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Final-turn crash cost JR Hildebrand $1.5 million

Tue., May 31, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS – JR Hildebrand lost $1.5 million in the last mile of the Indianapolis 500.

He was leading the race heading into the final turn on the final lap when he went high to pass a slower car and slammed into the safety wall, allowing Dan Wheldon to win the 100-year anniversary race.

Wheldon received $2,567,255 for the victory while Hildebrand earned $1,064,895 for his second-place finish. The total purse was $13,509,485.

Hildebrand’s loss remained as much the story as Wheldon’s win when the checks were handed out Monday night at the Indianapolis 500 Victory Celebration. James Hinchcliffe, who finished 29th, perhaps had the best perspective for his fellow rookie.

“JR, never forget man, you’ve got to do 799 corners perfectly to put yourself in that position,” Hinchcliffe said. “I know that didn’t end the way you wanted, but that was a tremendous effort. That was the rookie drive of the decade right there.”

Even Bryan Herta, the owner of the team Wheldon drove for, complimented Hildebrand’s grace in defeat.

“You’re not going to be defined by the result, you’re going to be defined by the way you handled it,” Herta said.

Wheldon, in his first race of the season because he doesn’t have a full-time ride, became the 18th driver to win the race at least twice. He also won in 2005 on his way to a series title.

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