There should be little doubt that the 100th anniversary race of the Indianapolis 500 was the best event of 2011.
One could almost make the case that the race has vaulted the “500” back to the top of all motorsports.
For the finish alone, I put the Indianapolis 500 at the beginning of my “Top 10” list for best races of 2011. There was also pit strategy in the later stages of the race as teams attempted to make sure there was enough fuel on board to finish the race.
Just when it appeared rookie J.R. Hildebrand was going to record the victory, he slammed the outside turn four wall on the final lap, allowing Dan Wheldon to record his second victory at Indianapolis.
Although Hildebrand was saving fuel over the final laps, there seemingly was no way for Wheldon to steal the victory away. That all changed when Hildebrand went high in the corner to pass the lapped car of Charles Kimball.
The rest of my top 10:
No. 2: For the second consecutive year, the Red Bud 300 at Anderson Speedway for the Champion Racing Association super late models didn’t disappoint. Florida driver Steve Dorer used the high groove to pass Chase Elliott coming off the fourth corner on the final lap to record the victory.
No. 3: Illinois driver Boris Jurkovic made his tires and fuel last to win the Winchester 400 by taking advantage of a late-race restart to hold off Derrick Griffin and Elliott. Jurkovic came from two laps down to record the victory, while Griffin and Elliott battled for the second spot in a green-white-checker finish.
No. 4: Chris Windom used the right tire strategy to win the 63rd running of the Pay Less Little 500 for sprint cars at Anderson Speedway in May.
Aaron Pierce had the lead late in the race when a mechanical problem resulted in a spin turning over the point to nine-time Little 500 champion Eric Gordon. But Windom on fresher tires blew past Gordon with five laps remaining to score the biggest victory of his career.
No. 5: It took three extra laps, but Ty Dillon held off James Buescher and Ryan Blaney to win ARCA’s return to Lucas Oil Raceway as part of Kroger Speedfest. Dillon survived the final restart to beat Blaney to the checkers followed by Buescher and New Castle native Dakota Armstrong.
No. 6: Although Elliott didn’t win the Red Bud 300, he opened the season with two exciting wins at Lanier Speedway in Georgia. Elliott made late race passes to win a crate late model event and then the CRA feature.
No. 7: Kenzie Ruston became the first female driver to win a CRA Super Late Model race at Lucas Oil Raceway when race leader Boris Jurkovic ran out of fuel in the final laps.
No. 8: Paul Menard made his fuel last and kept his fingers crossed as Jeff Gordon made a late-race charge to win the Brickyard 400.
No. 9: Kody Swanson held off his brother, Tanner, and Jacob Wilson in the final 10 laps to win the USAC pavement sprint car race at LOR in the return of “Thursday Night Thunder.” Kody Swanson passed Wilson with two laps remaining to secure the win.
No. 10: Timothy Peters survived a flat tire and spin to win the Camping World Truck Series event at LOR in what might be the last appearance of the series at the Clermont facility. Peters passed James Buescher with six laps remaining to secure the win.
• Ken de la Bastide may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-454-8580.