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Franchitti wins third Indy 500 in thrilling fashion

Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - Dario Franchitti placed himself in elite company by winning the Indianapolis 500 for the third time.

But Franchitti's victory in Sunday's 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was indeed a difficult task and an emotional one as well.

With air temperatures reaching in the mid-90s, Franchitti overcame adversity by not only starting 16th in his Honda-powered Target Chip Ganassi Racing car but enduring a pit-road mishap that occurred early in the race.

During the first round of pit stops under caution, E.J. Viso bumped into the back of Franchitti and turned him around in his pit stall. The Scotsman fell back to 28th in the field.

Franchitti, though, patiently made his way to the front and grabbed the lead for the first time with 47 laps remaining.

In a race that featured a record 34 lead changes among 10 drivers, the final 50 laps featured numerous lead swaps among Franchitti and his teammate, Scott Dixon, as well as Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato.

The previous record for most lead changes in the Indy 500 was 29, set in 1960.

Franchitti grabbed the lead for good with less than two laps to go. On the final circuit around the famed 2.5-mile oval, Franchitti and Sato -- who moved ahead of Dixon the lap prior -- made contact, with Sato slamming into the outside wall in turn one.

The race ended under caution, with Franchitti driving across the finish line ahead of Dixon for his third Indy 500 win in six years. Franchitti, the four- time IZOD IndyCar Series champion, also won this race in 2007 and '10. He has captured the series title the past three years.

Franchitti dedicated his victory to the late Dan Wheldon, who won the Indy 500 last year after taking the lead from then-rookie J.R. Hildebrand when Hildebrand crashed coming out of the final turn on the last lap.

Wheldon lost his life during a multi-car crash that occurred in the early going of the October 16 season-finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"Thank you to all the fans for saluting our buddy, Dan, today," an emotional Franchitti said in Indy's Winner Circle. "What a race. I think DW would be proud of that one."

While hoisting the famed Borg-Warner Trophy in Winner's Circle, Franchitti donned a pair of white cardboard sunglasses in tribute to his longtime friend, former teammate and two-time Indy 500 winner.

"Now my face on the Borg-Warner Trophy will be on either side of Dan's," Franchitti added.

Car owner Bryan Herta drove Wheldon's 2011 Indy 500-winning car one lap around the racetrack during a pre-race tribute.

Franchitti, who led a total of 23 laps, became the 10th different driver to win the Indy 500 three or more times. Louis Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser and Helio Castroneves have also won it three times each, while A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears hold the record for four Indy 500 victories apiece.

Franchitti's first two Indy 500 wins also ended under caution.

"On that last lap, running side-by-side with Takuma, I went down and then moved up to give him the room, but we hit, and I managed to keep it out of trouble," he said.

Sato, who was attempting to become the first Japanese driver to win the Indy 500, wound up finishing 17th.

"I was going for the win," said Sato, who led a total of 31 laps in his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car. "On that very last lap, I had a good tow from Dario. I was trying to get into the inside in turn one, but it looked like [Franchitti] didn't give me enough room to go there. I was just a little bit below the white line. I'm very disappointed."

Dixon's second-place run allowed Chip Ganassi to become the seventh different team owner to snag a 1-2 finish in the Indy 500. Dixon started 15th and led 53 laps.

"Credit to Dario," he said. "He had a bad start to the day and came through the field. It's a 1-2 finish for Target on their 50th anniversary. You couldn't have it a better way."

Last weekend, it looked as though Ganassi and all other teams utilizing Honda engines would struggle in this race after disappointing qualifying runs. Honda only had one driver (rookie Josef Newgarden) starting in the top 10. Chevrolet occupied the nine other starting positions.

"I think [Honda] have been working hard, and mileage to start the month was pretty high," Dixon noted. "They worked hard on the race engine and fuel mileage, and I think fuel mileage was the biggest part today. We definitely had the Chevys covered."

Kanaan was the highest-finishing driver with a third-place run.

"To lose the race this way, battling until the end, it's not a loss." said Kanaan, who made his 11th start in the Indy 500. "What a great race to honor Dan Wheldon today."

Oriol Servia and Ryan Briscoe, the pole sitter, rounded out the top five.

James Hinchcliffe, Justin Wilson, Charlie Kimball, Townsend Bell and Castroneves finished sixth through 10th, respectively. Former Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello placed 11th in his first Indy 500 start.

"It was a great achievement today," Barrichello said. "My first oval experience was very different than anything I've done."

Will Power's bid for a fourth consecutive win in the IZOD IndyCar Series came to an end when he was involved in a multi-car crash just prior to the halfway point.

Mike Conway lost control and made hard contact with the wall in turn one, causing his car to flip around. Power, who entered the Indy 500 with a 45- point lead in the championship standings, slammed into Conway while trying to avoid the incident. Both drivers climbed out of their battered cars unscathed.

"[Conway] said the team sent him out with a broken wing," Power said. "I don't understand why they would do that. I'm fine, but I'm just disappointed."

Castroneves barely escaped from a bouncing tire hitting him as he drove past the crash site.

Despite a 28th-place finish, Power left Indianapolis with a 36-point lead over Castroneves and Hinchcliffe. Franchitti's win allowed him to move up to fifth in the standings (-64).

Prior to the incident, Conway had to serve a drive-through penalty for hitting two of his crew members while entering the pit stall. There were no injuries.

"My mistake coming into the pits," Conway said. "I came in a bit too hard and collected some of my guys, and that screwed up the front wing, and we didn't realize it until I got out."

Power had won on the road/street courses at Birmingham, Long Beach and Brazil prior to Indianapolis.

Marco Andretti dominated in the first half by leading a race-high 59 laps, but Andretti fell off the pace from there before crashing into the wall with 13 laps to go. He finished 24th.

"[Oriol] Servia decided to run two-wide at Indianapolis for two consecutive laps and makes me turn in from the white line," Andretti said. "I had no hope of making that corner, because not only am I turning in from the white line, he just crossed my bow, so I was completely out of it. Nothing I can do. I'm disappointed. I definitely rang my bell."

In the opening laps of the race, IndyCar officials ordered Simona de Silvestro and rookie Jean Alesi to pit since their Lotus-powered cars were outside of 105 percent of the leader's speed. HVM Racing (de Silvestro) and FP Journe (Alesi) are the only teams currently using Lotus, which entered the series as an engine manufacturer this season.

05/27 19:43:01 ET


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