Franchitti emotional after Indy 500 win
Dario Franchitti could not split the importance of his three Indy 500 victories, but there was no doubt that today’s was the most emotional.
Sure, he had gone one step closer to being regarded as one of the all time greats with a third race win and he did it by coming from the back of the field after an opening pit stop incident which damaged his front wing.
He also survived a last-lap pass for the lead from Japanese driver Takuma Sato who spun into the fence and brought out a yellow which would see Franchitti cruise to the line ahead of his team-mate Scott Dixon and good make Tony Kanaan under caution.
There was also the drama of starting the race back in 16th place after a disastrous qualifying result, which had the team working day and night to find answers.
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But the day was all about Dan Wheldon – the Englishman who won his second Indy 500 last year in a low-budgeted one-off-race team before being killed in the final race of the season at Las Vegas in October.
Wheldon was a close friend of all three place finishes – ironically the victory came in the totally new Dallara chassis which carries the name of Wheldon (chassis DW001) who completed the majority of the development testing on the car because he did not have a full-time ride last year.
The promoters of the event provided all 300,000 fans with a pair of signature white Wheldon sunglasses, which they wore on laps 26 and 98 of the race (the two car numbers he carried in his two race wins).
His wife Susie collected the winner’s ring this week in a special ceremony and there was a pre-race video tribute on the track’s big screens.
Franchitti took Susie in the pace car on his celebratory parade lap.
Franchitti took a deep breath as he talked about why he remained in the sport after the death of Wheldon at Las Vegas last October.
“Racing is emotional,” Franchitti told Speedcafe.com
“Vegas was the lowest of the lows, and the reason I got back into the car was for the feeling I have today.
“The reason the mechanics are back in pit lane and the fans are back in the stands is because of days like today.
“There is no feeling like standing in victory lane at Indianapolis – nothing.”
Franchitti said he had a feeling that Wheldon was looking down on the three front runners towards the end of the race.
“It was just like old times with me, TK (Kanaan) and Dixie (Dixon) racing hard at the front,” continued Franchitti.
“I had this feeling that Dan was looking down on us laughing his arse off.”
Franchitti said that Susie had come over to congratulate him and he thought it would be “nice” to have her ride with him in the celebration lap.
“My greatest memory of Dan last year was him in the celebration lap with his family,” said Franchitti.
“I stood in pit lane and was going to crash tackle him as he went past, but then I looked at his face and he was just sobbing – it meant so much to him.
“Susie is a much stronger person than I will ever be and it was nice to have her in the car with us.”
Franchitti now faces a full week of media commitments, which starts in the morning with a photo session at the track before tomorrow night’s traditional banquet downtown.
He then jets off to New York for the Letterman Show and then to Dallas for promotional appearances.