Another Last Lap Thriller

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There were many, myself included, that followed the school of thought that this year’s race would fall short of the excitement generated by Dan Wheldon’s improbable victory. While it certainly wasn’t as much of a stretch for Chip Ganassi Racing to win the Indianapolis 500 as it was for Bryan Herta Autosport – this race did not lack for drama. There was the excitemnt of the last thirty laps where it seemed that anyone could win. There was also plenty of heartbreak. Ed Carpenter spun while charging to the front in the late going. Then, there was Takuma Sato’s last-lap crash while going for the lead – essentially handing the win to Dario Franchitti.

But Franchitti did not back into this win – quite the contrary. He earned this win. After spinning in the pits on Lap Fifteen, the Nashville area resident rejoined the field at the back of the pack. The Honda engine was strong today and Franchitti started picking off cars immediately. I kept seeing car No. 50 consistently climb the scoring pylon. Soon, it was Dario and Dixon up front. This was not a clever pit strategy – Dario was at the rear of the field and passed cars in earnest and worked his way up. This was no fluke.

I used to be a Franchitti fan when he ran in CART and during his Andretti-Green days, but when he crossed over to the evil empire of Chip Ganassi Racing and grew his hair – I’ve found it hard to cheer for him. But I can certainly appreciiate his greatness. In his last five 500’s, Franchitti has won three times. He has also won the series championship every year he has driven in the series since 2007. We are witnessing greatness.

Which brings me to my next point. I have been coming to this track for a long time – a very long time. Since 1965, I’ve seen more races than I care to count – even though I had a twenty year span where I saw no races here. In all that time, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard an Indianapolis 500 winner booed as he took the checkered flag – until today, that is. Franchitti was not my first choice to win the race, but as he crossed the line under yellow to clinch his third victory here – I applauded and cheered as more of a salute. I was one of the few. My section in the Pit Road Terrace was filled with boo-birds, who booed mightily as Dario drove past our section waving his fist in celebration. It seemed that it was the same across the track in Stand A.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I never once thought about booing Franchitti or any other winner that I wasn’t a fan of. Emerson Fittipaldi received plenty of boos when he initially refused to drink the milk in 1993, but that was a different situation. Fans felt he was being disrespectful to the traditions of the Indianapolis 500. Dario Franchitti has embraced this place and respected all of the traditions of the race we cherish. He is a world class driver and I was more than just a little disturbed to see a three-time winner booed for doing his job. As I type, I’ve just had it suggested to me that the replays show Dario drove Takuma Sato in to the grass. I just saw the replay and I don’t think so. Maybe that was the reason for the boos, but I still think it was uncalled for. At least he wasn’t pelted with beer cans like he would have been at a NASCAR race.

My pick for the race, and the one I was personally pulling for, was Tony Kanaan. He gave the place a thrill as he went from fifth to first on a re-start on Lap 187. It wouldn’t last, though. Marco Andretti brushed the wall, bringing out another caution. I told the crew I was sitting with that  would feel more comfortable with Kanaan in second, rather than leading. As it turned out, I was right. Franchitti blew past him on the next restart. He ultimately finished third, but received probably the biggest ovation of the day when he took the lead. This wasn’t his best chance to win this race, but his opportunities are running out. I’m hoping that Tony Kanaan will not retire as a member of the Lloyd Ruby club. I’m hoping that he will eventually win one of these things.

The heat and four hours sleep is starting to catch up with me, and I’ve got a ways to go to get to our hotel, so I will wrap this up for now. Chances are, this will more than likely be my last post of the day. I’m going to go back and watch some of the replay on Channel 6, but I’ll probably fall asleep rather quickly. It will be tomorrow before I watch the DVR to see what i saw. I may or may not have something here tomorrow, but I will have a recap and final thoughts either Monday or Tuesday. Then I’ll take a sabbatical for a week or more as I go on my honeymoon. But count on one more post regarding the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500. Thanks for checking in all day. it was a heck of a race.

George Phillips

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26 Responses to “Another Last Lap Thriller”

  1. Susan & George – Thank you both for keeping us current on ll the happenings at INDY.

    Enjoy your air conditioned room !

  2. great race. lots of passing. target cars seemed to have a bit more than anyone else. sato might have won if he’d been a little more patient, not sure if Dario squeezed him out or not.

    noticed the drivers didn’t want double-wide restarts so they decided to have quadruple-wide fubar re-starts instead.

  3. Sorry, was one of those jerks in A stand booing. He earned the win, like you said, but I still felt he put Sato into the grass to do it. After listening to Dario whine incessantly these past few years.

    There’s a reason the crowd roared when TK took the lead. He a class act, and once again was incredibly gracious in defeat.

    • I was booing (well, at work trying to watch the race on our tiny TV).

      At the beginning of the race, my coworker asked “who do you want to win” and I swear to God I replied “Anybody but Franchitti”

  4. Ron Ford Says:

    I don’t believe anyone can justify booing Dario for his win. I suppose he could have gone a bit higher up the track like Hildebarnd did last year.

  5. I thought I heard booing on the ABC broadcast, hoping it wasn’t true. Too bad. Sato rushed things and made the move at the wrong time and payed for it pretty much on his own. Not a big fan of Dario but he deserved the milk. Great race, thought the cars (and the drivers) performed well with a minimum of incidents.

  6. I was a fan that booed Dario. I was NOT trying to be disrespectful. While i am not a Dario fan, and i think Ganassi domination is bad for the sport we love. The reason i and alot of other fans booed had nothing to this. The reason we booed was simply because it was VERY CLEAR that Dario pinched Sato all the way down below the white line. Very similer to what he did to Josef Newgarden at Long Beach. Dario and Dan where friends. However, Dan always raced clean. I can’t say the same for Dario. This is my opinion. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. Moreover, Honda pulled the rug over on the indycar series. Perhaps this was the reason for Chevy’s appeal of the appeal during turbogate. Each of you have the right to your opinion, and i have the right to mine on Memorial Day weekend.

  7. JHall14 Says:

    Hats off to Ed Carpenter and Oriol Servia on those last 30 laps.Servia actually had me thinking that Schekter was driving that 22 machine, running the high line and making passes running through turn 3 side by side. The last 30 laps was as good a theatre of racing. It had everything. Great race by all, feel proud INDYCAR, that was quite a show.

  8. Randy Holbrook Says:

    I watched from the comfort of my home and enjoyed the race immensely. You could hear the boos on the broadcast and I was really surprised by that. I was rooting all day for a first timer to win – especially Hinchcliffe, but Dario deserved the win. Sato had a tremendous drive but as I watched and re-watched the last lap several times, it looked like he had just a brief moment of indecision before deciding to go for the pass when he did. Dario didn’t give him a ton of room but why should he? It was for the win in the Indy 500. In my opinion, he did leave him enough room though and never came down on him. Sato spun on his own and I was amazed that Dario was able to save his car after going up into the gray. I like Dario as a driver but he would be easier to pull for without the Hollywood wife. He is a class act though and a great champion who I think with this win has reached legendary status. Congratulations Dario.

  9. Ron Ford Says:

    I thought the pre-race hour by ABC was really well done.

  10. billytheskink Says:

    Sato started his pass way too late going into turn 1. Regardless of what Dario did, Sato was going to spin or at least drift way high going into the short chute. Dario driving a “defensive” line probably kept him from getting collected in the wreck, though that probably wasn’t his intent in making the move. Of course, had Sato been able to make the move earlier on the front straight he would have probably made a clean pass. Passing going into turns 1 and 3 at Indy these days is so often a matter of getting the inside line next to a guy before the end of the straight, forcing him to either stay outside of you or tuck behind you. Had Sato been along side Dario, Dario has no defensive line to take. Taku probably would have been able to pull this move off going into 3, the way these new cars were racing.

    Dario was about as likable as he’s been in years in victory lane, showing a lot of genuine emotion, but I can’t say I’m shocked that he was booed. The appearance of wrecking a possible first-time winner and passing far-and-away the most popular driver in the field (Kanaan) late will do that.

    Had I been at the race, though, I probably would have booed when (I swear I overheard this on the ABC broadcast) Dave Calabro congtaulated Ashley Judd on the victory while she mugged for the cameras and race fans like a loon. Perhaps her emotion is genuine, but it comes across as eye-rollingly ridiculous and seeing it once again is quite tiresome.

  11. I’ve now watched the Lap 200 incident probably 15 times, and I have no idea what the people who claim Dario stuffed Taku into the grass are seeing. On the front straight, Dario made his defensive, allowed by the rules at the behest of the drivers and universally beloved this season, one move toward the pit wall before Taku moved toward the inside (because if Taku had moved first, we would have sen his left front wheel pop out from behind Dario’s car…didn’t happen). However, at all times, Dario left an entire lane to his left, which is what Taku found his way into. So, no foul there (because Dario did not commit one). Then, if you watch very, very carefully, after they both turn into Turn 1 (and it’s best to watch the slo-mo replay to see this best), Dario leaves Taku a carwidth plus maybe 8-12 inches of room between himself and the white line through the duration of the corner (and in fact, about a third of the way through the corner, Dario moves UP the track, because he feared Taku was going to spin; Dario was completely in the grey by about the apex of the corner…this is not the action of somebody who is trying to drive somebody else off the track). Hard? Yes. Fair? Absolutely. This is the last lap of the Indy 500, folks. This is not time for “after you, Pierre, have my position, good chap. Bloody good time today, what, what?” What exactly was Dario supposed to do, pull over? Chuck his own car into the wall in avoidance?

    Dario gave Taku juuuuusssst enough room that if Taku had perfectly judged the pass that Taku could have pulled it off (to my eye, this is exactly what happened with Josef at Long Beach, with Josef running just a few inches too tight into the corner and Dario a few inches too wide, resulting in the minor contact that resulted in Josef nudging the wall…that is not a “spear”, folks, that is a “racing incident”). Unfortunately for Taku, that spot on the track had been tricky all day, since we had seen a couple of incidents there already (including Marco Andretti, who’d pounded the same spot on the Turn 1 wall just a couple dozen laps earlier). When people try these high risk/high reward actions, they don’t always come off happily. And when that happens, it is not always the fault of the survivor of the incident.

    As for the booing by the crowd, I was pretty disgusted by that as well, especially the round that took place during the lap in the convertible with Susie Wheldon. Sad to say, but society seems to be devolving into a mindset of “I didn’t love what just happened! Instead of swallowing my emotion and showing some class, my voice has to be heard! I must be pleased at all times!”

    Sorry for the book, George, but it ticks me off to have the post-race marred by reactions to something that did not happen. Hope you and yours had as great a time at the track as I and mine did.

    • RunGirl Says:

      The Speedgeek – I completely agree with your comments!
      I found the booing to be completely disrespectful to the race and Dario. Whether you were rooting for him or not (or like him or not), he deserves respect as the winner! He has a true passion and respect for the Indy 500 and open-wheel racing…which is more than I can say for some of the younger drivers.
      He got dropped back to 28th place due to a spin in the pits and methodically worked his way back up to the front and the win. I found his drive to be smart, patient and fun to watch….it is similar to what he did in Brazil. He never lost his cool or panicked (like a certain Andretti)…he simply drove his A$$ off.
      I have a strong suspicion that if the incident had been between Sato/Dixon or Sato/Kanaan, everyone would be calling Sato a bonehead and applauding the winner for holding his line. For whatever reason a lot of Indycar fans do not like Dario and will fault him for anything he does or says. But none of the reasons justify booing him….you don’t have to cheer for him but at least give him the respect his accomplishments deserve.
      As for the incident – this was the last lap of the Indy 500 and both drivers were racing hard. Dario did exactly as he should of…left a car width and an inch for the passing car….this is what the drivers were instructed by race control. Sato made an ill-timed pass and could not make it stick. There was no reason for Dario to give Sato anymore room then he did…unless he wanted to end up in the wall. We saw incidents in that corner all race where the driver took the low line and ended up spinning and this was no different. It is interesting to note that Sato had been cautioned by Bobby Rahal all race to be more patient & stop making such risky moves. He told Sato to be more thinking on his passes….
      So I will say….Congratulation to Dario! It was a great win for a deserving driver!

  12. hadrianmarcus Says:

    It was a great race. More of a feeling of parity amongst the have and have-nots…at least than in the past. Sato has impressed me under Rahal’s command. I thought Hinchcliffe and Conway (until his wreck) were impressive as well. As for Dario, I was a big fan for many years…but I have to admit in the closing laps, I would have preferred Kanann or Sato or even Dixon to his winning again. In the end, I admired Sato for more how he lost the race…than Dario in the manner he won it.

  13. RaceClean Says:

    Last time I read you George!
    Dirty Dario was booed by the crowd because he pushed Taco too low, just like he stuffed Josef into the wall. If you can’t win fair, then you don’t deserve to win. Jim Clark never raced like that. Dario doesn’t deserve to compare himself to his hero.

  14. I’m utterly flabbergasted by the booing. Utterly. Dario’s an excellent driver, he’s been completely appreciative and respectful of the Indianapolis 500 traditions, he doesn’t act like a jerk in interviews, he doesn’t march down pit lane to lecture other drivers, let alone *shove* them, he doesn’t beclown himself with off-track behaviors, he doesn’t come off as arrogant, he speaks respectfully of other drivers… and he’s hated? For real? He gets booed for **winning**??

    Flabbergasted.

    Kurt Busch acts like a jacknut in NASCAR and gets defenders coming out of the woodwork. Paul Tracey intentionally crowded other drivers, famously wrecked Bobby Rahal in a race that Rahal was on the way to winning, *INTENTIONALLY* took out Alex Tagliani in another race, has gotten into multiple physical confrontations with Tags, Bourdais, etc, and acted so disrespectfully to Roger Penske that people felt The Captain, of all people, was the abused one in the relationship. But PT, too, will have defenders rise up and go to bat for him. As well as say that Indycar is better with him than without (heck, even *I’ve* said this. I’ve said it because he’s not devoid of good qualities, he wins, and he draws fans, but certainly NOT because I think he’s the model of how an Indycar driver should act… and no, I haven’t thought about booing him either).

    So what’s the secret to Dario becoming liked? Act like a jacka**?

    I’ve never seen Dario conduct himself in anything other than a completely, totally 100% laudable manner, showing near hero-worship respect for Jim Clark’s car that one year, never being confrontational with other drivers, and sure as hell never getting into a shoving match or other sort of altercation. He should be the epitome of how a driver comports himself in Indycar.

    I just don’t understand the hate. And I’m so terribly disappointed in the booing. I know people are thinking that it’s showing disapproval at a top team being so domineering – heck, that was said *here*, in these comments – but to me, it’s self indulgence at the expense of being respectful to not just an Indianapolis 500 winner, but to the race that driver represents, and the traditions behind the race.

    Yes, I don’t get the booing. Nor do I understand the dislike. I just wish that judgement would follow cause. To me, it all just feels irrational.

    • Yes, I confess, in the heat of the moment, when he crossed the line I booed. However, once the emotion of the moment passed, I felt remorse for doing it. And I never, ever considered booing during the victory lane celebration, or the pace car parade lap. I guess the passions that the race elicited probably made a lot of us boo as he crossed the line to take the checkered flag. I felt the same way I feel when I see Tom Brady pull of another victory with a 2 minute drill. Am I happy he won? No. Do I curse the TV? Yes. Do I “hate” Brady. No, not in any real sense of the word “hate”.

      I think the same goes for Dario. He is disliked by many for his success since he drives for a dominant team. He is disliked because Ashley rubs a lot of people the wrong way. He is disliked because, even though he may not be a jack@ss, he has recently developed a reputation as a racer who races “dirty”. (Long Beach, Toronto last year, and then the turn 4 incident.). He is disliked because to many of us, his post race comments over the years have taken on the tone of a whiner who places blame on anyone but himself. (hence the nickname “Princess Dario”)

      So while I may not “like” Dario, or have wanted him to win, I still tip my hat to his drive. It was a hell of a charge to the front after getting spun in the pits early on by Viso. He deserved the win, and yes I admit, he did not deserve the boo’s. For that I am sorry.

      I’m sure a lot of us who booed feel this way. I know, it doesn’t make our actions right, but I just wanted to explain why we did it in the heat of the moment.

      • RunGirl Says:

        When I think of a “dirty” driver, I think of someone who intentionally causes incidents or tries to take out fellow competitors. I have not seen either one of those behaviors from Dario. He may be overly ambitious in some of his pass attempts or a bit aggressive in his driving…but I have never witnessed anything during a race that would suggest he made any of those moves with malice.
        I think it is interesting to note that prior to Toronto last year, Will Power praised Dario for “always racing him clean…aggressively but fair”. It was not until the contact at Toronto when Will, right out of the med ctr and pretty upset, claimed Dario always raced him dirty. It is also worth noting that it was a claim that Will never made again.
        As for the whining claim, I have not seen a single driver who has not whined at one time or another during the season. I do not think Dario whines any more frequently than anyone else. He is passionate about what he does and last season had a lot of ups and down….that can be very stressful and cause people to not always express themselves in the best way. I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a bad day or a stressful moment.
        I think it should be pointed out that Dario has had a lot of moments where you would expect someone to whine/complain and he does not. When his 2012 season started so badly, he never whined about it or blamed his crew, he said “we” have to make improvements and stayed positive. Unfortunately people only want to focus on the things they perceive as negative…and not give him credit for the positive things he does.

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    • Phillip Says:

      Great comments! I also thought that I heard boos after Dario crossed the finish line. I would have loved to see Sato and Dario come down to the last turn and straightaway and see a drag race to the finish! I feel that he didnt race Sato clean but that is my opinion and I could be totally wrong. His wining and his wife have been a pain to listen to for years!

  16. If there was anything to boo it was the fact that we were going to be subjected to Dario’s insufferable wife once again. I could go the rest of my life without laying eyes on that woman or hearing another word from her mouth and it would be fine with me. There’s that insufferable car owner of his too. I suppose one could be excused for booing Chippy as well.

    Sure, maybe he ran Sato down low, but it’s the last lap of the Indy 500 and ANY ONE OF US would have done the same thing. Very hard to blame him for that, even if he did it on purpose. And give Sato credit for having guts.

    • John S. Says:

      I agree wholeheartedly on the wife comments. Geez, how I dislike that woman and her attitude!

      My gripe with Dario is that he seems to lead a charmed life. He rarely seems to be the innocent victim. Compare him to Power. Again, Power is driving around the track in 6th position or so, and Conway bounces off the wall and takes him out. Or, the race last year where Ana pulled out of her pit and slammed into the side of his car. Or, the race where Dario cut inside and spun Will, and continued on his merry way. Why don’t these things happen to Dario? How can a guy be that lucky???

  17. I was there ans thought that Dario didn’t leave Sato enough room….when I got home, I watched the replay….and saw something even worse. Dario moved twice….he moved over to block the inside line (fair), then he moved up the track to block the outside (this is called blocking), this forced Sato to try the inside line again…later than he would have liked, but it was his last chance to pass (turn 4 would have not given him enough track to tow and pass before start finish). Then as Sato pulled alongside him (he got about a foot away from being completely even) Franchitti moved back to the left…more than he had to to make the turn (we watched him up high in turn 1 all day) and forced Sato onto the white line. I like Dario….don’t have a problem with him winning or what he says off the track….but this was dirty racing on his part. Not cool at all….and should not be ignored by the stewards. Sato’s car was strongest at the end….the amazing pass he pulled on Dixon the lap earlier proved it. He would have won…he should have won….and again the Stewards are showing their bias and lack of control of these races (just like last years win…which was clearly a mistake on their part to allow lapped cars to be released from the pits on the final lap).

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