INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ It was a race with the weather. Which would
come first, the rain or the end of the Indy 500.
Dario Franchitti gambled on the rain and won Sunday, another
bittersweet day for the Andretti family at America's richest race.
The Scotsman, one of five Andretti Green Racing drivers in the
field,inherited the lead by staying on the track when the leaders
pitted for fuel for a final dash to the finish and then drove
slowly to the checkered flag in a downpour when the race was
stopped 10 laps later after 415 of the scheduled 500 miles.
The race was interrupted by rain for three hours shortly after
the midway point, and Franchitti won it under a caution light
brought out when teammate Marco Andretti crashed three laps from
the abbreviated end.
Franchitti's teammate and best friend, Tony Kanaan appeared in
control when rain poured down the first time, just four laps after
he took the lead with a pass on Andretti.
Andretti, who lost this race last year as a rookie when Sam
Hornish Jr. passed him on the final straightaway, had slipped into
the pack and was trying hard to move back into contention when he
tried to make a pass in traffic and came together with 2005 Indy
winner Dan Wheldon on the back straightaway.
Andretti's car veered hard into the outside wall, slid back
across the track in traffic and flipped on its top after it hit the
infield grass. It finally came to rest on its wheels and the
20-year-old Andretti was able to climb out uninjured.
``I'm one lucky guy," Marco said. ``I'm so proud of Dario
Franchitti made a victorious lap of the 2.5-mile oval in the
heavy rain as actress wife Ashley Judd, soaking wet in a summer
dress, climbed the pit wall and dashed toward the victory
Once Franchitti got out of his car, he was mobbed, hugged and
kissed by Kanaan, his best friend, and his other two teammates,
Danica Patrick and Michael Andretti.
``It hasn't sunk in right now," Franchitti said. ``To be a
member of this club is fantastic. I kind of have half of an idea of
what it means to win this race. I'm so happy."
The Andrettis haven't had much luck at Indy since Mario
Andretti, Marco's grandfather and Michael's father, won in 1969.
But this was Andretti Green Racing's second victory in three years.
Scott Dixon was second, followed by Helio Castroneves and Sam
Hornish Jr. Then came Ryan Briscoe, Scott Sharp, Tomas Scheckter
Franchitti was fifth when the red flag came out on lap 113 and
fell all the way to 14th after a pit stop following the restart.
``We cut a tire on debris and we had to make the pit stop,"
Franchitti said. ``I can't believe it. It's the Indy 500."
After he came out of the pits, Franchitti had a very fast car.
He began to move through traffic under the green flag, getting to
seventh on lap 131, just before the leaders began making green flag
Franchitti regained the lead on lap 137 when Kanaan and Patrick
pitted and stayed out front until he pitted on lap 143. At that
point, Kanaan got back out front and appeared heading for the
victory he thought he had when the first rainstorm hit.
But after Marty Roth crashed on lap 151, bringing out another
yellow flag _ and even knowing rain was moving closer _ Kanaan,
Hornish and the other leaders chose to pit for fuel and tires.
``That's the Indianapolis 500," said Castroneveds, a two-time
Indy winner. ``You bet it all. Dario took a gamble. He'll be happy
with the result and the paycheck."
Any chance Kanaan had to win evaporated on lap 157 when Jaques
Lazier crashed in front of him and Kanaan spun, barely avoiding the
inside barrier near the pit entrance. He rolled into the pits with
a flat tire and was later penalized when his crew changed all four
tires in a closed pit, instead of just the one that was flat. He
wound up 12th, just ahead of team co-owner Michael Andretti.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)