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Franchitti edges Dixon to win third Indy 500 title

Published: 7:33AM Monday May 28, 2012 Source: Reuters

Scotland's Dario Franchitti won the 96th Indianapolis 500 today to join an elite band of drivers to win the 101-year-old race three times.

Driving for the Ganassi Racing team, the 39-year-old Franchitti patiently worked his way through the pack after starting 16th on the grid, then won a mad sprint to the finish.

Franchitti's New Zealand team mate Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner, finished second while Brazil's Tony Kanaan was third as the race ended under a yellow flag when Takuma Sato of Japan crashed on the last lap while contesting for the lead.

"This means the world, this is Indianapolis," said Franchitti. "To be on this trophy either side of Dan (Wheldon), that means more than anything."

Wheldon, one of Franchitti's closest friends, won the Indy 500 in dramatic circumstances last year but was killed in a season-ending race in Las Vegas.

Today's race was preceeded by an emotional tribute to the popular Englishman. After the race, Franchitti embraced Wheldon's widown, Susie, who watched the race with her two sons.

Franchitti also won the Indy 500 in 2007 and 2010 and became just the 10th driver to win at the Brickyard at least three times.

Only A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears, with four wins each, have been more successful in America's greatest motor race, which was first held in 1911.

Franchitti was one of 10 drivers to lead Sunday's incident packed race which featured a record 35 lead changes and eight cautions, including one just before the end that resulted in a six-lap scramble to the chequered flag.

Ten of the original 33 starters were not running at the end of the 200-lap event on a baking hot day where the temperatures rose to 91 degrees Fahrenheit (32.7 degrees Celsius), turning the race into a gruelling test of stamina for both the drivers and their cars.

Will Power, the IndyCar series leader heading into the race, and Mike Conway, both walked away unharmed after a spectacular collision on lap 80, while a handful of other drivers spun out on the notoriously dangerous 2.5 mile (four kilometre) circuit.

Sato, bidding to become the first Japanese driver to win the race, blew his chance when he tried to cut inside Franchitti on the first of the four turns on the last lap.

He went into the bend too low and spun out of control, slamming into the outside wall and prompting race stewards to unfurl the caution flag, which prevented any more passing and allowed Franchitti to coast to victory.

Brazil's Rubens Barrichello, who moved to IndyCar this season after a long career in Formula One, came 11th, the best place of the seven rookies in the field.