In the 95-year history of the Indianapolis 500, only nine men had managed to win the race three times. Dario Franchitti became the tenth on Sunday, May 27.
The reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion did it in dramatic fashion too. As the leaders of the field raced for the white flag signaling the final lap of the 500-mile race, race leader Franchitti came under pressure from Takuma Sato. As the Japanese driver went low to try to get by the Scotsman, he made slight contact and immediately started to spin. The yellow flag waved and Franchitti had won the 96th-running of the fabled auto race.
Franchitti said he saw Sato dropping down on the racetrack in an effort to make the pass for the lead and held his line.
“I gave him a load of room,” Franchitti said. “Turn 1 was the trickiest corner. If you went in with a tight line, it tended to get a bit loose. He lost the rear, came around and hit us. I managed to catch it.”
Sato’s perspective offered a different view of the racing incident.
“On the very last lap, I had a good tow from Dario. I thought I had the job done. But he kept pushing and didn’t give me enough room so that I was well below the white line (on the race track),” recalled Sato. “I was going for the win.”
Franchitti’s teammate Scott Dixon finished second in the race and Tony Kanaan was third. Franchitti is now in sixth place in the IZOD IndyCar drivers’ standings, 64 points behind leader Will Power.
The win places Franchitti in elite company as one of 10 drivers to win the Indianapolis 500. Three of those, have won the race four times: A.J. Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977), Al Unser (1970, 1971, 1978 and 1987) and Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988 and 1991). All three of Franchitti’s Indianapolis 500 wins have come under caution-flag conditions.
After the race, Franchitti paid homage to friend and fellow driver Dan Wheldon, who died last October in a racing accident. He also tipped his hat to Jimmy Clark and Jackie Stewart, two other great drivers from Scotland.
“Between (Clark) and Jackie, the guys I wanted to emulate, to drive like,” Franchitti said. “I don’t have their talent, so I try and work hard. I’m lucky I’m with a great team.”
The 91-degree Fahrenheit (32.8 Celsius) temperature was among the hottest all-time for race day. To find a hotter day for the Indy 500 you’d have to look back to 1937, when it was 92 F (33.3 C).
The next race in the IndyCar series is the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, on June 3.