Indianapolis 500 notebook: Measure of redemption for Allmendinger
INDIANAPOLIS — A.J. Allmendinger's career appeared over a year ago after NASCAR suspended him for failing a drug test. Then, he was fired by owner Roger Penske.
Allmendinger, rehired by Penske earlier this year, bounced back Sunday to finish seventh in the Indianapolis 500. A five-time winner on the Champ Car Series, Allmendinger led 23 laps, and if not for a failed seat belt and tire issues, he easily could have been in contention on the final restart with less than four laps remaining.
Allmendinger didn't set foot in Gasoline Alley as an open-wheel driver because Champ drivers were ineligible to compete at the Brickyard. A hungry Allmendinger was determined to right the perceived wrong.
Allmendinger was forced onto pit road and surrendered the lead on Lap 113 to Marco Andretti. The 12.6-second stop put him a lap behind, and seemingly dashed any hopes of him challenging for the lead with 85 laps remaining.
“Maybe it was because my heart was beating too hard from leading the race,” said Allmendinger.
NFL flavor at race
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin attended his first Indianapolis 500. He was there to support Pittsburgh native Chip Ganassi's drivers —– including three-time winner Dario Franchitti.
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, a former Indianapolis Colts quarterback, was the pace driver for the Indy 500. “The athletes that drive these cars — I mean, the myth that these guys aren't athletes is just so far from the truth,” he said.
Briscoe finishes 12th
Surprisingly, Ryan Briscoe did not have a ride coming into this season. Ganassi gave him an Indy ride last month, and he ended up with the best showing of all four cars with a 12th-place finish. “There wasn't much alternative strategy going on where we could do something different,” said Briscoe, who a new engine installed after Friday's final practice. “We would have raced harder at the front, but we were never able to get there.”
Bad day for JR
JR Hildebrand was seemingly on his way to victory here 2011 before crashing in the last turn on the last lap. This time, he failed to cover 10 miles on the 2.5-mile oval as he hit the wall in Turn 2.
NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski watched the first half of the Indy 500 before heading back to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600. He was there supporting owner Roger Penske's entrants — Helio Castroneves. Allmendinger and Will Power. “The 500 is a brand-new experience. Hopefully we can do that in August,” Keselowski said.
It was 62 degrees at the start of the race, which is third coldest in race history. ... Pole-sitter Ed Carpenter led a race-high 37 laps. But he faded midway through the race to finish 10th.