IndyCar » 27 May 2012
Indy 500: Dario wins, from back to front
Dario Franchitti joined the select ranks of three-time winners of the Indianapolis 500, with victory in the 2012 race over Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan.
So, who was it who said that the Honda-powered cars had no chance of winning the Indianapolis 500 this year, that it was a battle between Penske and Andretti, and that Ganassi had no chance? Pretty much everybody, actually. Certainly after the respective performances of the teams in qualifying just a week ago.
True, the Carb Day final practice had suggested a bit of a resurgence for Ganassi with Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon topping the time sheets; but it had also suggested that Takuma Sato would be a major factor in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan car as well. And really, how likely was that?
The early laps of the 96th running of the Indy 500 seemed to bear out the prevailing line of thought, with the front row of Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske), James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport) immediately going for a single file into the first corner. Briscoe took the lead, but traded it back and forth with Hinchcliffe in a demonstration of just how hard the lead car was having to work to punch a hole through the air and just how much of a beneficial tow that gave to the pursuers. It was the type of data that everyone was feeding into their memory banks for use later in the day.
There was an early caution for a spin in turn 2 by USAC national drivers' champion Bryan Clauson in the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car on lap 14, but he somehow managed to keep it off the wall and not do anything more serious than flat spot his tyres. Everyone used the three-lap caution as a early chance to come in under caution and sort out the first of doubtless many set-up tweaks of the afternoon, adjusting to the increasingly slippery track conditions as the temperatures spiralled upwards.
For most drivers it was a routine stop, but not for Dario Franchitti: as he neared his pit stall, he suddenly had EJ Viso run into the back of him and spin him around. That not only lost the team a shed load of time as they manhandled the car back into position, it also enforced a front wing change after the nose of the #50 had impacted one of the tyres laid out for the pit stop. Fortunately no more lasting damage was done, but even so it put Franchitti out dead last for the restart. The race director Beaux Barfield reviewed the incident but took no action against either driver for the collision.
Also having problems during the pit stop were Sebastian Saavedra (earning a drive-thru penalty for exceeding the pit lane speeding limit) and Josef Newgarden, whose car was developing a mechanical problem that would plague him right through to lap 161, when it finally did for him altogether and left him parked out on the backstretch infield grass. Oriol Servia's stop went just fine, but he was forced back into pit lane a few laps later for a costly flat tyre, seemingly the result of running over conspicuously beer can-shaped debris on track.
Having watched Briscoe and Hinchcliffe trading places in the opening lap, Marco Andretti was working on a demonstration of a different kind following a wild and far from single file restart on lap 18: how it was possible to break away at the front and maintain the lap for an extended period. Once he took the lead on lap 23, he would stay there untroubled for the next 22 laps through to the first round of green flag pit stops of the race, and then picked up where he left off for another 24 laps once the stops had all cycled through. It was all looking very promising indeed for young Marco at this stage of the day.
After that round of pit stops - incident-free other than a drive-thru for Alex Tagliani caught speeding - Marco was leading Scott Dixon who was looking strong in second place. They were followed by Hinchcliffe, Briscoe and Will Power, so while the appearance of a Ganassi in second place might have been a surprise, it was still looking very positive for the Andretti and Penske teams all the same.
The sixth placed man was also a bit of a surprise, at least to those who hadn't been paying attention to the Carb Day timesheets: it was Takuma Sato, having risen inexorably up from 19th place on the grid. He'd done so to the slight consternation of his car owner Bobby Rahal who was repeatedly advising his man to take his time and not push it. Obviously, Rahal doesn't know his driver all that well yet - Sato isn't known for quiet, calm patience. He's always all-out attack whenever he has the chance, and if you give him a competitive car then he's going to head to the front in as few laps as humanly possible.
Tagged as: James Hinchcliffe , Ganassi , Dario Franchitti , Ryan Briscoe , Indianapolis , Marco Andretti , Scott Dixon , Will Power , Mike Conway , Takuma Sato , Simona de Silvestro , Indianapolis 500 , Jean Alesi , tony kanaan
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