IRL: Indy 500: Honda race report

Franchitti, Honda Re-Write the Record Books In a Wet & Wild Indianapolis 500 Dario Franchitti, a driver with a deep understanding of the heritage and traditions of motorsport, put his own name in the history books Sunday by winning the 91st ...

Franchitti, Honda Re-Write the Record Books In a Wet & Wild Indianapolis 500

Dario Franchitti, a driver with a deep understanding of the heritage and traditions of motorsport, put his own name in the history books Sunday by winning the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500, an event-filled day that started and ended with rain showers, and was also halted at just past half distance by more rain for nearly three hours.

Franchitti became the first driver to win both Indy and score a class victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance sports car race in the same year. Both wins were recorded while driving for Andretti Green Racing, another first. Franchitti and co-drivers Tony Kanaan and Bryan Herta won the LMP2 category [and finished second overall] at Sebring in the AGR Acura ARX-01a.

For the second consecutive season, Honda powered the entire 33-car starting field at Indy. And for the second year in a row -- and the only two times in Indianapolis 500 history -- there was not a single engine-related retirement in the event. Prior to the race start, Honda-powered drivers also had turned a total of 13,716 laps this month (34,290 miles) in practice and qualifying with equal reliability.

Overnight and morning rain threatened to delay today's race, but the green flag waved on schedule just after 1 p.m. EDT. Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan traded the lead in the early laps, but pole qualifier Castroneves was delayed by refueling problems during the second round of pit stops. Kanaan was then joined at the front of the field by his Andretti Green Racing teammate, Marco Andretti. The pair traded the lead several times, but Kanaan was ahead when returning rain bought out the red flag on Lap 113 for a two hour, 57-minute delay.

The race resumed just before 6 p.m. EDT with teammates Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick, plus 2005 champion Dan Wheldon, and a resurgent Castroneves, at the front of the field. Franchitti had lined up fifth for the restart, but had to pit almost immediately for a cut right rear tire. That forced the team into an off-sequence pit strategy that at first appeared to be a setback, but later played out to their advantage.

With the skies darkening once again as the race passed the three-quarter mark, the racing became ever-more fierce, as nine different drivers accounted for 24 lead changes on the day. Kanaan appeared to have a narrow edge over the field, but a collision with the lapped car of Jaques Lazier on a Lap 157 restart sent Lazier into the Turn 4 wall and Kanaan spinning towards pit lane. He recovered without contact but was forced to pit to change tires, dropping the Brazilian to 12th at the finish.

Prior to the restart, Franchitti had moved to the front as the other leaders pitted, and when the green flag waved again on Lap 161, he led a fierce "trophy dash" as everyone sought to improve his or her position in front of the fast-closing final rain shower. But just one lap later, Marco Andretti made contact with Wheldon on the back stretch, making heavy impact with the wall and briefly becoming airborne, but escaping injury. That brought out the caution once again, the 10th time on the day, and the race ended just minutes later as the skies opened up and the race was called official with 166 laps complete.

Behind Franchitti and working his way through the mayhem of the final laps was Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, who continues at the head of the IndyCar Series standings with his third second-place finish of the season, followed by Castroneves and 2006 Indy champion Sam Hornish Jr.

The 17-race IndyCar Series now makes a dramatic shift from the high-speed 2.5-mile Indianapolis "Brickyard" to next week's race at the equally historic, but much smaller and tighter, Milwaukee Mile.

Robert Clarke (President, Honda Performance Development) on Honda powering the entire Indianapolis 500 starting field for the second consecutive year with 100 per cent reliability: "Our congratulations to Dario [and team owners] Michael Andretti, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree, plus the entire AGR organization, for their outstanding victory today. This is the second consecutive Indy 500 to be run without a single Honda engine problem, and in addition to being a record, it is an outstanding testament to the hard work and dedication of our entire team at Honda. It is an amazing achievement, and I would like to recognize the efforts of all the associates at Honda Performance Development and our technical partner Ilmor for their hard work, which led directly to today's success."

Dario Franchitti (#27 Canadian Club Andretti Green Racing Honda), Started 3rd, finished 1st, his first Indianapolis 500 victory and fifth career IndyCar win: "This place is such a roller-coaster of emotions, all month long. If you saw how hard our team worked together, how hard our engineers and our mechanics work to put these great cars out on the track. We put five cars out on the track today, all of them capable of winning, and that's quite an accomplishment. I'm just really, really proud of them all. One comment that sticks in my mind was John Anderson saying on the radio near the end that 'the rain's eight blocks away!' I'm in shock right now. Seeing the Borg-Warner Trophy with all those great names on it is a truly humbling experience. The Indy 500 is the pinnacle of my career."

-credit: honda

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Jaques Lazier  , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Marco Andretti , Kim Green , Chip Ganassi , John Anderson , Robert Clark , Danica Patrick
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing