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Mother Nature helps out Franchitti, not Kanaan

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

(Photo)
Oblivious to the downpour around them, crew members roll 2007 Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti into victory lane. With rain hitting for the second time during the race, Franchitti won after only 166 laps.
INDIANAPOLIS -- At the end of the day, it was a tale of two teammates during Sunday's Indianapolis 500. With the wet weather in the area, the day was bound to be rain-shortened. The action on the radar screen was almost as tense as the action on the track as the end of the race approached.

But that was exactly the question -- when would the end of the race come?

Tony Kanaan, and many observers around the track, thought it had come 3:02 p.m., when the red flag was initially thrown for rain.

However, a Kanaan victory was not in the cards.

The rain stopped, the track dried and the race resumed about three hours later.

The conclusion came, finally, at 6:49 p.m. as rain began to fall in turn four at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dario Franchitti, Kanaan's teammate, took the checkered flag with 166 laps complete. After nearly six hours and only 415 miles, the Scotsman took the checkers to win the "500 mile race."

Once the rain started, it really let loose, but that didn't matter to Franchitti. The winner took a long, slow victory lap in spite of the ever-increasing rain.

It didn't matter to the fans either. All around the track, the fans waited in the rain to salute the newest 500 champion.

Afterward, Franchitti made his way into the make-shift victory lane, a room at the bottom of the Pagoda which normally serves as the green room for celebrities and drivers.

"I can hardly believe it. Who would have thought it? I have to thank by team. Can you believe it?" he asked with a grin of amazement.

In a show of team spirit and sportsmanship, Franchitti's teammates came into victory lane to congratulate him.

"To be a member of this club is fantastic. It could have been any one of the five of us (Andretti-Green Racing drivers) today," Franchitti said.

It was particularly meaningful when Kanaan greeted Franchitti since more than three hours and 38 laps earlier, it looked as if he would be the champion of a rain-shortened race.

Two circumstances late in the race kept Kanaa from visiting the winner's circle. The first of these was a simple gamble. When Marty Roth hit the wall on lap 151, several leaders, including Kanaan and second-running Sam Hornish, chose to pit. Franchitti was one who chose to take his chances with the approaching rain and a light fuel load.

The gamble gave him a lead he would never relinquish

"We rolled the dice," Franchitti said. "We were unlucky in the first stint of the race. Really glad to run the second part (after the rain)."

Finding himself well back on the field, Kanaan had to get aggressive on the restart. Unfortunately, he got tangled up with Jaques Lazier, another former race leaer trying to get back up front. Although Kanaan escaped serious damage, he wound up with a flat tire and had to return to the pits.

At day's end, he finished 12th -- his first ever finish outside the top five in six Indy starts.

"I went straight out of my car, and I didn't want to talk to anybody. People thought I was mad, but I wasn't. I wanted to get to (Dario) before anyone else."

While Kanaan did question restarting a race that would ultimately end early anyway, he remained pleased for his teammate.

"I think it is Dario's day. I did what I could. My big disappointment will be if we knew we weren't going to finish 200 laps, why would we continue?" he asked. "I have to say that Dario is probably thinking the other way around."

Kanaan also remained confident about his chances in future runnings of the 500. Why wouldn't he? On Sunday he became the first driver to lead Indy in each of his first six starts. He is only the second, along with four-time champion Rick Mears, to lead in six consecutive races at any point in his career.

"Hopefully we turn the page over and move on. We'll get another chance, and hopefully we'll get (the win)."



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