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Felipe Giaffone

The year was 2002, and the big issue was Helio Castroneves and Paul Tracy for the Indianapolis 500 victory. But another driver could very well have won that race except for circumstances. Castroneves won when Tracy was unable to appeal the disputed decision, but Felipe Giaffone ran into a situation that prevented him from staying in front of the charging pair.

Giaffone was leading the race but couldn’t get around the lapped car of Dario Franchitti. Castroneves and Tracy were charging up from behind. Castroneves passed the fellow Brazilian on Lap 177 and went on to win.

“I’ll never forget that day,” Giaffone said recently. “I had the fastest car. Franchitti got in the middle. It was a very good day and a very sad day. The biggest problem was Helio was trying to draft Franchitti.”

Giaffone finished third that day, his best in six “500” starts. But he had another drama in 2005, when he and his wife, Alice, were shopping in Castleton, well north of the racetrack, for their son.

“I was shopping and A.J. Foyt called me and said come to the racetrack and he was going to put me in a car,” Giaffone said. “We were buying stuff for our son. I drove down there and drove straight to the garage and the yellow (security) guys were all crazy and all were following me. When I got there, the IRL was waiting for me and everything was all right, but I looked in the mirror and there were five or six of them chasing me. It was pretty funny.”

Giaffone started 33rd in the car and finished 15th that race. He looked back on his experiences at Indy. “I think that track can be the best track in the world, and it can be the worst in the world,” he said. “When you’re with a good team, it’s the best. When you’re not, it’s the worst.”

Today, he’s racing in the Brazilian truck series, in which he’s won championships in 2007 and 2009.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever had in racing,” he said of his Indy trips. “I had a chance to come back in 2007, but unfortunately I had a qualifying day for the truck series. Maybe I’m not the same driver. I would love to go back with a good car, but I think the chances are remote that’s going to happen.

“But it’s a special place.”

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Fun Fact #33
Alex de Angelis became the first motorcycle rider to top 200 mph at the IMS, reaching a velocity of 201.3 mph in 2009.
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