INDIANAPOLIS - It might not have been a popular win — there was a scattering of boos as he crossed the finish line under a last lap yellow — but Dario Franchitti was full value for his third win in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
Over the final 30 laps Franchitti traded the lead with Target Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, Rahal Letterman’s Takuma Sato and crowd favourite Tony Kanaan in the KV Racing Technology Chevrolet — hence the boos — and captured the Borg Warner trophy for his No. 50 Honda team after Sato crashed on the final lap.
Dixon would end up finishing second and Kanaan third after a final re-start with seven laps to go at the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The last time teammates finished 1-2 prior was in 2003 when Gil de Ferran beat Penske teammate Helio Castroneves to the checkered flag.
But Franchitti managed to win back the hearts of many in the huge race day crowd when he dedicated his victory to his friend, Dan Wheldon, who died in a crash in the final race of the 2011 season at Las Vegas and to Michael Wanser, the six-year-old son of Ganassi Racing team manager Barry Wanser, who lost a year-long battle with leukemia this past week.
“I just want to dedicate this to two of Indianapolis’ finest, Dan Wheldon and Michael Wanser,” he said.
It was an interesting coincidence that Franchitti became the second driver to win the Indianapolis 500 starting from the 16th position. Wheldon won from the same position in 2005.
“To be on this (Borg Warner) trophy on either side of Dan, that means more than anything,” he said.
The race was held in the scorching heat — at one point the temperatures at track level spiked at 56 C — but the national weather service pegged it at one degree below the record for race day.
And Franchitti’s win came after a near disastrous incident during the first round of pit stops when he was hit and spun by E.J. Viso as he tried to get back on the track.
“It was a crazy race, getting spun in the first pit stop there, having to fight our way from the back to the front,” he said. “That was tough, but it also gave me a lot of confidence because I knew how good the Target car was at that point.”
As the race began to wind down the team kept reminding Franchitti that he should start trying to save fuel.
It was then that his experience at Indy’s big oval came into play.
“On that last yellow, the last pit stop, came out, they said, ‘You need to save fuel’” Franchitti said. “I came on the radio said, ‘Been here before’ and off we went.”
Dixon wasn’t exactly jumping for joy that his teammate beat him, but did praise his pal for making it three wins at Indy.
“The thing with Dario, he’s always there,” Dixon said. “Earlier in the day, a lot of guys wouldn’t come back from that pit road spin; be mentally strong enough to get back from that.”
For Kanaan it was another bitterly disappointing loss at the biggest open wheel race in the world.
It was especially so this year because, he, too, was hoping to dedicate a win to Wheldon.
“I said all along that obviously I wanted to win this race for myself, as bad as I’ve been trying,” he said. “But this year would have been obviously special, to put my face right beside his on the trophy.”
Oriol Servia finished a surprising fourth after starting 27th for Panther/DRR Racing in the No. 22 Honda and pole sitter Ryan Briscoe finished fifth in a Penske Racing Chevrolet.
Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe was sixth and Montreal’s Alex Tagliani finished 12th.
It took only 10 laps for IndyCar officials to black flag the Lotuses of Jean Alesi and Simona de Silvestro for not being able to keep pace. ... The first caution in the race was for a spin by Bryan Clauson on Lap 14. ... Championship points leader Will Power was taken out on Lap 80 after a spectacular crash involving his No. 12 Penske Chevrolet and the No. 14 Foyt Racing Honda of Mike Conway. Both drivers walked away without serious injury.