Saturday, January 16, 2010

Images Of The Decade

Looking back over the past decade in the IZOD Indy Car Series, many images stick out in our minds. Many things have changed this decade since the green flag fell in 2000 at Walt Disney World Speedway. I have selected the ten images that I feel stick out the most over the past decade, from tears in the winner circle, to scary accidents and controversial finishes!

10. Streets of St. Pete- In 2005, the IZOD Indy Car Series made a huge change. The addition of road and street courses would start a new excited era of racing for the series. The first time drivers had to turn right and left was at St. Pete in 2005. Dan Wheldon took the checkers forever cementing his name in the record books as the first driver to win a non oval Indy Car race. Currently the 2010 schedule has nine street or road courses on it.

9. Dancing For Rain- The 2007 Indy 500 was wet and wild. Threatening skies hung over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway most of the day, but the 500 went green right on schedule. After 113 laps, the red flag flew due to heavy showers. Tony Kanaan was in the lead, and as the rain become to come down heavily, was in perfect position to win his first 500, and the race was official after the 101st lap. After the rains let up, and the track was dry, the drivers were called back to their cars, and the soaked fans headed back to the stands around 6:15. On lap 163, with rain clouds vastly approaching, Marco Andretti tangled with Dan Wheldon, sending Marcos car airborne and upside down. Many cars where involved and cars were scattered all over the back stretch. Before the carnage was clear, the rains came on lap 166 giving Dario Franchitti the victory. He drove carefully around the rain soaked speedway as wife Ashley Judd celebrated by dancing in the rain on the front stretch.

8. Fuming Finish. The 2007 championship battle came right down to the final lap at Chicagoland. Franchitti, the 500 champion that season, had a crazy season. He found himself upside a few times, and only had a three point lead entering the final race. On the final restart of the race on lap 198 of 200, Dixon lead Franchitti both with very low fuel tanks. They took the white flag side by side and set up for an amazing finish. As turn three approached, Dixon peeled to the bottom of the track and Franchitti sped by to take the victory and the championship. Dixon was a gallon of fuel short. Franchitti won the title by 13 points and Dixon finished 2nd coasting on fumes to the finish.

7. Paul's Pass. The 2002 Indianapolis was one of the most competitive of the decade, and it came down to controversy at the end. Heading down the backstretch on lap 198, Tracy ran the high line and completed the pass to take the lead from Helio Castroneves. As the pass was being made, Laurent Redon and Buddy Lazier wrecked in turn 2. The yellow came out, and was later determined the yellow light was on before Tracy could complete the pass. Helio went on to win his second straight 500, as Paul Tracy and Team Green protested the finish. On July 2nd, Paul's Pass was confirmed as being completed after the yellow light was on, and Helio would keep the 500 victory.

6. Champions Climb- For the first time at the Indianapolis 500, the winner did not drive his car straight to victory circle. Instead, rookie winner Helio Castroneves stopped just short of the yard of bricks, climbed from the cockpit, and climb the front stretch catch fence. The entire Team Penske crew joined Helio, and the nickname "Spider Man" was born for Helio. In 2002, Helio again made the Champions climb, becoming the first back to back 500 winner since 1970 and 1971 winner Al Unser Sr. Helio, after being warned by Indy Car officials, climb the fence for the third time in 2009.

5. Patrick's Push- In 2005, Rookie Danica Patrick took the Indianapolis 500 by storm. busted on the scene, being put into one of the best cars on the best team for Rahal Letterman Racing. Danica qualified fourth, becoming the fastest women at the Speedway in history. On lap 155, during a restart, Danica made her only rookie mistake of the month. She spun the back tires in the short chute and did a half spin, causing a chain reaction wreck behind her. Five cars spun and made contact, knocking them out of contention. Danica remained focused, got a new front nose cone, and on lap 190, during a restart Danica shot around leader Dan Wheldon and took the lead. Everyone stood on their feet, as the reality of a women winning Indy became clearer and clearer. As he fuel tank ran down, Patrick's push to win the 500 ran down with it. Wheldon took the lead and the win, as Danica fell to finish fourth, the best by a women at the Indianapolis 500.

4. Date with Disaster- Going around a track at 225 mph, inches apart can lead to some horrifying incidents. Every driver fears it, and has been involved in some kind of hard hit along the way in their racing careers. Ryan Briscoe had the scariest wreck of the decade. In the 2005 race at Chicagoland, Briscoe, running for Chip Ganassi at the time, made contact with Ed Carpenter send his #33 Target car straight into the catch fence. His car split in half and caught fire on impact. Fortunately for Briscoe, he broke both clavicles and earned the nickname " Briscoe Inferno." Dario Franchitti, in his championship 2007 season, saw his ups and down throughout the season. At the Firestone Indy 400 and Michigan International Speedway, Franchitti was battling for the lead on lap 143 when he made contact with Dan Wheldon down the back stretch. Dario's #27 car turn straight left, then up into the air. His car was straight up and down in mid air, and landed upside down before being hit and flipped by Scott Dixons car. Franchitti's car slip to a stop, and track workers, with help from fellow driver Sam Hornish Jr. who was also caught in the crash, flipped the car upright and Dario Climbed out. Briscoe and Franchitti both survived their date with disaster.

3. Tear's of Joy- In 2008, history was made at Twin Ring Motegi. Danica Patrick became the first women to win an Indy Car Race. With just three laps to go, Helio Castroneves ran out of fuel and Danica took the lead and the victory. Those were the only three laps she lead that day, and the fuel gamble paid off for her and her Andretti Autosport team. Tear's of joy ran down her face during the post race interview and as she was handed the winning trophy. She qualified sixth for the race and broke into the winner's circle for the first and only time in her career.

2. Hornish Got 'Em- In 2006, Marco Andretti was nineteen years old, making his first Indianapolis 500 start. It was his first start, and his father, Michael's final bid to win his first Indy 500. On the final restart of the race at lap 195, Michael lead son Marco to the line for the green flag restart. Marco, with the faster car, passed his father for the lead heading into turn one. Sam Hornish Jr. was charging hard in the third spot. Michael, trying to secure the win for his son, blocked Hornish as much as he could, but it wasn't enough. Hornish raced around Michael and was heading for a pass on Marco into turn three on lap 198 when Marco ran him down to the white line. Hornish had to lift and fell back. Marco took the white flag well ahead of Hornish. Hornish gained all the way down the back stretch of the last lap and coming out of turn four, Hornish got a tow and passed Marco right before the yard of bricks to take the win in the second closest 500 finish in history.

1. The closest finish in history- on September 8th, 2002 Sam Hornish Jr. beat Al Unser Jr in the closest finish in Indy Car history. The margin of victory was .0024. Chicagoland Speedway has played host to many of the closest finishes in history including the closest 1-2-3 finish, also won by Sam Hornish Jr. The top 6 were side by side two deep for the final laps. Hornish on the high side, Unser Jr. on the bottom battled to the stripe. Hornish, fist in the air, edge Unser at the finish!


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