951

Jeff Ward, 2nd                1999