Franchitti celebrates his third Indy 500 win - Photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar Series/LAT USAEnlarge Photo
"You get much better fuel mileage at least one spot back so we went back and forth to try to help each other instead of having to drop back too far and mix it up with people maybe we didn't want to.
"With this car," Dixon explained, "I think it really pulls up. Towards the end, with the grip level, it was easy to stay close, easy to pull past." Wistfully watching the video monitor as Franchitti, wife Ashley and team owner Chip Ganassi kissed the yard of bricks at start/finish, Dixon reminded, "This is the big event and you're going to do anything to put your face on the BorgWarner trophy. I think how it lined up with the top three, three of Dan's (last year's winner Wheldon) friends, it was a tough one, but you know, it was a great race."
Tony Kanaan took third place - and became the first Chevy finisher - leading seven laps in the process. It was Kanaan's best result since his 2004 championship year when he finished second.
"I didn't know where I was going to end up," after he took the lead to thunderous applause. "I think people like me here because I haven't won yet; I became more famous for not winning this thing than actually winning, so I'll keep trying."
Oriol Servia (who started 27th) and Briscoe completed the top five finishers. Servia, who became a Chevy driver with this race was "just so happy to bring the (Panther/DRR) Mecum Auctions car home in fourth place. We had a flat tire in the first stint and went a lap down," he said.
"Once I had my lap back I was last so I had to pass a lot of cars. I told the guys before we started I wanted to get them some prize money today and we did."
Briscoe was "feeling like I wish we had won the thing. I will say it was hot and slick today and it was tough out there. It's disappointing because we were so strong in practice, qualifying and started off on the pole; I'm proud of the whole team and IZOD for supporting me but I am a bit disappointed."
The balance of the top ten were James Hinchcliffe (Chevy), Justin Wilson (Honda), Charlie Kimball (Honda), Townsend Bell (Honda) and three-time winner Helio Castroneves, driving a Chevy for Team Penske. There were 23 finishers and 16 of them were on the lead lap at the close of this race. Ex-F1 racer Rubens Barrichello was the highest finishing rookie in 11th place, thoroughly enjoying his first taste of the Indianapolis 500 in his debut oval race.
The Scotsman is the tenth driver to have at least three wins in Indianapolis 500 history, joining Helio Castroneves as a three-time Indy winner with only nine starts. This was no gimme for Dario Franchitti - on his first pit stop on the 15th lap, he was tapped by EJ Viso, ending up in 30th place after the No. 50 crew replaced his nose cone, tires, fuel and sent him back underway. Franchitti made up five spots within six laps, made it up to 20th before his next stop and was in eighth place shortly after the 50-lap mark. This is the mark of a champion.
It hasn't been the best of seasons until now for Franchitti but he's played the cards he's been dealt and worked to make his car better as time went along.
As team manager Mike Hull explained, "We have a guy (in Dario) who hasn't reached his midlife crisis yet, that drives with the experience of his age but he comes to work every day with the enthusiasm and the intent of an 18-year-old. That's a pretty tough combination to beat."
The first cars out of the race, thanks to the 105-percentile rule were the two Lotus cars, Jean Alesi and Simona de Silvestro, parked before even ten laps were in the books. The first caution came on the 14th lap when rookie Bryan Clauson spun in the second turn - but never hit anything.
It lasted for three laps before a long green-flag period ensued, running to the 80th lap before caution flew a second time for a tangle between championship leader Will Power's Chevy and the Honda of Mike Conway, who had just run into a crewman on his pit stop. The front wing on the No. 14 ABC Supply car was bent and Conway spun coming out of the pits, collecting a disappointed Power.
Caution flew the third time on lap 90 when Ana Beatriz spun, also in turn 2 but there was another extended green-flag period until lap 146, when Sebastian Saavedra spun, also in turn 2. On lap 164, Josef Newgarden's Honda stalled on the backstretch, bringing out the fifth yellow; on lap 181 the field was slowed for Ed Carpenter's spin in the first turn. As so often happens, that caution begat another on lap 188 when Andretti made contact with the first turn wall. The final caution was on the run-up to the checkered flags, for Sato.
Franchitti and Sato head into turn one - Photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar Series/LAT USAEnlarge Photo
After the checkered flags, Franchitti, together with wife Ashley Judd invited Susie Wheldon to take the victory lap with them. it was a poignant moment. And of course brought everyone's mind back to Las Vegas last October.
"I think racing is emotion. Life is, as well," Franchitti said. "But racing, I think really exemplifies that. Vegas was the lowest of the low. Fontana '99 (when his best friend Greg Moore died) and Vegas last year were the lowest of the low.
"I think the reason we all got back in the cars, the reasons all the mechanics got back in pit lane, the fans came back to the races is days like today, the emotion of something like today. That's certainly why I got back in the car. There's not a feeling like standing in Victory Lane there. There isn't."