Dario Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500 for the third time on Sunday and did it in dramatic fashion.
He edged Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon at the wild finish with Tony Kanaan finishing third, Oriol Servia fourth and Ryan Briscoe fifth.
“It was a heckuva race. Thanks to the fans and what they showed for Dan,” he said after the race, commenting on tributes paid to 2011 500 winner Dan Wheldon, who was killed in an accident in Las Vegas.
Franchitti did it against some strong odds.
To start with, the 39-year-old driver from Scotland started 15th in the sixth row in the No. 50 Ganassi car.
Early in the race, he had to come from far back in the field when his car was struck by the car of E.J. Viso. He charged back from 29th to the lead in good time.
At the finish, he had to fight off challenges by Dixon, Kanaan and Takuma Sato, who hit the wall in the first turn on the last lap after passing Dixon and attempting to take the lead.
“I moved over … he got loose underneath me,” said the winner, who earlier won in 2007 and 2010. “I thought it was a good move. This means the world … to be on the [Borg-Warner trophy] on either side of Dan, that means more than anything.”
He dedicated the win to Wheldon and to Michael Wanser, the young son of a Target Ganassi Racing team manager who died last year.
He, Ganassi and managing director Mike Hull all gave credit to their crews and to Honda.
“Honda certainly jumped their game up a bit with the race engines we received and also the mileage and the mapping and all the things they work on … I think it is a blessing in the way we qualified so poorly,” he said.
“At 400 miles, we saw a trophy dash. We didn’t see a fuel economy race for the last 15 laps. I think that’s really important for IndyCar racing,” Hull added.
Franchitti said he had no expectations entering the race.
“Getting spun [in the pits] was tough but it also gave me a lot of confidence because I knew how good the car was at that point,” said Franchitti.
His car owner, Chip Ganassi, said he thought his driver could have gotten Sato at the finish had he passed him.
“It didn’t really have me worried … I thought we’d have a shot at him on the back straightaway or at the start-finish line,” said Ganassi.
For Dixon, it was the second time for the 2008 winner to finish second and his sixth top-five finish in the race. He led 53 laps while Franchitti led 23.
“It was a tough race,” said Dixon. “I knew it would be chaotic after [the last restart]. You have to hand it to Honda for the power and fuel mileage. I hope everyone enjoyed it.”
Throughout the 500, the aerodynamics of the cars allowed for slipstreaming, and the race featured a record 34 lead changes and 10 different lap leaders.
Bryan Clauson, who has raced at the Terre Haute Action Track, had the first accident as he spun exiting Turn 1 on lap 16. Clauson eventually completed 46 laps and finished 30th.
The most violent accident occured on lap 78. Mike Conway exited the pits with a broken wing after he ran into two pit crew members in a just-completed pit stop.
Conway hit the wall exiting Turn 1 and collected Penske driver Will Power in the south short chute. Conway’s car rode along the top of the wall, but did not get airborne. Neither driver was injured.
Marco Andretti was also knocked out of contention with a heavy accident in Turn 1 on lap 188.
With drafting being the rule of the day, Kanaan leapt from sixth to first on the restart after the Andretti accident, but just as quickly surrendered the advantage to Franchitti.
A spin by Ed Carpenter brought out the eighth and final caution, setting up the 500 finale.