Indianapolis 500 Notebook for Sunday, May 28

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Video Sam Hornish, Jr. celebrates
Video Marco Andretti reaction

By D.A. Brown
SportsTicker Contributing Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) - Danica Patrick made shockwaves in the auto racing world with her fourth-place finish in last year’s Indianapolis 500.

Despite running eighth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, Patrick was pleased with her performance and admitted she drove harder this year.

“I remember a race a year ago that I caught a lot of breaks,” the 24-year-old starlet said. “So sometimes you catch them and sometimes you don’t. I’m just glad we came home safe and finished eighth.”

Patrick benefited from a few lucky breaks here last year but could not capitalize on several opportunities during Sunday’s caution periods. She made her final stop on lap 183 under green but six laps later, a caution came out when Felipe Giaffone hit the wall.

“That hurt us,” Patrick said. “I thought if we had caught a break and got a yellow at the right time, we might have had a top-five finish. I should be happy with myself, but I guess I’m just frustrated with what could have happened.” HOT TIME: Heat and humidity took a toll on fans Sunday in what proved to be the fourth-hottest race in Indianapolis 500 history.

Drivers and fans endured an 89-degree temperature day with near 70 percent humidity. The temperature continued to rise as the afternoon wore on, with track-pavement temperatures climbing as has as 126 degrees. Indianapolis Motor Speedway spokesman Ron Green said that 225 people needed treatment from medical officials as of 6:15 p.m.

“Ninety percent of those treated were for heat-related problems,” Green said.

The warmest race-day temperature recorded here was 92 degrees in 1937.

WHEN CHAMPIONS COLLIDE: One of Sunday’s scariest moments came when Helio Castroneves and Buddy Rice collided in a fourth-turn accident which ended the race for both former champions.

The two made contact when Castroneves attempted to dive under Rice on lap 110. The pair locked wheels and made hard contact with the fourth-turn wall.

Rice said he slowed to avoid cars in front of him.

“Those guys were a couple of wide,” he said. “(I) checked up, went down into (turn) 4, and I had no idea Helio was there.”

It was the first time in his career that Castroneves did not complete every lap of this race.

Prior to his crash, Castroneves had completed 1,089 consecutive laps, just 262 behind Wilbur Shaw’s all-time record of 1,351.

“It is frustrating,” Castroneves said. “There is interesting driving out there. I just want to say, I guess my average is going to go high now.”

The last time two former race winners were involved in the same accident was in 1992, when Rick Mears and Emerson Fittipaldi were involved in a four-car accident in turn 2 on lap 76.

ANOTHER BAD ENDING: Tomas Scheckter had one of the fastest cars early Sunday. But for the third time in five years, Scheckter’s day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ended against the wall.

The 25-year-old Scheckter climbed from his 11th starting spot to sixth driving for Speedway owner Tony George’s Vision Racing Team.

Then disaster struck.

Scheckter lost control in turn 4 while making light contact with the outside wall before sliding across the track and slamming the end of the pit wall. The accident occurred close to the spot where he crashed out of the race while leading in 2002.

“I was trying a little hard and I just got loose,” he said.

Scheckter, the son of 1979 Formula One champion Jody Scheckter, was uninjured and credited with 27th place.

INJURED FANS: Scheckter’s fourth-turn accident sent part of his car’s wing on to the frontstretch, where Jacques Lazier sent the debris flying into the stands.

Speedway officials said five spectators were slightly injured from the accident. Two fans were hit by the piece that went in the stands while the rest were injured trying to avoid the debris.

All five spectators were checked and released from the infield medical center.

TEAMMATES: Hemelgarn Racing teammates Jeff Bucknum and P.J. Chesson both enjoyed less than a minute of competition in Sunday’s race.

The pair was running near the back of the field after completing the first lap when Bucknum spun out and collected Chesson before they slammed the second-turn wall.

Bucknum could not explain what happened.

“It snapped around the back end,” he said. “I’m not sure how it happened.”

But Chesson had a better view of the accident and knew its cause.

“He looked like he was down below the white line and just lost it on the second lap driving without his head,” Chesson said.

Hemelgarn, who won this race with Buddy Rice in 2004, said the accident was just part of the sport.

“It’s very disappointing when you have two cars, two teammates, take each other out on the first lap,” Hemelgarn said.

Updated Monday, May 29, 2006