Dan Wheldon earns $2.6 million
INDIANAPOLIS -- J.R. Hildebrand lost $1.5 million in the last mile of the Indianapolis 500.
He was leading the race heading into the final turn on the final lap when he went high to pass a slower car and slammed into the safety wall, allowing Dan Wheldon to win the 100-year anniversary race.
Wheldon received $2,567,255 for the victory while Hildebrand earned $1,064,895 for his second-place finish. The total purse was $13,509,485.
Hildebrand's loss remained as much the story as Wheldon's win when the checks were handed out Monday night at the Indianapolis 500 Victory Celebration. James Hinchcliffe, who finished 29th, perhaps had the best perspective for his fellow rookie.
"JR, never forget man, you've got to do 799 corners perfectly to put yourself in that position," Hinchcliffe said. "I know that didn't end the way you wanted, but that was a tremendous effort. That was the rookie drive of the decade right there."
Even Bryan Herta, the owner of the team Wheldon drove for, complimented Hildebrand's grace in defeat.
"You're not going to be defined by the result, you're going to be defined by the way you handled it."
Hiildebrand said he learned a hard lesson about the track, one that Al Unser, Jr., mentioned earlier in the night.
"It came down to a split-second decision," Hildebrand said. "Am I going to go for it here and go around and try to make this work on the high side, or am I going to risk slowing down significantly in into a corner to stay behind the 83 (Charlie Kinball), who was trying to get out of the way as much as possible? But it is, as Mr. Unser so eloquently put it, a one-groove track."
As for Wheldon, he entered the season without a ride or a team, and the Indy 500 was his first race of the season.
"This is certainly more than I made in the unemployment line," he joked. "I think I'll be the man when I go back there tomorrow."
Wheldon, who started sixth, became just the 18th driver to win the race at least twice. He also triumphed in 2005 on his way to a series championship. Wheldon has six top-four finishes in nine career Indianapolis 500 starts, including second, second and first in the last three years, respectively.
He was emotional after the victory, something fourth-place finisher Tony Kanaan noticed.
"We always make fun of Helio (Castroneves) crying," Kanaan said. "You were crying exactly like him."
Wheldon made $1,537,805 when he won in 2005.
Herta spoke before Wheldon, and Kanaan and 2010 winner Dario Franchitti doused him with a bucket of water.
It was a race for small teams. Hildebrand drives for Panther Racing. The polesitter, Alex Tagliani, drives for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. The bigger teams, Penske and Ganassi, struggled off and on throughout the month.
Tagliani was fast all month, but crashed and finished 28th.
"Sometimes, this race, you need a little luck," he said. "The stars need to be aligned for you to go through 500 miles, and it was not our day."
Danica Patrick finished 10th and seemed ready to return to Indy next year, despite rumors that she's heading to NASCAR full time.
"I really hope that I get a chance to win this one year, because it's a beautiful event, it's such a special place," she said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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95TH INDIANAPOLIS 500-MILE RACE
It's time for the 95th running of the Indianapolis 500, but it's the number 100 that counts in 2011. This is the 100th anniversary of the running of the first 500, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Centennial Era celebration is in high gear.
Indianapolis 500 Home
Race Day, May 29• Blount: The thrill and agony
• Hinton: Oh yeah, Indy is back!
• Oreovicz: Bad day for power teams
• McGee: What a capper to 100 years
• espnW: A roller-coaster ride for Indy women
• Gallery: 100th anniversary of the 500
• Recap: Wheldon wins a stunner
• Watch: Full highlights
• Watch: Full booth analysis
• Watch: Wheldon so thankful
• Watch: Hildebrand crestfallen
Saturday, May 28• Blount: Hang on to your hats!
• Hinton: Back again in Indiana
• ESPN.com staff: Our podium predictions
• Racing Live! Indy 500, Sunday, noon ET
Carb Day, May 27• Blount: The weekend's best race is ...
• Hinton: Foyt legend still strong in 2011
• Gallery: A.J. Foyt, A Racing Life
• Hinton from 1991: The last ride of A.J. Foyt
• Hinton on the Field of the Century front row
• Hinton's Indy 500 Field of the Century: Row 1
• Oreovicz blog: Ganassi team leads Carb Day
• espnW: Patrick's mom, Bev, enjoying ride
• Blount blog: The way Mario Andretti sees it
• Ed Hinton chat wrap
• John Oreovicz chat wrap
• Podcast: Brent Musburger previews the race
• Podcast: Helio Castroneves is ready to roll
• SportsNation: Indy 500 predictions
Features• Oreovicz: Breaking down the field of 33
• Blount: Bumping Junqueira saved jobs
• James: Women find a niche in IndyCar
• SportsNation quiz: All-time lap leaders
• Indy 500 preview photo gallery
• James: No stopping Simona
• Blount: Indy shows NASCAR how it's done
• James: Women drivers carving a niche
• Oreovicz: Danica dodges Bump Day disaster
• James: A stormy day at the track for Danica
• Oreovicz: Wild and wacky Pole Day
• Oreovicz: Month of May primer
Practice And Qualifying• Danica makes 500 field
• Carpentier crashes in Sunday practice
• Tagliani wins Indy 500 pole
• Briscoe crashes in Saturday practice
• Di Silvestro cleared to race
• Castroneves tops speed charts
• Tagliani leads Friday at over 228 mph
• De Silvestro waiting for medical clearance
• Power leads Thursday practice
• De Silvestro burns hands in crash
• Rain scrubs practice again Wednesday
• Weather limits practice Tuesday
• Tagliani turns month's fastest lap Monday
• Opening Sunday washed out
• Opening day starts fast
Indy 500 Field Of The Century• Hinton: The method in our list
• Row 1: Foyt, Lockhart, Vukovich
• Row 2: Ma. Andretti, Mears, A. Unser
• Row 3: Shaw, Jones, DePalma
• Row 4: Meyer, B. Unser, Rutherford
• Row 5: Ward, Johncock, Fittipaldi
• Row 6: Rose, Unser Jr., Milton
• Row 7: Clark, Mi. Andretti, Villenueve
• Row 8: Luyendyk, Hill, Harroun
• Row 9: Castroneves, Franchitti, Montoya
• Row 10: Ruby, Donohue, Sullivan
• Row 11: Flaherty, Kanaan, Hurtubise
• The Social Pioneers
Indy At 100• Indy at 100: 2000 and beyond
• Indy at 100: Tony George reigns in the '90s
• Indy at 100: 1980s had stars, foreign cars
• Indy at 100: Speed and safety in the '70s
• Indy at 100: A time of change
• Indy at 100: The '50s golden era
• Indy at 100: WWII puts racing on hold
• Indy at 100: 1930-39 a dangerous era
• Indy at 100: 1920-29 a roaring time
• Indy at 100: 1911-1919 was pivotal
• Indianapolis Motor Speedway timeline
More• Indy 500 front row chat wrap
• John Oreovicz chat wrap
• Danica not tipping hand on future
• Foyt, Mears, Unser top "greatest" fan poll
• Scott Speed joins Dragon Racing
• A.J. Foyt will drive Indy 500 pace car
• China's Ho-Pin Tung eyes Indy 500
• Indy 500 to honor Tom Carnegie
• Buddy Rice heading back to Indy 500
Indy 500 Rewind• 2010 Flashback: Dario's all the way back
• 2009 Flashback: Castroneves wins again
• 2008 Flashback: Quiet Dixon makes noise • 2007 Flashback: Franchitti comes up big
• 2006 Flashback: Hornish gets his "Holy Grail"