My goodness — how do I start to come up with just a few cursory impressions following today’s race? The 96th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing was an absolutely phenomenal one that again left fans in suspense until the very last moment. In the end, Dario Franchitti won his third Indianapolis 500 in dramatic fashion as he battled Takuma Sato until the last lap and Sato’s race ended against the first turn wall.
From the very beginning, the DW12 chassis allowed the field of 33 to put on an incredible show with passing everywhere, high speeds, dramatic movement of drivers throughout the field and several incredible drives from throughout the pack. If there was a question of whether this new package would lead to good racing, those questions were answered within the first handful of laps.
Additionally, while many people had written off the Honda engines, they made qualifying seem like a distant memory with a dominating performance from their Ganassi, Rahal, and even Dale Coyne entries. When the race was on the line, the Chevrolet engines were no match for the long-time INDYCAR stalwart as sentimental favorite Tony Kanaan struggled to keep the leaders within sight.
One aspect that was hair-raising throughout the day was the restarts after every caution period. It appeared that new Race Director Beaux Barfield was adamant about restart acceleration not occurring prior to the exit of turn 4. The much slower restarts led to chaos throughout the bunched-up field and even allowed Tony Kanaan to jump from fifth to first on one restart.
I think the talking point from this race will be the final lap and whether Dario Franchitti cleanly raced Takuma Sato into turn 1 on lap 200. From my view, it appeared that Dario drove Sato into the grass and left him with nowhere to go. My initial thought was that it was very similar to the 198th lap of the 2006 Indianapolis 500, but instead of backing out like Hornish did to fight another lap, Sato pushed the issue and came out the loser. Tough luck, for sure.
And now, the wait until next year’s Indianapolis 500 begins. First, though, we’ll spend the next week or so dissecting this event and all of the remarkable stories coming from today’s incredible race.
Oh, look! After all the hang-wringing over the DW12 and the new engines going into this race (I’ll own up — mine included), the car and the drivers put on one of the best shows in recent memory. Imagine that!
This race had everything – a record number of lead changes, an Andretti in contention (and the rearing of the Curse’s ugly head yet again), an engine battle turned on its head, just enough mechanical attrition to keep everyone on their toes, and a couch-jumping, screaming-at-the-TV finish. The only thing the fan at home was left wanting was more.
ABC’s booth commentators were on NyQuil as usual (though Eddie Cheever being in the booth does help) and they did a poor job of covering just about every live restart, but even they couldn’t detract from what a great event this was. They did a fantastic job of the pre-race show, to be fair, and the tributes to Dan Wheldon throughout the event were done tastefully and in just the right amounts.
One thing specifically I would like to thank INDYCAR for: This race ended under yellow, and it should not have been any other way. If INDYCAR had implemented a green-white-checkered rule when changes were under consideration this off-season, this would have been the Indianapolis 510 or 515 and it would have cheapened the entire event in the name of falsified entertainment. The finish was thrilling just as it was, and Dario Franchitti won the Indianpolis 500 fair and square and has rightfully cemented his place among the legends. I’m eternally grateful that no gimmicky rules will allow that to be called into question.
Well done, INDYCAR. Well done.