Dario Franchitti was the man to beat at Indianapolis this year. The Scot jumped into the lead on the opening lap and led almost all the way, save for pitstop shuffling. In the end it was all about saving fuel as Dario and most of his remaining challengers tried to make the finish without a last-minute stop. He was helped by a frightening crash on the penultimate lap involving Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay, which left the Briton with a broken leg and brought out the yellows. That meant Dario cruised across the line with Dan Wheldon on his tail.
“Up until 10 laps to go I was pretty relaxed,” said Dario in Victory Lane. “Then all hell broke loose with fuel saving. I just needed to know what the other guys were doing. If they were saving more than me they were doing something special.”
It was Franchitti’s second win at Indianapolis – the first was with Andretti-Green in 2007 – and team owner Chip Ganassi’s fourth success in the 500. Chip also becomes the first team owner to win both the Daytona 500 (with Jamie McMurray) and Indy 500 in same year. “This tastes just as good a second time,” said Dario. “This means so much. To come back after going away for a year and to win a championship and then the Indy 500.”
British drivers finished first, second and fourth at Indy. Wheldon, the winner in 2005, was second for the second year in a row, while Alex Lloyd finished an excellent fourth in one of Dale Coyne’s cars behind Marco Andretti. A fourth Brit, Justin Wilson, was seventh.
Race favourite and pole-sitter Helio Castroneves ran second or third for much of the way but stalled in the pits on his second-last stop and finished ninth. Nor was luck on the side of Penske team-mates Will Power and Ryan Briscoe. Power tore off part of his refuelling rig on his first pitstop and received a drive-through penalty, eventually finishing eighth. Briscoe was also in the hunt only to crash as he rejoined the race after his penultimate stop, apparently trying too hard on cold tyres.
“In order to be quick here you have to be on edge,” said Franchitti. “My car was a handful, but it was a fast handful. When it’s fast you can hang onto it. When it’s not like that you have to start making adjustments. It was a handful doing 223mph laps when other guys were doing 221s. We made one change. That was it.”
Dario spoke warmly about pulling into Victory Lane and drinking from the traditional bottle of milk. “That feeling when you drive in and see your family… My dad was here and Ashley, and some of my family from Nashville, my friends from Scotland and my team. You get out and you get to drink the milk. That’s what it’s all about.”
Fine fellow that he is, Dario demurred at comparisons with Jim Clark and Sir Jackie Stewart. “I could win races and Indy 500s for the rest of my life, and I still wouldn’t be in the same vein as Jim Clark or Jackie Stewart. Those guys are absolute legends. I’m in awe of both of them.”
Franchitti also talked proudly about the large number of British drivers competing these days at the top of the sport. “It was great to see Lewis and Jenson fighting hard in Turkey, but not taking each other out. And there’s a lot of quick British drivers here [in Indycar]. It’s great fun having four of us in the top 10 and a 1-2-4. I think we’re doing something right in the UK. In the ALMS, F1 and Le Mans we’ve got some pretty good British drivers right now and I’m very proud of that.”