By Steve Pouliot - 29 May 2012:
Dario Franchitti put his name on a very exclusive list of Indycar legends Sunday. His win in the Memorial Day classic, his third, puts him in some very elite company. Franchitti and team mate Scott Dixon swapped the lead three times in the final five laps before Franchitti and Takuma Sato passed Dixon at lap 199. Sato attempted to get by Franchitti in turn one on the final lap, diving to the inside of the Target DW12 machine of Franchitti. Sato was not able to hold his line, touching Franchitti and wrecking his own machine, as Franchitti was able to hold on and earn the victory.
"I moved over, and I saw he was coming. I came back over, and I moved up the track. He got loose underneath me. Kind of reminds me of Emerson (Fittipaldi) and Little Al (Unser) at the end there. This means the world. This is Indianapolis. To be on this trophy on either side of Dan, that means more than anything. The last week I've been studying my buddy JR's book, Johnny Rutherford gave me his book with a wonderful inscription, and he said he hoped to welcome me to the three-time club. To be in the company of guys like that means so much. What a great race today, to be able to come from the back of the grid after being in the pit lane and being spun." Franchitti said post race.
On the very last lap, I had a good tow from Dario. I thought I had the job done. But he kept pushing and didn't give me enough room, so that I was well below the white line. But an outstanding job by the team. It was a very exciting race." Sato said, speaking of his view of Franchitti's ability to hold him off.
It goes without saying, the loss Dan Wheldon still casts a big shadow over the series.
"It's pretty crazy how it all lines up. Dan still owes me one, I think. Dario did a fantastic job. All of us wish Dan was still here racing with us. He's a hell of a guy and left a big void and hole in all of our lives. I hope we put on a good race for the fans, and I'm sure he's smiling down on us." Scott Dixon said post race.
One of the many poignant moments
happened when Dan Wheldon's wife Susie Wheldon came into Vicotry Lane, and then joined Franchitti and his wife Ashley Judd on the victory lap. "Suze came over to say, Well done. Got to have a wee chat. I tell you what, she's a stronger person than I am to come here. She knows better than anybody how much Dan loved Indy and how much Indy loved Dan. But to be here, go through all those emotions..." Franchitti said.
He continued "When we saw her, it would be cool for Suze to come. Last year, my favorite memory of the race last year was Dan was going out of the on his parade lap afterwards. I had this crazy notion in my head I was going to carjack him. I'm standing in pit lane, I'm disappointed, but at the same time I'm happy for my friend. I see him coming towards me. This is going to be good. I see his face. He was just sobbing. It meant so much to him. Everything that had happened to him with not having a regular drive, all the stuff with his mum, Alzheimer's. I couldn't do it. I just gave him a big hug and told him how proud I was of him. It meant a lot that Suze was able to come around with us today."
Franchitti's name now resides in a pantheon of the open wheel elite at Indianapolis. Franchitti joins Louis Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser, and Helio Castroneves as three time winners of the Indianapolis 500. AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears each have four wins.
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