Dario Franchitti held off a final-lap challenge from Takuma Sato to win the Indianapolis 500 for a third time in six years.
Franchitti completed 200 laps at the 2.5-mile (4 kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway in two hours, 58 minutes, 51.25 seconds. His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon from New Zealand crossed the line 0.0295 of a second later, followed by Tony Kanaan from Brazil, another 0.0382 of a second back.
Franchitti led going into the final lap of the 96th edition of IndyCar’s marquee event, when Japan’s Sato tried to overtake him along the inside of the track. Franchitti held his line as the cars brushed together, forcing Sato to spin out. The Scot then cruised to the finish line under the eighth caution of the race.
“What a great race,” Franchitti, who also won at Indianapolis in 2007 and 2010, said in a televised interview. “I moved out to give him the room and then we hit and I just kept the foot in and managed to keep it out of trouble.”
Dubbed the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the open-wheel race in which drivers reach speeds of 220 mph (354 kph) featured 33 cars powered by Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus engines. It’s the seventh time an owner has finished one-two at the event, and Franchitti’s victory is the first for a Honda-powered car this season. Chevrolet-powered Penske Racing cars won the first four events of the 16-race season.
There were 35 lead changes, eclipsing the record 29 set at the 1960 edition.
The total purse for the race depends on attendance. Franchitti in 2010 earned a record $2.75 million from the $13.6 million payout.
No Danica Patrick
Following Danica Patrick’s defection to Nascar, this year’s Indianapolis 500 was the first since 1999 without an American woman on the grid. The lineup included three female drivers, Katherine Legge of the U.K., who was 22nd, Brazilian Ana Beatriz, who was 23rd, and Simona de Silvestro from Switzerland, who was 32nd.
Patrick finished 30th in last night’s Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, becoming the first woman to drive in the event since Janet Guthrie in 1976. Casey Kahne won Nascar’s longest race, finishing almost five seconds ahead of Denny Hamlin to give car owner Rick Hendrick his 201st Sprint Cup series victory.
Next year, Patrick may try to race both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, a USA Today report said yesterday, citing the driver. James Hinchcliffe, Patrick’s replacement in the Go Daddy car, led after the first lap at Indianapolis and finished in sixth place.
With temperatures at the track known as the Brickyard reaching 91 Fahrenheit (33 Celsius), race organizers installed 78 misting stations and urged fans to bring extra water and to avoid alcohol and caffeine. The hottest race day on record was 1937, when the temperature hit 92 degrees.
Drivers had to cope with track and cockpit temperatures in excess of 120 degrees, which Marco Andretti said caused the sole of his boot to partially melt and bond with his gas pedal.
In a bid to preserve fuel, Franchitti and Dixon traded the lead five times until 20 laps to go, when Ed Carpenter spun to bring about a caution.
When racing resumed with 16 laps to go, Kanaan came through to take the lead. Franchitti overtook the Brazilian less than a lap later as Dixon dropped to third.
Kanaan retook the lead with 13 laps remaining, when Andretti, who led for 59 laps early in day, crashed to bring up the seventh caution.
Andretti, the 25-year-old son of 1991 IndyCar champion Michael Andretti and the grandson of 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti, finished 24th. As a rookie in 2006, Andretti was overtaken on the final turn at Indianapolis by Sam Hornish Jr., the last American winner.
Racing restarted with seven laps left, with Franchitti returning to first place ahead of Dixon and Kanaan dropping to third. Dixon overtook his teammate with five laps to go and the Scot again took top spot with three to go, with Sato close behind in third. Sato slid past Dixon into second on the next-to-last lap and gained on Franchitti before making his unsuccessful move for the lead as they entered the final lap.
Franchitti and Helio Castroneves, who finished 10th, are the only active drivers to have won the race three times. Seven drivers have three titles, while A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears have a record four wins.
Franchitti dedicated the win to Dan Wheldon, who died Oct. 16 from injuries sustained in a 15-car accident at the Las Vegas Indy 300, five months after he won the 100th anniversary edition of the Indianapolis 500, his second victory at the race. Wheldon, from Emberton, England, was 33.
His widow Susie Wheldon yesterday received a miniature replica of the winner’s Borg-Warner Trophy and her late husband’s winner’s ring.