Sunday, May 27, 2012

Franchitti Wins Exciting Indianapolis 500

Last year, a last lap wreck by JR Hildebrand allowed the late Dan Wheldon to win his second Indianapolis 500.  Today, in the first Indianapolis 500 since Wheldon died in a horrific crash at Las Vegas, his good friend Dario Franchitti won his third 500 after Takuma Sato crashed trying to make a pass for the lead on the last lap.

Franchitti celebrates with Chip Ganassi in Victory Lane (Courtesy Getty Images)
The 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 was led to the green by Ryan Briscoe, but James Hinchcliffe shot around him out of Turn 4 to lead lap 1.  Briscoe was able to get back around Hinchcliffe to lead lap 2.  Briscoe was able to lead until lap 5, when Hinchcliffe was able to use the draft to get around him once again.  Briscoe got around him one lap later, and he was able to hold the lead until the caution came out lap 15 for a spin by Bryan Clauson.  The field came in to pit, and James Hinchcliffe beat Ryan Briscoe out of pit road for the lead.  While coming in for his stop, Dario Franchitti was spun by E.J. Viso, and Franchitti's team quickly changed the front nose and got him back out on track. 

All 33 drivers pose with the Borg Warner Trophy prior to the race (Courtesy Getty Images)
The race restarted on lap 19, and there was a big traffic jam when the green flag came out.  James Hinchcliffe lost the lead on the start and Ryan Briscoe took over once again.  Marco Andretti took the lead away from Briscoe, but on lap 22, Briscoe took over again.  On lap 24, Marco took the lead away from Briscoe once again.  Briscoe then fell to third after Hinchcliffe got around him for second place.  On lap 44, James Hinchcliffe pitted to begin the first round of green-flag pit stops.  One lap later, Marco Andretti pulled off to pit, as did Ryan Briscoe. 

Pit stops were done by lap 50, and the lead cycled back around to Marco Andretti.  For the first time in the race, the leader had a margin of victory bigger than a second.  Andretti was leading Scott Dixon by 1.4 seconds following the round of pit stops.  About 20 laps after pit stops, Tony Kanaan came back into the pits for what may have been a fuel problem.  On lap 74, Marco Andretti came into the pits to start another round of green-flag pit stops. 

On lap 79, a big crash took place between Will Power and Mike Conway.  Conway got loose due to a broken nose, and spun out.  Power had nowhere to go and made contact with Conway, and Conway got airborne against the fence before landing on all four tires.  Fortunately, both Conway and Power were not injured in the accident, due in part to the new car, designed to keep the drivers safer. 

James Hinchcliffe leads Dario Franchitti (Courtesy Getty Images)
Marco Andretti led the field to the green on lap 88, and there was another crazy restart, with the cars going three- and four-wide.  On lap 90, Ana Beatriz spun and made contact with the wall.  Under caution, Marco Andretti surrendered the lead to pit, while Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti stayed out.  Dixon led the field to the green flag on the restart on lap 95.  With 86 laps to go, JR Hildebrand made another green-flag pit stop, kicking off another round of green-flag pit stops.  With 81 laps to go, leader Scott Dixon came in to make his green-flag stop. 

While green-flag pit stops were going on, something broke in the rear of Ryan Hunter-Reay's car, and his hopes of winning the Indianapolis 500 ended about 75 laps early.  After pit stops cycled around, the new leader was Takuma Sato.  With 56 laps to go, Marco Andretti came into the pits after complaining about what he thought was his right-rear tire running down to the chords.  After making his pit stop, the caution came out for Sebastian Saavedra, who's car stalled in the warm-up lane coming out of the pits. 

The race restarted with 48 laps to go, and once again it was a dicey restart.  Dario Franchitti was finally able to get around Takuma Sato going into Turn 3, and his Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon followed him past Sato.  With 41  laps to go, Dixon was able to get around Franchitti to take over the lead; Franchitti got around him for the lead just one lap later.  On lap 164, Josef Newgarden brought out the caution when he stopped in the grass on the backstretch. 

The race restarted on lap 171, with Ganassi teammates Franchitti and Dixon leading the field to green.  Dixon got around Franchitti for the lead, and a few laps later Franchitti got back around Dixon.  The Ganassi teammates were racing for the lead, but they were worried about more than who was going to win; they were unsure of if they would have enough fuel to make it to the end of the race.  All of those worries went out the window when, with 20 laps to go, Ed Carpenter spun out coming out of Turn 1.

Dario Franchitti, right, passes teammate Scott Dixon for the lead (Courtesy Getty Images)
With 16 laps to go, Dario Franchitti led the field to the green, but Tony Kanaan, who restarted fifth, pulled out and made a four-wide pass for the lead.  Before they even completed one lap, Franchitti was able to blow right by him again for the lead.  With 13 laps to go, Kanaan got back around Franchitti for the lead.  At the same time, Kanaan's former teammate, Marco Andretti, crashed in Turn 1 to bring out another caution.

The race restarted with 6 laps to go, and Tony Kanaan led Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon to the green.   Kanaan fell to third on the restart when Franchitti and Dixon got around him.  Dixon got around his teammate with 5 laps to go, and Takuma Sato got around Kanaan for third.  With two laps to go, Franchitti got around Dixon coming to the line, and Sato followed him under Dixon to take second place.  Going into Turn 1 on the final lap, Sato tried to make his move under Franchitti, and spun out and hit the wall hard.  The caution immediately flew, and Franchitti would lead the field to the checkered flag to win his third Indianapolis 500.

Franchitti's Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon followed him across the line to finish second.  Fan-favorite Tony Kanaan finished third, finishing just short of his first Indianapolis 500 win for the 11th time.  Oriol Servia finished fourth, and Ryan Briscoe was fifth.  James Hinchcliffe, Justin Wilson, Charlie Kimball, Townsend Bell, and Helio Castroneves finished 6th-10th, respectively. 

Some other notables:
  • Rookie Rubens Barrichello finished 11th.  
  • Last year's runner-up finisher JR Hildebrand finished 14th.  
  • Takuma Sato finished 17th after crashing on the last lap.   
  • Marco Andretti finished 24th after wrecking with 13 laps to go.  
  • Points leader Will Power finished 28th after being involved in the wreck with Mike Conway.  
The 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 was one of the best ones ever run.  There was a lot of excitement, form the restarts to the record number of lead changes.  There were many tributes for Dan Wheldon throughout the day, but the biggest tribute may have been Dario Franchitti's victory. 

Courtesy Getty Images

No comments:

Post a Comment