Indy 500

Many people counted Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi’s team out of contention at Indianapolis this year. Honda’s teams were outpaced by Chevrolet’s squads in the opening four IndyCar races and the Chevrolet teams comprehensively blew away their Honda-powered rivals in qualifying at Indy. Prior to Carburation Day, it looked like Chevy’s lead teams Penske and Andretti were going to dominate the 96th Indy 500.

But ‘Carb Day’ provided a strong hint that both Honda and Ganassi’s team might have turned the tables. With new ‘step two’ engines, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon inished the day at the top of the time sheets. Both ran plenty of laps, as they had through the week of practice and qualifying, and in the race Dario and Scott worked together superbly, drafting their way to the front, then working together to lead the race and conserve as much fuel as possible. It was teamwork at its best and it paid off as they scored a resounding one-two inish.

“I was unhappy on qualifying day,” Franchitti remarked. “I was angry. I had no expectations, but I thought we’d be quick and we weren’t. I was honest and clear about being upset with it. The Honda guys have been working hard since before the start of the season, but they’ve been playing catch-up.

“They made the turnaround from the last day of qualifying to Carb Day and it was very impressive. When we’re up against Chevy and Ilmor, who are smart people, I think what Honda did today to beat them and the turnaround from last week is something very special.”

Ganassi’s team boss Mike Hull said he believed both of his drivers were better set up for the race than anyone: “Unlike some people, our tyres were really good all the way through the run. We didn’t give up anything on those long, green runs.

We had really good race cars. We knew that by Thursday of the qualifying week. On the final day of practice we worked through a huge menu of items to create grip. I think we matched the balance of the car to the tyres and the engine today better than anybody else.”

Hull believes Franchitti and Dixon work together better than any other two-car team in the world.

“In Dario we have a guy who hasn’t reached his midlife crisis yet, who drives with the experience of his age. But he comes to work every day with the enthusiasm and intent of an 18-year old.

“And then he’s absolutely unselfish. In motor racing around the world with two-driver teams, how many teams can say that? I don’t think there’s one, except this team. Of course, I have a biased opinion. Dario and Scott work together as one and that got us to the front today. That’s made a big difference to this team over time.”

This was Franchitti’s third win at Indy in the past six years and he joins the company of three-time 500 winners: Louis Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Hélio Castroneves. It was also the 31st win of Dario’s IndyCar career which moves him into a tie with Paul Tracy and Sébastien Bourdais for seventh on IndyCar’s all-time winners list.

Gordon Kirby