INDIANAPOLIS — Nothing could stop Dario Franchitti Sunday.
Not even a low fuel tank.
Pit strategy came into play late in the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 when the leaders were running dry, but a violent last-lap crash involving Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway – who went airborne – sucked all the drama out of the finish.
Franchitti led 155 of 200 laps and held off former teammate Dan Wheldon under yellow to win the race for the second time in his career.
Franchitti had just 1.6 gallons of fuel left.
“This tastes just as good the second time,” said Franchitti, the 2007 winner. “Up until 10 laps to go, I was pretty relaxed. Then all hell broke loose with fuel savings and all.”
Starting from the pole, defending champion Helio Castroneves attempted to become just the fourth four-time winner in the history of the race.
He nearly pulled it off, leading Franchitti by more than five seconds with eight laps to go.
But Castroneves was forced to pit to replenish fuel, and Franchitti grabbed the lead for good on Lap 192. Castroneves – who finished ninth – made his previous pit stop on Lap 150, while Franchitti waited until Lap 163. After the race, winning owner Chip Ganassi stressed the importance of smart pit strategy.
“A lot of guys are kicking themselves because they ended up with more fuel after the race,” Ganassi said. “The worst thing you can do is come in second or third and have fuel left in your tank that you didn’t use.”
The 2005 champion Wheldon finished runner-up for the second consecutive year after starting 18th. Third-place finisher Marco Andretti also emerged from the middle of the pack, as he started the day 16th.
“Second two years in a row is not good,” Wheldon said. “I’ve got to make sure I improve that one more spot next year. We came up a little short but it was still a fantastic result.”
Alex Lloyd and Franchitti’s teammate Scott Dixon rounded out the top five. Tony Kanaan, who slided into the 33rd starting spot after a dramatic day of qualifying, ran as high as second and finished 11th. Fuel was also major factor for Kanaan, who trailed Franchitti by just .3858 of a second with five laps to go but had to stop to refill on the next lap.
Kanaan was attempting to become the race’s first driver to start last and finish first.
“We took a gamble,” Kanaan said. “It could have gone the other way. We could have gotten the lead and won the race, and we could brag about it for the rest of my life. I hope I made it exciting out there.”
Franchitti’s win was the 14th of his seven years in the IndyCar Series. The victory also made Ganassi the first owner ever to win both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Daytona 500 in the same year.