Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - IndyCar Series driver Dario Franchitti suffered multiple injuries when he was involved in a serious accident on the final lap of Sunday's second race at Houston's Reliant Park, which was won by Will Power.
Franchitti, a four-time IndyCar champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, sustained a spinal fracture, a fractured right ankle and a concussion during the incident.
After making contact with Takuma Sato in turn 5, Franchitti's car went airborne and sailed into the catchfence before it landed back onto the track. Debris from the catchfence and his car showered a grandstand full of spectators in that area. E.J. Viso was also caught up in the wreck.
Franchitti remained in his car when safety workers arrived at the scene and tended to him. They pulled the Chip Ganassi Racing driver out of the car and placed him on a stretcher before he was transported by ambulance to nearby Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center.
Two race fans as well as an IndyCar timing and scoring official suffered minor injuries and were taken to the hospital. Eleven other fans were slightly injured but received treatment at the track.
"Following an accident that occurred on-track at the Grand Prix of Houston (Sunday) afternoon, our greatest concern is for our fans and participants," Mi-Jack Promotions, the promoter of the race, IndyCar and Reliant Park said in a joint statement.
Team owner Chip Ganassi arrived at the crash site when Franchitti was taken out of his car. Ganassi said that Franchitti was awake and alert but complained of soreness.
"He's talking," Ganassi said. "His ankle is a little sore, and his back is a little sore. He's going to take a trip to the hospital, but he's OK."
Sato and Viso were not injured in the incident.
"On the last lap, I caught the marbles and brushed the wall and lost momentum," Sato recalled. "A couple of cars passed me as I was offline, and in turn 5, the long right-hander, I got very loose, and Dario and I came together."
Franchitti underwent surgery on his ankle and remained in the hospital overnight. His spinal injury will not require surgery, according to IndyCar medical director Dr. Michael Olinger.
While Power scored his second win of the season and the 20th of his IndyCar career, Scott Dixon grabbed the points lead with his second-place finish. Dixon, the winner of the first race in the weekend doubleheader in Houston on Saturday, holds a 25-point lead over Helio Castroneves, who finished 23rd.
"Another win would have been nice, but a decent weekend and a good turnaround for us in terms of points," said Dixon, who is Franchitti's teammate at Ganassi.
Power led 51 of 90 laps. He overtook Dixon for the top spot following a restart on lap 40.
"I could see (Dixon) was struggling a little bit, having moments everywhere, and the apex at the corner," Power said of his pass on Dixon for the lead in turn 3 on lap 40. "From there, it was just a matter of trying to keep him behind. I was pushing as hard as I could. He was still staying there. At the end there, when I went full, I was able to pull a little gap."
Castroneves started first and Dixon second since qualifying was rained out and the starting field determined by entrant points. Castroneves entered race 2 with an eight-point lead over Dixon. The Team Penske driver ran in front for the first 10 laps before he stalled on the track due to a cracked gearbox. He spent nearly half of the event behind the wall for repairs. Castroneves also had a gearbox problem on Saturday, finishing 18th in race 1.
"Well, obviously this is not how we wanted our weekend to go," a disappointed Castroneves said. "We started the race strong, and then I just couldn't shift the car. To be honest, I'm not sure if we hit something or what. It was a very helpless feeling."
IndyCar will conclude its season on Oct. 19 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. If Dixon finishes fifth or better in Fontana, he will claim his third IndyCar championship, regardless of what Castroneves does. Dixon won the series title in 2003 and '08.
"We've got a lot of work to do, but we've got to go with the mindset of trying to win the race," Dixon said. "If you can do that and be on the top three in the podium, then job accomplished."
Castroneves, who is attempting to win his first IndyCar title, held a 49-point lead prior to Houston. The Brazilian had been the only driver to complete every lap in the first 16 races this year.
"I feel bad for the team, because they've worked so hard to get us in a position to win this championship," Castroneves said. "There is still a lot of racing left. We know we have a strong car for Fontana. We were fast in the test there last week, and we will definitely be going for it."
James Hinchcliffe finished third, followed by Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais.
Simon Pagenaud, Oriol Servia, Charlie Kimball, Mike Conway and Simona De Silvestro completed the top-10. Franchitti was credited with a 15th-place finish.
10/06 23:22:36 ET