By Bruce Martin
May 25, 2008

The buzz was back at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday as one of the largest crowds in years filled the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, who was on the starting grid before the race.

As many as 350,000 fans returned after so many years of strife with the split in open-wheel racing and got to celebrate a "unified" Indy 500 with all the stars in the starting lineup, including Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon of Auckland, New Zealand.

Let's take a look at several aspects that made Sunday's 92nd Indy 500 one to remember.

Dixon, whose blazing speed is matched by his quiet confidence and demeanor.

He was the fastest driver at Indy nearly every day in practice, he was the fastest on pole day when he ran a four-lap average of 226.366 miles per hour and he was the fastest driver on the day it mattered the most: race day.

Dixon led seven times for 115 laps in the 200-lap race but it was the speed his car showed on the last two restarts of the race that left his competitors in the dust.

And as his pursuers were too busy fighting it out amongst themselves, it allowed Dixon to pull away at the end of the race to win by 1.7498 seconds over Vitor Meira.

Armed with the fastest car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with 30 laps to go, he was struck by the realization it was now up to him to close out the victory.

"On the last 30 laps you feel quite alone out there," Dixon said. "You're like, 'Oh [bleep], it's actually down to me on this. I better not mess up because everybody has given me the tools to do it.' It does fall on you a little bit there."

At the end, Dixon was the driver to beat and nobody could beat him.

Ryan Briscoe for taking out the darling of Indy, Danica Patrick, in pit lane with 29 laps left in the race.

Patrick was so livid she climbed out of her car, took off her gloves and headed down pit lane to confront Briscoe for taking her out of the race.

She was stopped by Charles Burns, the head of security at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He directed Patrick over the pit wall and she stalked back to her pit surrounded by an army of camera people.

"It's probably best that I didn't get down there any way," Patrick said. "I was pulling out of pit lane and from what I know it was pretty obvious what happened.

"The guys worked hard today and we had a great car all month but we didn't get to show it at the end."

Briscoe admitted afterwards that he was at fault.

"It's a real shame," he said. "I just saw the replay and it confirmed my thoughts. We were both out there trying to win the Indy 500 today, and when it is time to go, you have to go. But from what I can see, there was still plenty of room on the right side for here to get around and there are people points fingers but that's not the way we are.

"We both have a brake pedal in our cars and from what I can tell, there was still plenty of room for her to get around me. I was trying to get around Wheldon, and I was staying in the middle lane. I got ran up in the back and it's a shame."

Patrick has never been a fan of Briscoe and that dates back to their rookie season of 2005 when Briscoe ran Patrick off the race course at Infineon Raceway. She confronted the driver after that incident three years ago and was ready to do it again Sunday.

"You just don't come out of your pit box and swing three lanes out," Patrick said. "That's why there is a `get up to speed' lane and an `at speed' lane.

"I was at speed."

With Tony Kanaan in the lead, he was being pursued by Andretti Green Racing teammate Marco Andretti on lap 106. Andretti dove to the inside of Kanaan's car down the backstretch and Kanaan had to make a decision. If he turned in, he would take out both AGR cars. So instead he tried to get into the next lane, got into the "marbles" in Turn 3, hit the wall and then slid across the race track where he was T-boned by SarahFisher's car.

"It was a stupid move," Kanaan said. "I think teammates shouldn't do that to teammates. I'm sure he will have a good explanation for what he did. Halfway through the race with a bunch of traffic, why are you going to dive into me like that? I will have to wait and see what he has to say."

Andretti said afterwards that he had a huge run on Kanaan and kept his car as far to the bottom of the race track as possible.

"You hate to see this stuff happening with teammates but I had a run, I went for it," Andretti said. "If I wouldn't have went for it, I would have been overtaken and then I would have been in that position. I had a run so I went for it."

Kanaan may have been the only driver who could have matched Dixon on the race track. He had the speed to not only keep up but also has the tenacity to race him for the victory.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was the highest-finishing rookie when the driver of the Ethanol car for Rahal Letterman Racing was sixth. "It's huge," Hunter-Reay said. "One year ago, I was walking about the NASCAR paddock. Now, I'm sitting here at the Indy 500 press room talking about being rookie of the year. It's huge. One of Hunter-Reay's team owners is Late Show host David Letterman, who spoke with the driver after the race. "He said, 'Just five spots away from being on my show,'" Hunter-Reay said. ... Meira entered the race with seven second-place finishes in his career and no victories. Make that eight second-place finishes after he chased Dixon to the checkered flag. "It's very close [to happening]," Meira said. "I mean this feels like a victory for us. How many, even in the grandstands here, how many of you guys counted me as leading Lap 160 or whatever? Not many. ... For the second time in a week, A.J. Foyt IV was involved in a fire. He crashed last Sunday when a crew member forgot to tight the "buckeye" on the right side of his car which spew Ethanol out of the opening allowing it to ignite. In Sunday's Indy 500, his car caught on fire again when it lurched forward in the pits during a pit stop. "Obviously, it was terrible," Foyt said. "I mean, we caught on fire there again, in the pits and it ruined our day. We had to get out of the car and get the car all sorted out, and it was just miserable. From there on, you're just out there riding around and trying to stay out of trouble, waiting to screw up.

This year's Indy 500 may help catapult this form of racing back to prominence in the U.S., which has been ruled by France and NASCAR for the past decade.

"Winning the Indy 500, it's the biggest race in the world to win," said Mike Hull, the managing director of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. "And whether it is this year when we've had what we're calling unification or whether it was in 2000 when we came here when we were still in another series, to us we feel this is the most important race in the world to win. To be blessed to win it again is why we come here every year. We're excited about this.

And it's time that "the split" be put to rest, according to winning team owner Chip Ganassi.

"We all lived and died a lot in those years of the split," Ganassi said. "Can we please all put this behind us? Put a period on that thing and let's move forward. We lived during that time but we died, too. So I would just as soon forget about everything that is behind us in that respect.

"I'm happy there is one IndyCar Series. It's IndyCar racing again."

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