Franchitti Wins Rain Plagued Indianapolis 500

May 27, Speedway, Ind. – The word that puts fear in any drivers mind is ?fire.? The one word that is feared by fans, television producers and race promoters is ?rain.? At 7:53 a.m. rain began falling over the city of Speedway, Ind. Fortunately, the rain subsided at 9:43 a.m. and track drying procedures began taking place. The good news was the track appeared to dry shortly after 12 noon local time and the Indianapolis 500 started at its scheduled time of 1 p.m.

Just over five hours later a new winner was crowned. For the first time since 1965 a Scottish driver took the victory laurels in the Indianapolis 500. Dario Franchitti driving the Canadian Club Andretti-Green Racing #26 Dallara-Honda won the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500. Franchitti won the rain-shortened race over Scott Dixon in his Target-Chip Ganassi Racing #9 Dallara-Honda and fast qualifier Helio Castroneves in his Team Penske #3 Dallara-Honda.

Franchitti described his month at Indy this year as a ?roller-coaster ride,? and Sunday it was one. A cut in the tire occurred after the race was red flagged. That forced Franchitti to make an unscheduled pit stop after the race restarted. However, the off-sequence stop proved to be a helpful tool in victory. ?I can hardly believe it. Who would have thought it? Can you believe it? The reason we went for that strategy was because we cut a tire on some debris. We had to make a pit stop?I can?t believe it. It?s the Indy 500!? A soaked Franchitti remarked in a wet victory lane with equally soaked wife, actress Ashley Judd alongside.

Under cloudy skies and a temperature of 65, television actor, Patrick Dempsey and this year?s Pace Car driver led the field to the green flag with pole sitter and Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves at the point. Castroneves? day started off ominously when his car would not fire when ?Ladies and Gentleman start your engines? command was given. However as the cars reached Turn three on the initial parade lap, Castroneves? crew got the car fired and the Brazilian driver was on his way.

Castroneves lead the field through turn one on the initial lap as fellow front row starter Tony Kanaan chased Castroneves and made a pass for the lead on the frontstretch. Castroneves returned the favor on lap 3 and the two dueled for the first ten laps. With Kanaan taking the lead on lap 1, it became the sixth consecutive Indianapolis 500 Kanaan had led.

On lap 11, debris in Turn 3 caused the yellow to come out for the first time. On lap 13 the entire field came to pit lane and made pit stops. Castroneves led the field out of the pits with Kanaan, defending race champion, Sam Hornish, Jr., Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti following.

The field returned to green flag conditions on lap 16. On lap 18, Kanaan passed Castroneves on the front stretch to take the lead. Kanaan and Castroneves once again dueled for the lead as another player entered into the mix. Andretti-Green Racing?s second-year driver, Marco Andretti passed Hornish for second place on lap 35.

The first caution flag for a crash occurred on lap 37 when Roberto Moreno driving the Chastain Racing Panoz-Honda pushed high and into the SAFER barrier exiting Turn 1. The car continued against the wall through Turn 2 and ended up on the inside of the track nearly at the exit of Turn two suffering moderate damage to the right-side of the car. Moreno waved to the crowd as he exited the car, however did complain of back pain and was transported to the hospital for a precautionary x-ray. Before he was transported, Moreno commented, ?The car had a bad wiggle all over the place. It was very tough. When I got to Turn 1, we just went straight. I couldn?t do anything.?

On lap 40, the leaders made their way to pit lane as Marco Andretti won the race off pit road followed by Scott Dixon, Hornish, Kanaan and Castroneves. However, Castroneves returned to pit lane to check if he took enough ethanol sending him towards the rear of the field.

Lap 52, saw John Herb make contact with the SAFER barrier in Turn 1. Herb?s Racing Professionals entry slid through the short chute and ended up at the exit of Turn 2 with heavy damage. Once again the leaders made their way to pit road on lap 54. However, Kanaan, Jeff Simmons and Buddy Rice did not pit.

On lap 66, rookie Milka Duno got herself in trouble as she approached the first turn following Darren Manning and Richie Hearn. The CITGO SAMAX Dallara-Honda appeared to get crossed up and spun into the wall with the front of the car. Duno escaped uninjured but her car suffered moderate damage. On the restart on lap 72 Hornish led as Franchitti passed Dixon for second place. Two laps later, Vision Racing?s Tomas Scheckter made a strong moved as he moved Dixon to fourth. Franchitti passed Hornish for the lead on lap 74.

Lap 80, Franchitti, Hornish, Scheckter and Dixon separate themselves from surprise fifth place runner, Jaques Lazier. Lap 83 Hornish has a flat left-rear tire and had to pit. It was a hairy ride as many cars had to dodge the day-glow orange and white #6. It appeared Scheckter and Hornish made contact as Scheckter?s car had damage to right front wing when Hornish moved Scheckter towards the inside wall on the front straight.

Lap 89, leader, Franchitti made a green flag pit stop handing the lead to Dixon. Lap 90 saw Michael Andretti lead when Dixon pitted. Michael?s son, Marco found himself running second, however later on that same lap Michael made his green flag pit stop giving the lead to Marco.

Lap 99, John Andretti running Panther?s Racing third car pushed high coming to Turn two and slammed into the SAFER barrier. The yellow Camping World #33 came to a rest on the backstretch with extensive damage to the right-side.

At the halfway point the question if they were going to run on Monday became a moot point as the race became official on lap 101. With many teams telling their drivers that the rain was twenty minutes or so away several teams have started to discuss how they could stretch their fuel. After pit stops it was Marco Andretti in the lead with Kanaan and Patrick following as they were going to take the green flag on lap 106, however they had to run one more lap under caution.

Lap 107 rookie, Phil Giebler made hard impact with the turn one wall with the rear of his car. Giebler left the car under his own power and escaped injury.

Lap 112 it started to rain just about as the field was going to go green. The red flag was displayed on lap 113. With Tony Kanaan in the lead, the question was, will the race continue?

After extensive lap drying operations, the hearty crowd saw the green flag fly after a three hour rain delay at 6:03 p.m.

Lap 117 Marco Andretti passed Kanaan for the lead. Kanaan returns the favor on the backstretch to lead 118. Andretti-Green Racing looked strong on lap 120. Kanaan leading with teammates Danica Patrick (passing Marco on the previous lap) following.

Lap 123 two familiar names enter into the fray as Dan Wheldon passes Castroneves for fourth place. One driver on the move is Dario Franchitti who had to make a pit stop to replace a leaking tire after the red flag. Franchitti moved from mid-pack up to 5th place by lap 135. A lap earlier, part-time driver got Marco Andretti?s wrath when Hearn held up Andretti enabling Wheldon to pass for third place. Hearn got into the ?marbles? high in Turn 3 and skated through Turn 4 as his tires picked up tire debris. Hearn had complained on his radio that he couldn?t get out of the way. Lap 136 saw many of the drivers making green flag pit stops. As pit stops cycled through, Dario Franchitti pitted on lap 143 handing the lead over to Jaques Lazier who had not pitted as of lap 144.

After all the green flag pit stops cycled through by lap 147, it was AGR driver, Tony Kanaan in the lead. Hornish, Franchitti, Patrick and Castroneves followed. Lap 150 saw Marty Roth hit the SAFER barrier between Turns 1 and 2 hard with the right-side of his car. Roth escaped injury as many teams started to become concern with reports that rain could be fifteen minutes or so away.

Lap 155 under caution saw the leaders make pit stops with the exception of Franchitti, Dixon, Briscoe and Sharp. On the restart (lap 157) saw the save of the year as Jaques Lazier hit the outside wall coming out of Turn 4 in front of Kanaan. Kanaan locked up the brakes and did a half-spin, locking all four tires and narrowly missing the inside wall.

Restart on lap 162 with rain approaching, coming down the backstretch Marco Andretti found himself sliding upside down at over 100 mph after touching wheels with Wheldon. As Marco?s car hit the grass the car dug in and flipped on its bottom. It appeared, Andretti moved to his right and did not see Wheldon who was moved over as far as he could against the outside wall. Andretti?s right rear tire touched Wheldon?s left-front causing the NYSE Dallara-Honda to spin and catch wind and lift the car on its top. Andretti stayed in the car a few moments as safety workers surrounded the second year driver. However after a few moments, Andretti emerged gingerly from the wreck. Marco knew he dodged a bullet, ?I?m going to be bruised, but to come out of that bruised, I?m going to be happy. I?m very lucky, for sure. I was upside down for a long time. I?m so lucky. My mirror was broke, so I had no idea who was outside me, whoever it was. I think it might have been Dan (Wheldon). I apologize. I lost the balance. It rained, we went out, and I was nowhere. The NYSE car was definitely a contender in the beginning.?

Wheldon commented after the Marco Andretti incident, ?I?m fine. I?m just I was running on the outside of him (Marco Andretti). Unfortunately, he hit me. Thank goodness he?s all right. It didn?t seem anything we did today worked very well for us. It was just one of those days when we couldn?t seem to do anything right. We were definitely trying hard. But everybody has tried very hard. It?s just unfortunate day for us. I?m very disappointed. That?s the way this place works sometimes. I wanted to win the Indianapolis 500, but now we?ll focus on the championship. We have Milwaukee coming up. Thankfully that?s coming up pretty soon so we can just move on.?

As the field assembled under yellow, several drivers reported to their spotters that they could see rain falling. On lap 165 Indy Racing League officials red-flagged and called it official on the conclusion of lap 166. Franchitti received the checkered and red flag ahead of Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves. Sam Hornish, Jr. and Ryan Briscoe rounded out the top-5.

Danica Patrick ran up front most of the day, however after a late pit stop and rain ending the race early for the AGR Motorola driver. Patrick who ended up in eighth place commented, “I had a fast car, and it was a good day except for some bad luck at the end. Then the rain came, and I was in the wrong place. Another year of frustration where I really thought I had a chance to win. It’s frustrating. I’m glad that in all the mix-up at the end, with fuel stops and the rain, that one of our guys won and not some one else.?

Scott Dixon?s second place finish was his best in the Indy 500. However Dixon was not happy with how his race went. ?What a day. Everybody is the same, we sat around, and the rains come like three times and then finally at the end of the race. Just frustrating, no flow to the race, a lot of back markers causing a lot of crashes, restart after restart. It’s one of those days where you feel you haven’t even raced, sort of like being on the freeway and watching people smash into each other. Yeah, I’m disappointed. Finishing second is definitely great and means a lot coming this high up the grid at such a great place and against such great competitors. But just a frustrating day, in general, and frustrating for the guys at Team Target, the amount of work they put in, all of them. And we just came up second. You know, one of those days.?

Earlier in the race, eventual winner Dario Franchitti was looking forward to his best friend, Tony Kanaan winning the biggest race. However Franchitti was ecstatic with his result at the end of the day. ?What can I say? I’m in shock at this point, I must say. I’m definitely in shock. We started off the first stint of the race. I was really struggling with the car with understeer. Progressively we just worked on it, through each pit stop made it better. I was really happy with it. When the red flag came out, one of those bittersweet moments there. I’m looking, seeing Tony leading the thing and looking like he’s going to win it. I’m thinking, I think my car is good enough here, but at the same point my best friend’s leading this race, my other two teammates second and third. You know, it’s looking like a pretty good day for us, isn’t it, at that point??

Results Sunday of the 91st Indianapolis 500 IndyCar Series event May 27 at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (3) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 166
2. (4) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
3. (1) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
4. (5) Sam Hornish Jr., Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
5. (7) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
6. (12) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
7. (10) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
8. (8) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
9. (20) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
10. (19) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
11. (13) Jeff Simmons, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
12. (2) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
13. (11) Michael Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 166, Running
14. (18) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Honda, 165, Running
15. (26) Alex Barron, Dallara-Honda, 165, Running
16. (17) Kosuke Matsuura, Dallara-Honda, 165, Running
17. (14) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 164, Contact
18. (21) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 164, Running
19. (22) Buddy Lazier, Dallara-Honda, 164, Running
20. (15) Darren Manning, Dallara-Honda, 164, Running
21. (23) Roger Yasukawa, Dallara-Honda, 164, Running
22. (6) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 163, Contact
23. (32) Richie Hearn, Dallara-Honda, 163, Running
24. (9) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 162, Contact
25. (16) Buddy Rice, Dallara-Honda, 162, Contact
26. (25) Al Unser Jr., Dallara-Honda, 161, Running
27. (28) Jaques Lazier, Panoz-Honda, 155, Contact
28. (30) Marty Roth, Dallara-Honda, 148, Contact
29. (33) Phil Giebler, Panoz-Honda, 106, Contact
30. (24) John Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 95, Contact
31. (29) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 65, Contact
32. (27) Jon Herb, Dallara-Honda, 51, Contact
33. (31) Roberto Moreno, Panoz-Honda, 36, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 151.774 mph
Time of race: 2:44:03.5608
Margin of victory: Under caution

Cautions: 11 for 55 laps
Lead changes: 23 among 9 drivers

Lap leaders: Kanaan 1-2, Castroneves 3, Kanaan 4-13, Castroneves 14-17, Kanaan 18-26, Castroneves 27-40, Marco Andretti 41-46, Dixon 47-53, Kanaan 54-68, Dixon 69-71, Hornish 72-73, Franchitti 74-88, Dixon 89, Michael Andretti 90, Kanaan 91-100, Simmons 101, Marco Andretti 102-107, Kanaan 108-116, Marco Andretti 117, Kanaan 118-136, Franchitti 137-143, J. Lazier 144-145, Kanaan 146-154, Franchitti 155-166

Point standings: Dixon 184, Wheldon 183, Franchitti 181, Castroneves 171,Kanaan 151, Hornish 151, Scheckter 130, Sharp 110, Patrick 109, Meira 103.

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