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Dario Franchitti Wins Third Indy 500

Dario Franchitti Wins Third Indy 500
By D. Brian Smith
Photography & 2012 Indy 500 Highlights Video Courtesy of IZOD IndyCar Media

Dario Franchitti placed the Indy 500 champion wreath on his head. He drank an almost excessive amount of Indiana’s finest ice cold milk in the 91-degree heat, before pouring much of the rest of the yummy stuff on his head and body in Victory Circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What Dario did before anything though, was to put on a pair of white cardboard sunglasses, the very same sort of spectacles worn by most of the 2012 Indy 500 contenders at the track, as a fitting tribute to a great racing competitor and a first class human being, Dan Wheldon.

A two-time champion of the Indy 500, Dan Wheldon finished first in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 last year. Tragically, a season-ending multi-car collision at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ended Dan Wheldon’s all-too-short life. “Now my face on the Borg-Warner Trophy will be on either side of Dan’s,” Franchitti said of the 2011 race winner who died last October from injuries suffered in the horrific accident at the track.

2012 Indy 500 Video Highlights:

Franchitti joined an auspicious field that now contains 10 racers and former drivers with three or more Indianapolis 500 wins. To achieve this remarkable feat at “racing’s greatest spectacle,” he held off drivers from Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan for the final five laps of the 500-mile, 200 lap competition.

Franchitti is the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion. He won under caution as Sato’s No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing car made slight contact with the left side Franchitti’s No. 50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car while attempting to pass Franchitti for the lead on the white flag lap. The contact put Sato’s car out of control  and right into the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier, bringing out the yellow flag.

Franchitti led teammate Scott Dixon and Kanaan under the twin checkered flags to culminate a wild race featuring the new car-engine package A record of 34 lead changes took place during the race among 10 drivers.

In terms of records, this was the third hottest Indy 500 race ever. Temperatures climbed to a toasty and humid 91 degrees Fahrenheit, though the near record heat didn’t quell the drivers behind the steering wheels of these all new Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus powered machines that all fought for victory with hot foots aplenty.

Not long after Dario Franchitti made his way to Victory Circle and climbed out of his Honda powered racecar, he looked skyward to honor his buddy Dan Wheldon. In his interview, a handful of seconds later, Franchitti dedicated his 3rd victory to his best friend, Dan Wheldon.
Dario and wife Ashley Judd were joined on the victory lap by Susie Wheldon, who earlier in the weekend accepted the Champion of Champions ring and “Baby Borg” trophy on behalf of her husband.

After the race, Mr. Dario Franchitti had this to say:

DARIO FRANCHITTI: “I just want to dedicate this to two of Indianapolis’ finest, Dan Wheldon and Michael Wanser. Thanks to all of the Indianapolis fans for their tribute to Dan today. What a race. What a race. I think D-dub (Wheldon) would be proud of that one.” (About final battle with Takuma Sato): “I moved over, and I saw he was coming. I came back over, and I moved up the track. He got loose underneath me. Kind of reminds me of Emerson (Fittipaldi) and Little Al (Unser) at the end there. This means the world. This is Indianapolis. To be on this trophy on either side of Dan, that means more than anything. The last week I’ve been studying my buddy JR’s book, Johnny Rutherford gave me his book with a wonderful inscription, and he said he hoped to welcome me to the three-time club. To be in the company of guys like that means so much. What a great race today, to be able to come from the back of the grid after being in the pit lane and being spun.”

TOP 10 IN IZOD INDYCAR POINT STANDINGS (after Indianapolis 500 – Courtesy of IZOD IndyCar):

1.      Will Power 200

2.      Helio Castroneves 164

3.      James Hinchcliffe 164

4.      Scott Dixon 153

5.      Ryan Hunter-Reay 143

6.      Dario Franchitti 136

7.      Simon Pagenaud 136

8.      Ryan Briscoe 128

9.      Tony Kanaan 113

10.    JR Hildebrand 103

The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix  on June 3 at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit. The race will be televised by ABC at 3:30 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix  on June 2 at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. (ET) on June 7 and broadcast live by the IMS Radio Network.

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