Indianapolis 500 News and Notes

Eric Mauk

Dario Franchitti became the 10th driver in open-wheel history to win the Indianapolis 500 three times yesterday, after surviving a side-by-side battle with Takuma Sato on the last lap.

Sato was in the catbird seat as the last lap started, coming in behind Franchitti into Turn 1. The increased draft created by the new DW12 provided huge tows and passing opportunities all day - as evidenced by the race-record 34 lead changes – and Sato tried to take advantage of that draft heading into the first turn

“The moment I was alongside Dario I said to myself 'Job done.' I was hoping that coming out of Turn 1 side-by-side with Dario we would take the lead going to Turn 2 and Turn 3,” Sato said. “It didn't work out that way though. He could have given a little bit more space and we would have come out of the corner no problem. Into Turn 1 I was well below the white line. It was in the center of the monocoque. I was almost in the grass and the car started sliding."

Franchitti admitted he saw him coming and gave him a gentlemen’s amount of room on the low side, while keeping in mind that this was the last lap and both gentlemen were trying to win the Indianapolis 500.

"I moved over, and I saw he was coming," Franchitti continued. "I came back over and I moved up the track. He got loose under me.”

In the end, Franchitti appeared to give Sato room to get into the turn, but Sato was going to have to be inch-perfect to get the pass completed. Franchitti’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon saw it unfold and thought for a second that he would be the beneficiary of a two-car incident instead of the single-car crash that resulted.

“Sato was definitely a guy throwing it in there all day and he tried to do the same thing to Dario,” Dixon reported. “I thought we were going to get really lucky because they touched and I thought they were both going to end up in the fence.”

Lotus black-flag predetermined?

Jean Alesi and Simona de Silvestro were black-flagged by Indy Car on Lap 10 after it was determined that their Lotus-powered cars were not up to speed. Both cars retired immediately, with Alesi becoming just the third driver in Indy 500 history to both start and finish in 33rd. HVM Team owner Keith Wiggins was disappointed and speculated that the fix might have been in long before the Lotus cars hit the track.

"I expected us to get up to speed a little bit better in the beginning and we didn't so we fell outside their rule," Wiggins said. "On the other hand I suspect it was more planned than we knew. We hadn't even been lapped and we weren't in anyone's way. They made a decision and that was that."

Fistful of sixes

James Hinchcliffe placed sixth in his second Indy 500, extending his streak of top-six finishes to five straight races in 2012. But after the race, the sophomore driver lamented the behavior of some of the front runners on the late restarts.

“With these restarts and the way (other drivers) are falling back and getting these big runs, it's not in the spirit of competition and I try to drive with some dignity out there,” Hinchcliffe said. “I guess when it's 30 (laps) to go in the Indy 500 that goes out the window for everybody else.”

For the want of a nail

The history of the Indy 500 is riddled with stories of how seemingly small innocuous parts have failed and cost drivers a chance for a win. Sunday’s race was no different

Ed Carpenter came from the middle of the pack to challenge for the lead late in the race, slicing into the third spot before he spun and crashed. The former sprint-car driver reported that a washer on the wing ended up being the Achilles Heel in this case.

Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

"Rubens (Barrichello) blocked me one time and I hit him and bent our front wing. We had to change the wing and then we had to go back to the original wing at the end. The front wing failed all day for us. The washer on the wing failed early in the race and we just couldn't get it to work. If the Dallara part had worked, I think we had a real chance to win the race. We kept trimming out rear wing because we weren't able to adjust the front wing. I had nearly spun out a couple of times before I finally did it.”

For Ryan Hunter-Reay his Andretti Autosport call never quite reached its potential after starting in the front row, as a vibration ended his charge and sent him to the pits after 123 laps

“Something broke in the right rear, and we lost the CV joint,” Hunter-Reay said. “I don't know what happened - I never hit the wall or anything - but it just broke as I was going down the straightaway. I suppose we're lucky not to have crashed. It might have been related to a severe vibration in the car early on.”

Historical notes from Indy Car

The 2012 race represents the eighth time that Helio Castroneves has completed the full 500-mile distance. Castroneves joins Ted Horn and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to have completed the full 500 miles eight times without the aid of a relief driver. The use of relief drivers was a common practice at the Indianapolis 500 before World War II.

Scott Dixon has completed the last 1,366 consecutive laps of Indianapolis 500 competition, which represents the most consecutive laps completed by a driver in Indianapolis 500 history. The previous record stood for 71 years and belonged to Wilbur Shaw, who completed 1,351 consecutive laps from 1935-41.

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Series INDYCAR
Tags carpenter, franchitti, indy 500, sato