Dario Franchitti came from the rear of the field to win a dramatic Indianapolis 500 Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, leading Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon to the checkered flag in a 1-2 finish for Honda in near-record heat and humidity. It is the third Indianapolis 500 victory for Franchitti, and the third for Honda with engine manufacturer competition.
After starting 16th, Franchitti was hit during his first pit stop by the car of E.J. Viso, spinning Franchitti around and dropping him to the rear of the field. But he fought back to the front, reaching the lead for the first time on Lap 151 and then entering into a multi-car battle for the victory over the final laps.
Once at the front of the field, Franchitti spent the late laps trading the lead with Dixon, part of a record 34 lead changes during the race; while the Honda Dallaras of Takuma Sato and Justin Wilson; as well as the cars of Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter all looked like potential race winners.
Carpenter was the first to fall by the wayside, spinning without contact on Lap 180. On the Lap 184 restart, Kanaan jumped from fourth to the front on the run to Turn One, but the yellow came out again just three laps later as Marco Andretti spun and crashed without injury.
On Lap 194, the green flag waved for the final time and both Franchitti and Dixon passed Kanaan. Sato also was quickly past Kanaan and then Dixon. On Lap 199, Sato moved alongside Franchitti and attempted a last-lap pass for the lead as they entered Turn One. But Sato lost control mid-corner, made contact with Franchitti and then spun hard into the wall, crashing without injury.
Franchitti was momentarily sideways, but corrected for the slide and claimed his third Indianapolis 500 victory, and the 96th IndyCar win for Target Chip Ganassi Racing at the 96th running of the Memorial Day weekend classic. Dixon finished second, with Honda drivers Justin Wilson seventh, Charlie Kimball in eighth and Townsend Bell, ninth.
The IZOD IndyCar Series now enters June with a run of four consecutive race weekends, starting with the June 3 Belle Isle Grand Prix temporary street circuit race in Detroit, Michigan, followed by oval races at Texas Motor Speedway, The Milwaukee Mile and Iowa Speedway.
Dario Franchitti (#50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) started 16th, finished 1st, his third Indianapolis 500 victory, 31st IndyCar victory (all with Honda power) and first win of 2012: “I moved over for Takuma [Sato]. I knew he was coming and I moved up the track. I felt it was a good move, but he got loose underneath me. It was the last lap of the Indianapolis 500 and I didn’t expect him to lift. I think he did everything right up until the point he lost the rear of the car. It kind of reminded me of Emerson [Fittipaldi] and Little Al [Unser, at the 1994 Indianapolis 500] at the end there. This means the world. This is Indianapolis.
I also have to say ‘thank you’ to Honda. I have all of my [IndyCar] wins with them and today showed us all exactly why. They worked incredibly hard throughout the event, and never more so than in the week after qualifying. Honda showed us all today what they can accomplish.”
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) qualified 15th, finished 2nd, led 53 laps: “We had the car to win today. Between the efforts of the team and Honda we had the power, reliability and mileage we needed, but at the end it was Dario’s race. He did a hell of a job today, so I’m super happy for him, but super gutted for myself. Still, it couldn’t be a better day, a 1-2 finish for the Target Chip Ganassi team at the Indianapolis 500.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s Honda victory in the Indianapolis 500: “This is why we go racing. To be able to participate in such a competitive race is one of the most amazing things in my career with Honda. It was an exciting day, and a great race for the fans – but pretty stressful for the participants! Any of several Honda drivers would have been a deserving winner today, but somehow it seemed destined that this was Dario’s day. He drove a fantastic race, never giving up after getting hit during his first pit stop. It was an inspiring drive, and an incredible race, that had all of us riveted throughout. My congratulations to all our associates at Honda Performance Development, who worked so hard to make this victory a reality. What a great day.”