INDIANAPOLIS — Dario Franchitti put an exclamation mark on his 13-year CART/IndyCar career on Sunday by winning his second Indianapolis 500.
And Chip Ganassi became the first team owner in racing history to win both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 in the same year.
Both only came after Franchitti’s No. 10 Target Honda was saved from possibly running out of gas by a yellow flag on the final lap of the race that came as a result of a spectacular crash between Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway on the back stretch at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Neither were seriously hurt in the crash.
Franchitti was so low on fuel he said that he was unsure if he should do the traditional burn out at the start-finish line because he would have been embarrassed if he ran out of gas and ruined the stunt.
“But it turned out we had enough gas,” Franchitti said.
Franchitti was met in victory circle by his movie-star wife Ashley Judd who ran down pit lane in her bare feet to congratulate her husband.
He also paid homage to a pair of other drivers from his native Scotland who never got to taste the milk at Indy — Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart.
“I could win races, Indy 500s, for the rest of my life, until I’m 70 years old, and I still wouldn’t be in the same class as Jim Clark or Jackie Stewart,” Franchitti said. “To me, they are racing royalty. They are and were my heroes.”
The win comes just over a year after Franchitti’s failed attempt to switch to NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing with Ganassi.
On Sunday he said he can finally see that something good came of his stock car experiment.
“I guess if it had worked in NASCAR I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” he said. “But I guess it all worked out. To win two (Indy 500s) is pretty damned special.”
Franchitti’s win also stopped rival Helio Castroneves from becoming just the fourth driver in history to win four Indy 500s.
Castroneves and Franchitti ran 1-2 for much of the race but a bad pit stop — he stalled his No. 3 Penske Racing Honda — on lap 145 dropped him from contention. Although he finished ninth he had no hard feelings.
“Congrats to Dario,” he said. “What an awesome car he had. Ganassi did an incredible job to put him up there.”
There were several other elements of the race that provided interest — including changing the order of finish that put Marco Andretti in third place and bumping Alex Lloyd and Scott Dixon to fourth and fifth respectively for passing the pace car — but none moreso than Tony Kanaan’s gallant drive from last to almost first.
The driver of the Andretti Autosport No. 11 Honda had said before the race that he was going to go all out in his attempt to drive trough the field from his 33rd and last starting spot on the grid.
“I hope I made it exciting out there,” he said after catching but not passing Franchitti late in the race. “I promised (fans) a good start and I think I did that.”
In fact, on the first lap, Kanaan went from 33rd to 25th.
“I was hoping that I would have gotten the lead and won the race, and we could brag about it for the rest of my life.”
Kanaan eventually ran short of fuel and finished 11th behind Canada’s Alex Tagliani, who finished 10th.