The Frontstretch: Frontstretch Breakdown: Indy 500 by Toni Montgomery -- Monday May 31, 2010

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Frontstretch Breakdown: Indy 500

Toni Montgomery · Monday May 31, 2010


In A Nutshell: Great Scot! Really. While most of the attention after qualifying fell to Tony Kanaan and his Andretti Autosport teammates having a rough month of May, drivers like Paul Tracy who didn’t make the field, or Helio Castroneves and his quest for a fourth victory, Dario Franchitti garnered very little attention. That’s OK. He let his right foot do his talking instead, going out and dominating the race. He led 155 of 200 laps, scoring his second Indy 500 victory and fourth overall for owner Chip Ganassi.

For the Record Books: So Helio Castroneves missed in his bid to become the fourth four-time winner of the race. Roger Penske missed in his bid to be the first car owner to win the race four times with two drivers. But Ganassi did not miss getting his name in the record books. Dario Franchitti, in tandem with Jamie McMurray, made him the first owner to win both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 in the same year.

The Highlight Reel

- How awesome is it to watch the traditional three-wide start? It’s the only race out there where the field lines up for the first lap three-wide, and they do it while getting up to speeds of over 200 mph.

- Speed is a matter of perspective, I guess. While watching Robin Roberts, this year’s celebrity pace car driver, it was noted that while the pace laps appear slow, she needed to maintain a speed of 100 mph and get up to 120 mph on the final pace lap. But then, I guess when you are talking about cars that qualified at over 220 mph, that is slow.

- Just one question — how do I score a ride in that two-seater IndyCar on the pace laps?

- It’s a long race and there’s plenty of time to gain position, but proving that race car drivers just want to be up front no matter how much they might know that, Tony Kanaan started the race driving like a man possessed, inhaling cars, driving the high line and passing eight cars in the first half a lap to move from 33rd to 25th.

- The Indy 500, like many big races these days, has a celebrity in the flagstand to drop the green flag for the initial start. This year, it was Jack Nicholson. Usually, they throw the green and depart; but apparently, Nicholson was enjoying the job and had other ideas. He threw the green not once, but three times, flagging the first two restarts as well. If you ask me, it’s just nice to see the job go to someone that really seemed to appreciate it rather than to a star who took the photo op and ran.

- It shouldn’t be a surprise, but we’re still so busy covering Danica and her ill-handling race car that ABC totally missed how Will Power took the lead from Dario Franchitti just before the first round of green-flag stops.

- I’m a fan of the Side-By-Side coverage and I want it to continue, but I do feel the need to point out that I’ve come to discover that, in spite of all the arguments that commercials make us miss racing action, most of the time very little happens while we’re “gone.” Most of the Side-By-Sides seem to happen when the field is under caution. Ironically, today seemed to be the exception as both Ryan Briscoe and Sebastian Saavedra crashed during one of these breaks, and we did see it as it happened.

It’s truly a team sport and the place where that is most obvious, pit road, can make or break a bid at Indy victory. A stuck fuel filler cost Will Power dearly. Raphael Matos and Scott Dixon were signaled to leave before all the wheels were tight, resulting in lost wheels and lost time for both. Castroneves stalled exiting his stall. All of these miscues likely took these drivers out of contention.

Dario Franchitti had his share of awkward moments in NASCAR, crashing and burning on the stock car side. But after returning to the IndyCar Series in 2009, he’s won both a championship and an Indy 500 after finding his driving mojo back in open-wheel.

- It’s been said that victory at Indy most often goes to the team and driver that make the fewest mistakes. There were a lot of miscues and strategies that didn’t work out among the top contenders, especially when it began to look like it might be decided by fuel mileage, but Franchitti and company did everything right. At the end of the day, they were drinking the milk.

- Tony Stewart left one open spot in the field for the Prelude to the Dream at Eldora for the winner of the 2010 Indy 500. Will Franchitti take him up on that invite?

- Driver Mike Conway, who led the race in the late going before stopping for fuel, suffered a broken left leg after a savage wreck that saw his car go airborne after contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final lap of the race. The car impacted the catch fence, then split in half while scattering debris all over the track. Considering the severity of the accident, I for one am happy to hear that is the only injury to Conway.

Worth Noting

  • Dan Wheldon finished second, for the second year in a row. Oh, what might have been if a caution hadn’t flown on the last lap, as there was some question over whether Franchitti had enough ethanol in the tank to finish under green. Wheldon apparently did, and he was gaining.
  • Marco Andretti, Alex Lloyd, and Scott Dixon rounded out the top-5 finishers.
  • Helio Castroneves missed in his bid to win his fourth Indy 500. After falling from the lead to pit for fuel with eight laps left, he finished ninth.
  • Tony Kanaan started last (33rd), ran as high as second before being forced to the pits for a last splash of fuel, and ended his day in 11th.
  • Four women started the Indy 500, the most ever in the race at one time. Danica Patrick finished sixth, Simona De Silvestro came home 14th, Ana Beatriz was 21st, and Sarah Fisher was credited with 26th after retiring with mechanical issues.
  • The highest finishing rookie was Mario Romancini in 13th.


“It became a fuel race toward the end, and I had no idea how much I had left in the tank. It came down into Turn 3, and it just died. The car died, and that’s when Mike (Conway) latched over me. That’s probably one of the toughest races I’ve ever had.” Ryan Hunter-Reay on the last lap crash

“I’m so lucky to be driving for Chip and Team Target, getting in good cars, especially having gone away after we won in ’07. To be invited back was pretty cool. To have won a championship and an Indy 500, I didn’t expect any of this. I said before, I expected to be retired by the time I was 35 (he turned 37 on May 19). This is all bonus, and it’s pretty cool.” Dario Franchitti

“Well, we always say the one that makes the fewest mistakes wins the race, and I made one that put us too far back. We were fighting understeer and oversteer all day, but we were still there fighting at the end and we still managed a top-10 result. Congratulations to Dario. Those guys were on it today, and they deserve to be Indy 500 champions.” Helio Castroneves

Final Thoughts: Would it be too much to call Franchitti’s foray into NASCAR disastrous? Probably not. What it wasn’t was career-ending. Franchitti returned to IndyCar because he missed the racing and his friends; and after winning the championship last year and his second Indy 500 this year, it was clearly the right call. Maybe NASCAR didn’t work out, but two Borg-Warners on the mantel can assure Franchitti that he is, in fact, a success.

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05/31/2010 01:39 PM

Most of the times Indy is not what one calls a great race, but most time they are exciting because of parts failure on the lead cars in last 5 laps, fuel mileage races, and lack of debris cautions.

While I also enjoy the 3 wide “flying start” it seems as though the cars are NO WHERE near as tight as the were back in the day.

Great drama at the end wondering if Dario would have enough fuel to make it, to bad we will never know with that last caution. Glad to see that Mike Conway was not seriously hurt or killed.

Let me say that while Danica did not have a great race she stayed out of trouble and had a very good 6th place finish. If she was not so over-hyped and marketed and let her driving not her looks due the talking, she would be more respected and taken more seriously by the race fans, look at Ashely Force she wins races and receives little coverage just for being a Pretty Woman driving a race car.

05/31/2010 02:24 PM

The final wreck was Conway’s fault. He was running faster than Hunter-Reay, but watching the replay, he had time to slow down. Instead, he put himself in a position where touching wheels was likely, and a car going airborne is the result of that. He’s been a dangerous driver in the past, but had run a good race until that point. It’s good that he only broke his leg, but it’s also good that he injured himself and not someone else.

05/31/2010 02:53 PM

I hate to be picky here, Toni, but isn’t the accelerator under Dario’s right foot? I am curious. I’m not sure if in the British Isles they gas pedal is under the left foot or right. So now I wonder if the pedals are swapped around for certain drivers.

WCFan: I agree with you. It seems that the three wide start has cars taking the green and the end of the field is still in the short chute. At least it seemed to be the case the last several years.

05/31/2010 04:02 PM

Brain fade on my part Noel! I’ve always been one of those people who has the left/right confusion issue. Although you do make an interesting point. I seem to recall a conversation with a British friend about driving here and I think she may have noted that all of the controls, including pedals, were reversed for her. Although I’ve never heard of it being a driver’s choice kind of thing in racing—as far as I know, it’s gas on the right, brake on the left.

05/31/2010 09:10 PM


05/31/2010 10:29 PM

Lets compare the equipment and the feeling in the garage area between what Danica has and what the other female drivers have had. You need to read up and GIVE CREDIT to the many women who opened the door for Danica to be in any type of race car.

I believe Danica is alot like Dale Jr.. They are both average\above average drivers with alot of media attention and fans. Because of their fan support not finishes they get MUCH MORE ATTENTION then other drivers who consistantly have better race results.

06/01/2010 01:49 PM

Toni: Thanks for clearing that up. I wondered if that was a piece of racing trivia I had overlooked.

06/01/2010 02:17 PM

@ DansMom: Danica is far over rated as a driver. She got where she is by selling herself like a prostitute. Then she has the audacity to extort the car owners for more money when she has no results to back up her demands.
She has one of the worst attitudes in the garage. If she was a man and spoke to her competitors the way she does, she would have been knocked out by now. The men just have to take her diva like attitude because if they treated her like she deserves, they would be portrayed as violent woman beaters, attacking a defensless Danica Patrick.
She in not any better role model for girls than Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan.
On the other hand, you have other female drivers that have tons more talent but they don’t sell themselves, so they never received a ride in top equipment. Look at Sarah Fisher. A talented woman, running her own team. Struggling for sponsorship dollars and earning the respect of the competitors around her. She might not be as famous, but she is certainly a noble woman that a young girl could be proud to emulate.
As for NASCAR, you can keep trying to claim what a huge bonus she is, but she will faill miserably in the stock cars. If you want to see a girl/woman with real talent that deserves a ride with a top team, look up Alli Owens she is an ARCA driver 17-18 years old, and can run up front with the boys and still bring the car home in one piece.
As a woman, you should be offended that it takes sex appeal and not talent for a woman to get a ride in a top car. But sadly, NONE of your posts has ever shown an ability for you to think beyond what a television personality has told you that you should think.

06/01/2010 03:03 PM

Is Dan short for Danica?

Don Mei
06/01/2010 03:34 PM

No, its short for Brian France in drag.

Some formula one cars from the fifties had the accelerator pedal located between the clutch and brake pedals.

06/01/2010 09:09 PM

@ Don: ROFLMAO!!!

Thanks for that trivia. Any idea why they chose that pedal configuration? I could understand right or left, but the middle seems completely crazy.


Contact Toni Montgomery

Recent articles from Toni Montgomery:

IndyCar Race Recap: MAVTV 500
Five Hundred Miles For All The Marbles
IndyCar Roundtable: Season Grades, Schedule Tweaks, And Possible Title Upsets
IndyCar Race Recap: Hunter-Reay Makes It A Repeat Performance
IndyCar Race Recap: Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ


IF you want to know more about Toni Montgomery or to see all of her Frontstretch articles, check out her archive and bio page.