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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Franchitti Dominates 94th Indianapolis 500

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On a day when the temperatures soared and made it uncomfortable for those in attendance, Dario Franchitti made life for his fellow competitors even worse, as he took the lead on the first lap and was virtually unchallenged all day as he cruised to his second 500 victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Franchitti wasted little time separating himself from the pack and ran out in front in clean air for an amazing 155 of 200 laps. He would surrender the lead only on pit stops, and each time after receiving flawless service in the pits from his crew, he would simply take the Team Target Ganassi car back to the front in a manner that was both effortless and, in reality, boring.

While there would be other great runs on the day from a number of drivers attempting to stay in Franchitti’s mirror, they were all simply vying to be the runner up, as the 37-year-old native of Scotland was just too strong and proved to be unbeatable.

“I am just about speechless,” said the affable winner in Victory Lane when asked about his emotions in winning the crown jewel of the Indy Car Series. “The car was indeed quick and the set up was nearly perfect.”

While fuel strategy played a part, (when doesn’t it in Indy car?) the winner set a torrid pace throughout the day and was virtually running qualification speeds in the race with little effort.

Combine that with a soaring track temperature, and you must marvel at just how dominant of a performance this was and how it really provides more spotlight on the difference in the contenders and pretenders in the Indy Car Series.

Team Penske, always the team to beat at Indy, had an unusual day which featured poor pit stops, a botched fuel strategy, as well as an on course collision, and their three cars never presented the challenge to Franchitti that he undoubtedly expected. Afterwards, Roger Penske was stoic about their day, but still offered congratulatory remarks to Team Target and the winner.

“We simply made too many mistakes to win at a place such as Indianapolis,” offered the man who has won the 500 a remarkable 15 times as a car owner. “While I am not sure we had anything for Dari today, we certainly hurt ourselves.”

Former Team Target Ganassi driver Dan Wheldon, now driving the Panther Racing entry, was runner up to Franchitti and it marked the second year in a row that the 2005 winner has been the bridesmaid. Marco Andretti capped a off a strong run with a third place finish, while Alex Lloyd of Dale Coyne Racing and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon of Team Target rounded out the top five. Other notables included Danica Patrick in sixth and Tony Kanaan in 11th.

Notes: Last week, I mentioned that I thought Jack Nicholson was in no condition to climb the ladder to the starters stand and even offered to do it myself. Not saying I told you so, but a pneumatic lift was brought in to assist the legendary actor, who seemed to be having a blast on race day. Donning a silk shirt and a Los Angeles Lakers cap, Nicholson waved to the crowd and even blew a kiss to Actress Ashley Judd as she accompanied her husband, Franchitti, onto the grid before the race.

By the way, who says you cannot have it all, Mr. Franchitti? You pick up $2.7 million for winning the 500 and you are married to a Hollywood actress. You are indeed the man and I salute you.

The total purse for the 2010 Indianapolis 500 exceeded $13.5 million with second place paying just over one million and the last place driver taking home just over $250,000.

(And I thought sport writing paid well. Wow.)

Simona de Silvestro finshed 14th and in the process won the Rookie of the Year Award, which paid $25,000 and a trophy.

This well-spoken and confident lady spoke of returning next year and winning the race in a manner that was indeed quite refreshing. Nice to see such bravado on display.

Team Target owner Chip Ganassi became the first owner to win both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 in the same year.

Mike Conway of Dreyer and Reinbold Racing suffered a fractured leg and three broken vertebrae in his back after a horrific crash on the last lap of the race. His car was estimated to be traveling at 220 mph when he clipped Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had ran out of fuel trying to finish. Conway’s car became airborne, flew into the catch fencing and literally disintegrated from the impact.

In my humble opinion, the Indy Car Series should fine Hunter-Reay’s team as they caused this mishap by attempting to go the distance, when they knew they did not have enough fuel to do it.

Their greed in this situation could have killed Conway and other people as well. Two fans were treated for facial lacerations from debris that flew into the stands and Conway, who will face a second surgery this week, is both lucky to be alive and out for the remainder of the season. Look for Tomas Scheckter, son of former Formula One champion Jody Scheckter, to replace Conway beginning this weekend in Texas.

Tony George looked both despondent and out of place at the annual 500 Victory Banquet on Memorial Day evening.

While his fall from grace as the president and chief executive officer of the IMS Corp. has been well documented, it seems strange to me that he really has not received enough credit for all the enhancements he made to the IMS facilities during his tenure.

While his forming the IRL proved to be a stake driven through the heart of open wheel racing, he was indeed a good steward of the Speedway itself and I will salute him for such.

Hang in there T.G. Go get a new sponsor and come back and win the Indianapolis 500 as an owner so everyone that has kicked you around (yours truly, included) will have to write about it and give you some credit. I will look forward to it.

Danny Bridges, who found the 500 to be way too predictable and hopes Mike Conway is up and walking around soon, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.

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