Franchitti wins rain-hit Indy 500

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

Franchitti wins rain-hit Indy 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
Analysis: Indy 500 is wide open
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