Dominant Dario "Coasts" to 94th Indy 500 Victory

Date: 5/30/2010 9:10:24 PM

 
May 30
Dominant Dario "Coasts" to 94th Indy 500 Victory 
By Walter Elliott
 
 SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Dario Franchitti had the speed, fuel and perhaps good fortune to win
 
the 94th Running of the Indianapolis 500 here at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway
 
Sunday afternoon.
 
 Franchitti, who won the 91st but rain-shortened 165-lap edition in 2007, showed he had
 
the speed to go the distance. The Target/Maxwell House Chip Ganassi Racing No. 10
 
Dallara-Honda driver came from third starting place to take the initial lead from poleman
 
Helio Castroneves on the opening lap's third turn.
 
  The Italio-Scotsman and Nashville, Tenn. resident went on to lead six times for 155 of
 
the 200 laps. Will Power, Ryan Briscoe, Tomas Scheckter, Marco Andretti, Mike Conway,
 
Justin Wilson and defending 500 winner Helio Castroneves would share the lead over
 
the other 45 laps.
 
 Franchitti's torrid pace found some of the other favored contenders and some of the
 
considered underdogs having to use up their ethanol earlier than planned. Team owner
 
Roger Penske, for example, brought Castroneves early during the first round of pit stops
 
for late race contention.

 Castroneves, looking to win his second straight and fourth overall 500, got the point
 
once Conway and Wilson, driving for the respective Dale Coyne and Dreyer & Reinbold
 
teams, eventually pitted on lap 190. The Team Penske No. 3 driver, for the want of four
 
fresh tires and a splach of ethanol, yielded to Franchitti on lap 192 and finished ninth.
   
 Franchitti, however, found himself having to save fuel the last 10 laps, dropping his
 
average lap speed from 212 mph around the 2.5-mile oval to 203. Panther Racing's Dan
 
Wheldon, who won the 2005 edition, was 3.7 to 2.9 seconds behind.
 
 Whether Franchitti had enough fuel to hold off Wheldon may never be known. A lap 200
 
collision betwen Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay prompted Chief Starter Paul Blevin to end
 
the race under yellow and checkered flags.
 
 The accident left a debris field between turns three and four. Franchitti, who benefitted
 
from the race's eighth and last caution, finished while running down pit lane. 
 
 Conway was taken to nearby Methodist Hospital to check his left leg checked while
 
Franchitti, car owner Floyd "Chip" Ganassi and team managing director Mike Hull celebrated
 
in victory circle. Two male spectators were treated at and released from the infield Clarian
 
Emergency Medical Center for head cuts suffered by debris flying through the North Vista
 
stands' catchfencing. 
 
 "Up until 10 laps to go, I was pretty relaxed - then all hell broke loose with fuel savings
 
and all," said Franchitti, who turned 34 May 19. "I just needed to know what the other
 
guys were doing - if they were saving more than me." 
 
 Ganassi, in his press conference before flying out to personally oversee driver Jamie
 
McMurray in the NASCAR World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, said that he, Hull and
 
crew chief Chris Simmons found 1.6 gallons - almost another lap's worth of ethanol - in
 
Franchitti's fuel cell.
 
 "We listen to each others' radio frequencies and the fuel numbers were going kind of
 
crazy," said Ganassi in the Chris Economaki Conference Center. "There've been other
 
races here where we've led the most laps - but not the one that counts. I much rather
 
have an empty tank instead of having two or three gallons left and wonder if we could've
 
done more to win."
 
 Franchitti's 21st career victory in Indy cars also makes him the 17th 500 winner who have
 
won at least twice here. 
 
 Franchitti, furthermore, granted a fifth "500" victory for car owner Ganassi. Ganassi, a
 
Pittsburgh, Pa., native, becomes the first owner to win both the Indianapolis and NASCAR
 
Daytona 500s the same year. (McMurray won the 52nd stock car race Feb. 14 for Ganassi
 
long-time business partner Felix Sabates and Teresa Earnhardt.)
 
 "I've been a car owner for 25 years," said Ganassi, who himself finished as high as eighth
 
here in five starts in 1982-6. "I no longer drive, I don't change tires or fill the tank - I just
 
have my name on the front door. What I do is work with hundreds of people - crew,
 
drivers and sponsors - who are dedicated to win. In that way, I count myself lucky."    
 
 The victory was meanwhile the first for several crew members - including Simmons and
 
Steve Namisbak. 
 
 Simmons, a Hartford, Conn. native, raced with brother Jeff in local quarter midgets
 
through Indy Lights in 1998. The University of Pennsylvania mechanical engineering
 
graduate became a team engineer, working with Team Green and Andretti Green Racing
 
before joining Franchitti and Ganassi in 2009.   
 
 Namisbak was among the crew members keeping an eye on Franchiiti's No. 10 while it was
 
put through IRL post-race inspection.
 
 "It (the victory) hasn't sunk in," said Namisbak, of Somerville, N.J. "I started out with an
 
Automotive Technology degree from (Lincroft, N.J.'s) Brookdale Community College and I
 
met someone in Trenton who had some vintage race cars. One of the cars ran here and
 
that opened the door to Ganassi - where I'm the inside front tire changer and front end set
 
up person."

 "Steve and Chris are among the people who are dedicated," said Hull. "They came up
 
through the ranks."
 
 While Franchitti and Team Ganassi celebrated, others were left with "what if" questions.
 
 "This is the second year in a row where we've finished second," said Wheldon. "We have
 
to go one place better next year."
 
 A scoring replay put Marco Andretti, of Nazareth, Pa., in third. The third generation
 
Andretti Autosport driver swapped places with top finishing 500 rooke Alex Lloyd. Scott
 
Dixon, Franchitti's teammate, survived a wall scrape and losing his right front wheel in a pit
 
stop to round out the top five of 20 finishers.
 
 Danica Patrick, who rose as high as fourth in the late running, finished sixth. Rookies
 
Simona de Silvestro and Ana Beatriz finished 14th and 21st. Sarah Fisher, saying she had
 
bent a rear suspension arm, was placed 25th.    
 
 Penske men Will Power and Catroneves finished eighth and ninth. Castroneves, who
 
complained of a shoulder strain from race-long G-forces, was poised to win his third 500.  
 
 "It was a very hot day and congrats to Dario - he had the car to beat," said Castroneves.
 
"Silly mistakes but us in the back. I'm upset for my guys - they did an incredible job all
 
month long."
 
 Tony Kanaan, who opted to move from 32nd grid spot to start 33rd and last, finished 11.
 
The 2004 IRL IZOD Indy Car Series champion rose to second before having to make asplash
 
and dash at the end.
 
 Graham Rahal, in a one-off Rahal Letterman Racing ride, finishedn 12th after starting
 
seventh. The New Albany, Ohio pilot's charge was twice blunted by blocking penalties.
 
 "You go forwards, you go backwards, we got back in it - that was our day," said Rahal.
 
"That 30 laps in front of Dario, we were flying."
 
 John Andretti, Marco's uncle, was placed 30th after his No. 43 Richard Petty/Andretti
 
Autosports hit the wall.
 
 Third Penske driver Briscoe joined the non-finishers after hitting the wall. He was earlier
 
penalized for exiting the pits before his crew could disengage from the refueling rig - taking
 
the fuel probe nozzle with him.

 FINISH (Running Unless Otherwise Noted): DARIO FRANCHITTI, Dan Wheldon, Marco
 
Andretti, Alex Lloyd (R), Scott Dixon, Danica Patrick, Justin Wilson, Will Power, Helio
 
Castroneves, Alex Tagliani, Tony Kanaan, Graham Rahal, Mario Romancini (R), Simona de
 
Slivestro (R), Tomas Scheckter, Townsend Bell, Ed Carpenter, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike
 
Conway (lap 198 - collsion), Takuma Sato (R), Ana Beatriz (R), Bertrand Baguette (R);
 
(DNF) Sebastian Saavedra (R) (lap 159 - crash), Ryan Briscoe (lap 147 - crash), E.J. Viso
 
(lap 139 - handling), Sarah Fisher (lap 125 - rear suspension), Vitor Meira (lap 105 -
 
crash), Hideki Mutoh (lap 76 -handling), John Andretti (lap 67 - crash), Mario Moraes (lap
 
17 - crash) Bruno Junqueira (lap seven - crash), Davey Hamilton (lap one - crash).
 
 


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