Had it not been for a cut tyre that sent him out of sequence on pitstops, Dario Franchitti wouldn't have found himself in position to win the 91st Indianapolis 500.
But what appeared to be misfortune at the time turned into good fortune, and Franchitti scored the biggest win of his long career.
Franchitti found himself in the lead on the 137th lap when Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan made a pitstop while leading.
Then, with help from unusual circumstances and the second rainstorm of the day, Franchitti put himself in Victory Lane.
"There was a certain amount of luck involved, but that doesn't diminish what we accomplished," Franchitti said. "We put ourselves in the right place, and it worked out for us."
Knowing rain was coming but not sure when it would arrive, Franchitti and his crew had two tasks during the late laps: maintain the lead, while saving fuel.
He did both masterfully, holding off Scott Dixon and a charging Helio Castroneves to win the Indy 500 for the first time in five tries.
"These guys saw the whole picture," Franchitti said, gesturing to his crew. "They saw the ups and downs throughout the day, and they're the ones who deserve the credit."
Franchitti was forced to pit just as the race was set to resume following a three-hour rain delay when the right rear tyre deflated on the No. 27 AGR Honda/Dallara.
The return to the pits cost him track position, but helped later when he was able to take the lead by staying out on the track when Kanaan pitted on the 137th lap.
"After the red, we had a cut on the right rear," Franchitti explained. "We had to pit. That wasn't our intention, but we had to do it for safety. It worked to our benefit later. It's been a roller-coaster month, and this was a roller-coaster day. I can't believe it happened."
Following Franchitti, Dixon and Castroneves to the red flag as heavy rain fell were Sam Hornish Jr in fourth, Ryan Briscoe in fifth, and Scott Sharp in sixth.
After Marty Roth crashed on the 151st lap, Kanaan pitted while leading under caution, giving the lead back to Franchitti.
On the restart on the 156th lap, Kanaan spun while trying to avoid Jaques Lazier's crashing car. As he circled the track under caution, Franchitti knew the rain was nearby. He also knew fuel was a precious commodity.
Team strategist John Anderson said the No. 27 AGR Honda/Dallara had about 15 laps of fuel left.
"The one comment that sticks in my mind was John Anderson on the radio saying, 'The rain is eight blocks away,'" Franchitti said. "I was like, 'Come on!'"
The victory ended a long, wild day that featured several twists and turns, including the long rain delay. It was fitting, then, that Franchitti's subtle approach to the month of May and race day itself resulted in victory.
"We flew under the radar all month - all year, actually," Franchitti said. "This whole month is an interesting thing to go through. You throw all of your eggs into one basket.
"If you saw the way our team worked together to make these cars quick, and the way the five drivers and engineers worked together, it was really impressive. Any one of our cars today could have won the race."
The runner-up finish was Dixon's best result in five tries at Indianapolis. Afterward, he criticized some other drivers. "There were some back markers out there that were way too aggressive," he said.
Castroneves, who had the fastest car at the end of the race but wasn't in position to catch Dixon or Franchitti, continued his reputation for strong results in the 500. Castroneves has won the race twice, and has finished on the podium for the fourth time in seven tries.
"With everything that happened today, I have to say that third is a pretty good result," Castroneves said. "It's just a shame that we didn't do it."
The race featured 11 accidents and two hospitalisations. Roberto Moreno was treated for back pain at Methodist Hospital after his car spun and hit the wall in Turn 1. "The car had a bad wiggle all over the place," Moreno said. "It was very tough. When I got to Turn 1, we just went straight. I couldn't do anything."
Dan Brown, the right-rear tyre changer on Al Unser Jr.'s car, also was taken to Methodist for treatment of multiple fractures to his left foot after he was struck by a car driven by Foyt's teammate, Darren Manning. He was awaiting evaluation by orthopedic surgeons Sunday evening.
Aside from Moreno, who crashed first on the 38th lap, Lazier, Rice, Marco Andretti, Milka Duno, Phil Giebler, Jon Herb, Marty Roth and John Andretti also crashed. Aside from Moreno, none of the drivers was injured.
Andretti, whose runaway mirror caused the first of 11 cautions in the race, said he knew he was about to crash before his car hit the wall in Turn 2. "I knew it was going to be bad," Andretti said. "I wasn't going very fast because I anticipated what was coming."
Pos Driver Make Laps 1. Dario Franchitti Dallara-Honda 166 2. Scott Dixon Dallara-Honda 166 3. Helio Castroneves Dallara-Honda 166 4. Sam Hornish Jr Dallara-Honda 166 5. Ryan Briscoe Dallara-Honda 166 6. Scott Sharp Dallara-Honda 166 7. Tomas Scheckter Dallara-Honda 166 8. Danica Patrick Dallara-Honda 166 9. Davey Hamilton Dallara-Honda 166 10. Vitor Meira Dallara-Honda 166 11. Jeff Simmons Dallara-Honda 166 12. Tony Kanaan Dallara-Honda 166 13. Michael Andretti Dallara-Honda 166 14. AJ Foyt IV Dallara-Honda 165 15. Alex Barron Dallara-Honda 165 16. Kosuke Matsuura Dallara-Honda 165 17. Ed Carpenter Dallara-Honda 164 18. Sarah Fisher Dallara-Honda 164 19. Buddy Lazier Dallara-Honda 164 20. Darren Manning Dallara-Honda 164 21. Roger Yasukawa Dallara-Honda 164 22. Dan Wheldon Dallara-Honda 163 23. Richie Hearn Dallara-Honda 163 24. Marco Andretti Dallara-Honda 162 25. Buddy Rice Dallara-Honda 162 26. Al Unser Jr Dallara-Honda 161 27. Jaques Lazier Panoz-Honda 155 28. Marty Roth Dallara-Honda 148 29. Phil Giebler Panoz-Honda 106 30. John Andretti Dallara-Honda 95 31. Milka Duno Dallara-Honda 65 32. Jon Herb Dallara-Honda 51 33. Roberto Moreno Panoz-Honda 36