(www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com) – Dario Franchitti slipped the wreath over his head and took a healthy sip of cool milk in the 91-degree mid-afternoon heat in Victory Circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. First, however, he donned a pair of white cardboard sunglasses — a tribute to longtime friend, teammate, competitor and fellow Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon.
“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 in October from injuries suffered in a racing accident.
Franchitti became the 10th driver with three or more 500 wins, holding off charges from Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan over the final five laps following a restart.
Franchitti, the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion, 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 running side-by-side for the lead on the white flag lap. The contact shot Sato’s car up the track and into the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier, bringing out the yellow flag.
Franchitti led teammate Scott Dixon and Kanaan under the twin checkered flags to cap a wild race featuring the new car-engine package. There were a record 34 lead changes among 10 drivers. A few minutes later, in Victory Circle, Franchitti looked to the sky as a salute to Wheldon.
A few minutes afterward, he 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.
Kanaan, seeking his first victory in his 11th 500 Mile Race and driving the No. 11 car (“my favorite number”) for KV Racing Technology, had taken the lead on a Lap 184 restart.
Oriol Servia jumped from the 27th starting spot to finish fourth and pole sitter Ryan Briscoe was fifth. James Hinchcliffe, who started from the middle of the front row, finished sixth and Justin Wilson also had an Indy-best seventh-place finish. Charlie Kimball overcame a practice crash a week earlier to finish eighth, and Townsend Bell was ninth. Three-time winner Helio Castroneves was 10th and Rubens Barrichello was the highest finishing rookie in 11th.