Franchitti’s 500

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Dario Franchitti won the Indy 500.  Did he have the fastest car?  No, I think that would have been Tony Kanaan.  Franchitti talks about his victory:
“The start of the race, the most important thing is not to stall when you are leaving because that’s pretty embarrassing,” Franchitti said. “The last thing I remember before I got into race mode, I was staring at the front of my car and Chuck Yeager (the test pilot who was the first man to break the speed of sound) was standing there in front of me. “That was pretty cool.” 
Going into the first turn at the start of the race, Franchitti was on the outside of the front row with Andretti Green teammate Tony  Kanaan to his immediate left and Helio Castroneves starting on the pole. 
“Going into Turn 1, it was all about being nice and clean going through there and staying out of trouble,” Franchitti said.  “The loosest part of the track was right here. The car was really balanced, you’d get a little wiggle through here where the car would wiggle around a bit.” Franchitti had one of those “moments” early in the race when he entered the first turn. “On one restart, everybody tried to break a lot going into Turn 1,” he recalled. “I almost hit the guy in front of me, I don’t know who it was, but that was the only real `moment’ for me. I had a big understeer going into Turn 2 through the first two stints but after that, the car was really good through here.” 
Franchitti said Turn 1 was tricky all month for many of the drivers in the field. When he sees the foreboding tire marks and paint from crashes into the wall, it’s a constant reminder of the danger of this race. “I try not to look at it,” Franchitti admitted. “The good thing when you are running here is the comfort factor of the SAFER Barrier and the amount of money that Tony George and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has invested in that project.” After driving through Turn 2 and under the black-flag board, where a car’s number is posted when race officials order him to the pits to serve a penalty, the van entered the long backstretch, which separates the Brickyard Crossing golf course, where four of the 18 holes are actually in the IMS infield. The long stretch of asphalt is a bit deceiving. “When you are in the lead of the race, it gives you a little time to think, but when you are in traffic, you are trying to set the guy up in front of you,” Franchitti said. “With these car regulations, you have to set the guy up a lap or two in advance.” 
The backstretch was also a point where some of the most aggressive moves of the race were made, with drivers going three- and sometimes four-wide at over 220 miles per hour. “I went three wide through here were Sam Hornish and I split Roger Yasukawa,” Franchitti recalled. “We were almost running side-by-side through Turn 3. It was pretty early in the race so I backed out of it rather than be too brave and end up in the wall.” Through Turn 3, Franchitti said the track was in excellent condition. But after Marco Andretti’s spectacular crash at the end of the race, where his car flipped upside down, it gave Franchitti pause for concern. “I was driving by and seeing his car sitting there and worrying that he was OK,” Franchitti said. 
The four turns of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway include two short straightaways called “chutes” before entering turns 2 and turns 4. “I passed Al Unser Jr. in the short chute between 3 and 4 and that was an interesting maneuver because it was pretty tight but that got me the break I needed for the lead right before the red flag,” Franchitti said. Coming off Turn 4 is another long straightaway with massive grandstands on both sides of the track. Halfway down is the flag stand, where the yellow and checkered flags waved signaling Franchitti’s victory. “It was raining like crazy and I had to open my visor and I could see the fans were still in the grandstands,” Franchitti said. “It was really special savoring that moment. The first thing was getting to the checkered flag because the car was hydroplaning on the racing slicks. It was so wet. I just wanted to get there. “Then, it was relief seeing all the team members up on the wall. It was just a great feeling.” After crossing the finish line, the moment hit Franchitti that he had won the Indianapolis 500. “Personally, winning the Indianapolis 500 means a huge amount,” Franchitti said. “Everybody is out there. This is the biggest race we do. It’s an amazing race, very special and so difficult to win it. Look at a guy like Michael Andretti, one of the best drivers I’ve ever raced against and things just never went his way here.
When the split in open wheel racing occurred in the US, Dario was hesitant to go to the IRL. The cars, the speed and the nature of the oval tracks made it so much more dangerous than the CART series. I’ll bet he’s glad he changed his mind.

Credit Yahoo IRL for the quote.