Andretti Green Racing driver Dario Franchitti won a rain-interrupted Indianapolis 500 on Sunday (May 27th), under a yellow flag brought out by teammate Marco Andretti's late-race accident. The win was the Scot's first Indianapolis 500 victory...
Andretti Green Racing driver Dario Franchitti won a rain-interrupted Indianapolis 500 on Sunday (May 27th), under a yellow flag brought out by teammate Marco Andretti's late-race accident. The win was the Scot's first Indianapolis 500 victory and caps a ten-year career full of promise that was fulfilled at Indianapolis today.
"I can hardly belive it," Franchitti said afterwards. "Who would have thought it?"
"To be a member of this (AGR) team is fantastic. It could have been any one of the five of us today. We rolled the dice and it paid off with the pit stop strategy," he continued. "I have to thank my team. These guys called a great race. You put all your eggs in one basket here and we did it. I still can't believe it!"
Team owner Michael Andretti won his second Indy 500 with Franchitti's victory, though his own effort to win the race yielded only a thirteenth-place finish.
"It's all about winning here at Indy," he said. His other win came as an owner in 2005 when Dan Wheldon won the race in AGR livery.
Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon was second at the soggy climax of a race interrupted not once, but twice, by showers as the dark skies over Speedway, Indiana erupted and the rain poured down in buckets on lap 166 onto the 2.5 mile oval.
"It was a strange day today," said Dixon. "We were doing good at one point and then the rain came, the track lost grip and we were really bad in traffic."
"We had crash after crash, and obviously it rained twice. That's not what people want to see in this race," he said in reference to a number of yellow flag periods that marred the first portion of the race that was halted for three hours on lap 113.
Team Penske's Helio Castroneves took third, recovering from a nearly-disastrous early race incident when his crew experienced a fueling nozzle mis-step that moved him well back into the field.
"I never lost faith in myself, I never lost faith in my team," he said. "We had trouble from the beginning (with a failed battery on the parade lap). Then the car wasn't fueling, but we kept our composure. It made me feel very comfortable that we could re-begin our quest and have this conclusion."
Last year's winner, Sam Hornish Jr., was fourth and Team Luczo Dragon, participating in its first Indy 500 but aided in large measure by team co-owner Jay Penske's family ties, finished fifth with Ryan Briscoe at the wheel.
Rahal/Letterman's Scott Sharp drove the flourescent green Patron number 8 car to sixth, Vision Racing's Tomas Schecketer was seventh, Danica Patrick finished eighth and Davey Hamilton (returning after a long absence from injury) was ninth. Panther Racing's Vitor Meira rounded out the top ten.
The conclusion of the race was a wild and woolly affair as twenty year-old Marco Andretti collided with another car coming down the backstretch and tumbled over on top, rolled for one hundred yards or more along the grass just left of the raceway, then went back onto four wheels, bringing out yellow on lap 163. Andretti was checked and released from the Clarian infield hospital within minutes.
The race continued under yellow as the rain, which had stopped the race earlier in the day at lap 113, came down hard and in quantity on the cars lined up single file down the main straightaway on lap 166. An immediate red flag put the race into the history books with the likeable Scot on top of the scoring pylon.
The first chapter of the two-part saga was notable for several accidents including a mishap that brought the month-long lovefest between Venezuelan Milka Duno and the fans to a close. Milka did a three-quarter spin in turn one and collided with the wall on lap 66 to bring out a brief yellow for cleanup.
"I was having a good race," she said. "We had a penalty in the pit lane (for excessive speed) and when we went green I passed a car and spun."
Roberto Moreno, Jon Herb, John Andretti and Phil Giebler also found their races cut short by accident. All were cleared at the infield hospital except Moreno who was transported to nearby Methodist Hospital for xrays complaining of pain in his upper back.
Al Unser Jr. crew member Dan Brown was also injured as a car clipped his left ankle, sending him as well to Methodist for further examination.
The initial race stoppage occurred at 3:02 PM EDT with Andretti Green dominating the standings. If the race ended then, the team could claim four of the top five positions with Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick P1, P2 and P3. Franchitti stood fifth at the first rain delay, just behind Meira.
The cars went into impound in Gasoline Alley for nearly three hours, then rolled back to the pitlane for the restart at 5:59 PM EDT. With the resumption of racing Kanaan, Patrick and Marco waged a heated battle until Marty Roth brought out the yellow on lap 151 when he found the wall in turn one.
Five laps later the race was on once again, but this time Kanaan and Playa del Racing's Jaques Lazier made contact. Lazier hit the SAFER barrier coming out of turn four while Kanaan did a 360 along the north end of the main straightaway, righted the car smartly and dove into the pits with only a deflated right rear tire to change.
The final yellow flew on lap 163 when Dan Wheldon, Ed Carpenter, Buddy Rice and Marco Andretti made contact, sending Marco into the grass along the 5/8 mile back stretch at Indy, and setting up the race's rainy conclusion on lap 166.
The Speedway does not issue attendance reports but the unofficial attendance appeared to top three hundred thousand as the grandstands were mostly full all around the huge oval. Fans crowded the top of the infield mound in turn two and the flat viewing area just north of the Pitlane Terraces as well, an unusual sight in the recent past at the old Brickyard.
One track official commented that the Speedway sold more tickets to the 500 this year than it has pre-sold to the NASCAR race later this year. Indeed it appeared that all those people who had supposedly lost interest in the Indianapolis 500 suddenly found renewed enthusiasm today.