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Ashley Judd congratulates her husband, Dario Franchitti after his win in the rain-shortened Indianapolis 500
AP photo by Tom Russo
Ashley Judd congratulates her husband, Dario Franchitti after his win in the rain-shortened Indianapolis 500

Super Dario
Rain comes in time to help Dario Franchitti clinch Indy 500 crown

By Mike Harris
Associated Press Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — Dario Franchitti prayed for rain as the dark clouds gathered above and fast cars filled his mirrors.

“It was going to come down to a dogfight, and there’s a lot of strong cars,” the Scotsman said. “Whatever happened, if it came down to that dogfight, it was going to be hard, so I was hoping for the rain.”

He got it, winning an abbreviated Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, another bittersweet day for the Andretti family at America’s richest race.

Franchitti inherited the lead when the leaders pitted one last time for fuel, even as the skies darkened, and then drove slowly to the checkered flag in a downpour when the race was stopped after 166 laps, or 415 of the scheduled 500 miles.

“Our roll of the dice proved to be the lucky one,” a jubilant Franchitti said. “I made a couple of good restarts and the rain came.”

None too soon by Franchitti’s reckoning.

As the dark clouds drew ever closer, crew chief John Anderson told him on the radio, “The rain’s eight blocks away.”

“Come on!” Franchitti said. “I was just hoping it would start soon.”

The race had already been interrupted by rain for three hours shortly after the midway point, and Franchitti won it under a caution light brought out when teammate Marco Andretti crashed three laps from the premature finish.

It was a confusing and difficult day for nearly everyone.

A third of the race was run under caution — 11 yellow flags, 55 laps in all — and the winning average speed was more than 30 mph slower than the record.

“Restart after restart,” said runner-up Scott Dixon. “It’s just one of those days where you feel like you haven’t even raced.

“It’s sort of being on the freeway and watching lots of people smash into each other. It’s just a frustrating day in general.”

Not for the 34-year-old Franchitti, who got the biggest win of his life and gave his team its second Indy victory in three years.

Franchitti made a victory lap of the 2.5-mile oval in the heavy rain as actress wife Ashley Judd, soaking wet in a summer dress, climbed the pit wall and dashed toward the victory celebration.

Once Franchitti got out of his car, he was mobbed, hugged and kissed by teammates Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick and Michael Andretti.

“I can’t believe it. It’s the Indy 500!” Franchitti said. “To be a member of this club is fantastic.

“I kind of have half of an idea of what it means to win this race. I’m so happy.”

Two-time winner Helio Castroneves said Franchitti’s win proves it’s “not the young guy, not the fast guy, but the smart guy, and you have to put yourself in the right place at the right time.”

Franchitti, who is expected to collect at least $1.5 million from a total purse of more than $10.5 million when the checks are handed out at the victory dinner Monday night, led 34 laps and averaged 151.744 mph, far off the record 185.81 mph by Arie Luyendyk in 1990.

Castroneves finished third, and Sam Hornish Jr. was fourth. The rest of the top 10 were Ryan Briscoe, Scott Sharp, Tomas Scheckter, Patrick, Davey Hamilton and Vitor Meira.

Patrick was the only one of the three women in the field to have an impact. Sarah Fisher finished 18th, two laps behind. Rookie Milka Duno ran no higher than 22nd before crashing after 65 laps and ended up 31st.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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