Franchitti Wins 2nd Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - One lap to go, running on empty and a car

bearing down on his tail.

After having the dominant car and the perfect game plan, Dario

Franchitti

Indianapolis 500.

He got it in the form of a spectacular, airborne crash that

brought out a yellow flag and allowed him to cross the line with a

scant 1.6 gallons of fuel left.

That 1.6 gallons left him holding a quart of milk, a winner at

the Brickyard for the second time in four years.

"Still running," the winner told his crew over the radio as he

crossed the finish line, while wreckers were moving out to scoop up

debris from an accident that sent Mike Conway into the wall and to

the hospital with a broken left leg.

The victory made Franchitti's boss, Chip Ganassi, the first

owner to win Indy and NASCAR's Daytona 500 in the same year.

It validated the Scottish driver's return to the IndyCar circuit

two years after celebrating his 2007 Indy victory by making an

unsuccessful move with Ganassi to NASCAR.

And, of course, it made Franchitti and crew look like the master

tacticians they were on this day - working the gas pedal perfectly

to stretch their final fill-up for the last 37 laps and edge out

2005 champion Dan Wheldon of England.

"Just get to the finish, see if you can get to the finish,"

Franchitti

over the last few laps.

He did, and so the story became about his second victory instead

of Helio Castroneves' fourth. Spiderman's quest to tie A.J. Foyt,

Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears for most wins ever at the Brickyard

essentially ended with an uncharacteristic mistake - stalling out

while leaving the pits on the 146th lap.

It left Castroneves in need of a yellow-flag miracle at the end

that never came, and he finished ninth after one last pit stop on

the 192nd lap.

"Unfortunately, silly mistakes put us in the back,"

Castroneves said. "I'm very disappointed. I'm more disappointed

with the mistake."

Meanwhile, Danica Patrick made no mistakes. After being booed

during qualifying when she complained about a balky car, she picked

and poked her way from 23rd to finish sixth.

Patrick never found her comfort zone in the 88-degree weather -

at one point saying she wished she could make up as much time on

the track as in the pits - but she was patient and disciplined and

now has five top 10 finishes in six years.

Marco Andretti was third, followed by England's Alex Lloyd and

Scott Dixon.

"I'm very happy with the result, and the reasons we got it were

that our pit stops rocked and we had a perfect strategy," Patrick

said.

Not so for Tony Kanaan, who finished 11th after starting last in

the 33-car field and moving as high as second, less than half a

second behind. His chance of becoming the first driver in 94 years

of Indys to go from worst to first ended when he had to go to the

pits for a splash of fuel with four laps to go.

"I hope I made it exciting out there," Kanaan said.

More exciting than Franchitti might have wanted.

"I was concerned about running out of fuel. I was concerned

about Tony. And then he pitted," Franchitti said.

His crew started pressing their driver to conserve fuel with

about 15 laps left. He did as he was told, and after leading 154 of

the first 199 laps at speeds of up to 224.287 mph, he slowed

steadily at the end - to 210 mph, then 209 and 206.

Wheldon started bearing down, positioning himself to make the

last lap of the Indy 500 the first lap he had led all year on the

circuit.

That's when the cars behind them went flying.

With the yellow flag out, Franchitti's wife, actress Ashley

Judd, put her hand over her head, hoping her man had enough fuel to

make it. He did, and was on his way to a milk mustache in Victory

Lane.

Both times he's been there, he's crossed the bricks without

really racing. In 2007, he won when the race was shortened to 166

laps because of rain. This time, the end came under slow,

yellow-flag conditions that froze the order of finish.

"One of the worst things you can do, and we've done it, is to

finish a race with some fuel left," Ganassi said.

Not to worry this time.

Ganassi won his fourth Indy and has one of those few pieces of

history that aren't owned by racing's most successful owner, Roger

Penske, who had an unusually bewildering day in his quest for a

16th Indy victory day.

More than an hour before Castroneves stalled in pit road,

teammate Will Power's crew left part of the fuel rig in his tank -

a costly mistake that forced Power to take a penalty run through

pit road and dropped him out of the top five.

And moments after Castroneves' error, his other teammate, Ryan

Briscoe, careened into the wall and out of the race while Penske,

The Captain, looked on - hand on hip, seemingly amazed at how his

smooth-running machine fell so far, so fast.

"As a team, we made too many mistakes today," Power said. "We

had a bloody fast car. I think we could've hung with Dario, no

problem. It's the lesson of this place. You can't make mistakes."

Power's problems were part of an overall sloppy day at "The

Greatest Spectacle In Racing," which featured nine caution

periods, including one when Davey Hamilton, the oldest driver in

the race, crashed before the drivers made it out of Turn 2 on the

first lap.

Dixon, Franchitti's teammate, lost his left front tire coming

out of pit road. Raphael Matos, who got to second early in the

race, dropped back when his right rear tire came off - then went

out when he hit the wall on lap 72.

Power crept his way back into the top five briefly, but another

pit-road mix-up cost him time. The 29-year-old Australian, first

before the race in the IndyCar standings, finished eighth.

Andretti started 16th and actually led one lap thanks in part to

his early use of the speed-boosting "push to pass" button that

was making its Indy debut this year. But without as good a car as

the leaders, he fell back.

Nobody ran a cleaner, more tactically superior race than

Franchitti

helped, as did a little bit of racin' luck at the end - the kind

that has come to him much more easily in the open-wheel world than

in his half-year in NASCAR in 2008.

But Franchitti's departure didn't mean the end of Ganassi's stay

in NASCAR. The owner won the Daytona 500 with Jamie McMurray at the

wheel in February.

Had Franchitti had that kind of stock car in 2008, he joked, he

might not have been sitting where he was Sunday.

"It all worked out perfectly," he said. "We went on a little

holiday, came back and now, we're having some fun."

Back home again in Indiana - and back in Victory Lane.

 

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

 

.