As soon as A.J. Foyt realized his fifth Indy 500 victory was just a lap away, he let out a roar.
"Bring it home. You've won it," Foyt bellowed over the radio to driver Kenny Brack after Robby Gordon ran out of fuel on lap 199.
Moments later, Brack was in Victory Lane being bear-hugged by Foyt, who hadn't been there in 22 years.
The low-key, 33-year-old Swedish driver and the 64-year-old rough and tumble Texan won Sunday because Gordon's team gambled on driving the last 32 laps with only enough fuel for 30.
Foyt, who became the first four-time Indy winner in 1977, finally got his first as a car owner.
"Kenny did all the work today, but really I was driving just as hard as he was in the pits," Foyt said as the No. 14 car his old number as a driver was mobbed in Victory Lane.
A year ago, Foyt's crew cost Brack a shot at a win when they allowed him to run out of fuel while leading on lap 88. He wound up sixth.
"It is very hard to win this race," said Brack (pronounced Breck). "You don't know what is going to happen. You have to concentrate because there are a lot of risks to take."
Asked if he was pleased to have given Foyt a fifth Indy win, Brack said, "I'm happy for both of us, but I think more for me."
Foyt was more than willing to share the good will.
"I always wanted to come here five times," he said as he accepted the cheers of thousands of fans watching the ceremonies.
| Kenny Brack and car owner A.J. Foyt celebrate the win with the traditional jug of milk. (AP) |
Gordon got fuel on lap 168 but stayed on the track while the other leaders pitted under a caution flag three laps later.
That put him in the lead as he tried to go the rest of the way on one tank of fuel, encouraged over the car radio by crew members who insisted he had enough.
But his engine sputtered and he pulled into the pits near the end of the 199th lap of the 200-lap race.
"We knew what it was going to take to win this race," Gordon said. "It just slipped away."
The decision to gamble came from team owner John Menard.
"We knew it was close," he said, "but it's the Indy 500 and you've got to go for it. I'm sorry for Robby. We ran him out of fuel. I just feel like crying."
While Gordon and Menard commiserated, Brack and Foyt celebrated.
"In the end I ran as fast as I could to try to catch Robby," Brack said. "I wasn't going to take second. I took a few chances. I thought it was better to push it."
The victory was only part of the success story for the owner. Foyt drivers Billy Boat and Robbie Buhl finished third and sixth, respectively.
On a day when there was often more action in the pits than on the 2 ½-mile oval, including an accident in which a crewman was critically injured, there were numerous disappointments. Most of the pre-race favorites fell out of the race because of their own mistakes or mechanical problems.
Arie Luyendyk, Greg Ray and Eddie Cheever, three of the front-runners at the halfway point, were sidelined within minutes of each other.
Sunday was the last ride for Luyendyk, the 45-year-old two-time Indy champion who said he would retire after the checkered flag. But the Flying Dutchman didn't go out the way he and many fans had hoped.
Leading the race, Luyendyk tried to make an inside pass on Tyce Carlson, lost control in Carlson's wake and slammed into the wall. He stepped out of the battered car quickly and waved to the fans, but his frustration was apparent as he pulled off his driving gloves and banged them onto one of he safety trucks.
His 15th and last Indy 500 was over.
"Really, I feel stupid right now. I should have known better than to race the traffic like that. I went underneath Tyce and I thought he would make room for me. He came down and when I touched the brakes, it made me spin out. I should have known better."
"I was having so much fun. It was the most fun Indy 500 I've ever had. The car was phenomenal. It's going to be a long summer, thinking how it could have been."
Ray, who took over the lead when Luyendyk crashed, wound up just as disappointed moments later. Following a routine pit stop under the caution flag, Ray darted out of his pit stall and banged into the side of Mark Dismore, who was in the fast lane heading toward his pit.
Ray immediately got out of his car and strode away, leaving his helmet on to keep anyone from seeing his emotion.
"I don't know what happened," he said, his voice still muffled by his helmet. "I was told to go and another car came up and hit me. ... I just want to cry."
That left Cheever in charge, hoping to become the first driver to win consecutive races at Indy since Al Unser Sr. in 1970-71. He fell behind Brack, but was still solidly in the hunt when his engine, one of only three Infinitis in the field, belched smoke and died on lap 140.
It was considered chancy for Cheever to switch this season from Aurora engines, which have won every IRL race the past two years, to the non-winning Infitinis.
Jeff Ward, who led as late as lap 153 before falling back, wound up second, trailing Brack's Dallara-Aurora across the finish line by 6.557-seconds nearly half a straightaway.
Gordon made a quick stop for a splash of fuel and came back out to finish fifth, barely on the lead lap and just ahead of rookie Robby McGehee.
Brack, the defendinIndy Racing League champion, averaged 153.176 mph. He is expected to collect a check Monday night at the Victory Banquet for about $1.5 million from the $9 million purse.
When Foyt won here in 1977, he took home $260,000 from a total of $1.1 million.
Tony Stewart, the 1997 IRL champion and now a regular in NASCAR's Winston Cup series, got through the first part of a rare double by finishing ninth despite some severe handling problems. He was then flown by private jet to Concord, N.C., to race in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Eliseo Salazar, who has now crashed in three of his last four starts at Indy, brought out the first of nine caution flags on lap nine. He lost control, slid up the banking and careened off the outside wall, back across the track and hard into the inside wall.
It was the first on-track test for the IRL's new tether system, which secures the wheels to the cars in an effort to keep parts from flying into the crowd. It worked for Salazar.
Three fans were killed and eight others injured at an IRL race in Concord on May 1, when a wheel and debris shot into the crowd after a wreck.
Two of Salazar's wheels were broken away from the chassis, but the tethers, made of space-age fiber Zylon, kept them on the car.
During the ensuing yellow flag, several drivers made pit stops. Johnny Unser lost his brakes coming down pit road and banged into Jimmy Kite, who was leaving his pit. Kite's car was thrown sideways, hitting Steve Fried, crew chief for McGehee.
Fried was in critical but stable condition with head and chest injuries.
"There's nothing you can do with broken steering," Kite said. "It's the most helpless feeling I've ever had."
Dismore ran among the leaders before banging into the wall on lap 169 and tearing off the right front tire, which rolled harmlessly across the track. It was the only time a wheel separated from a car during several wrecks.
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