INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Dario Franchitti drove 199 nearly flawless laps, then survived the last one with a huge break from a spectacular crash to climb back on top of the open-wheel world Sunday with his second win at the Indianapolis 500.
Two years removed from a failed try in NASCAR, Franchitti held on with a scant tenth of a gallon of fuel left in the tank -- a victory made possible by a crash that sent Mike Conway airborne and into the wall, and left the final lap to be run under a caution flag.
"Still running," the winner told his crew over the radio as he crossed the finish line, while wreckers were moving out to scoop up debris from Conway's accident with Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The victory made Franchitti's boss, Chip Ganassi, the first owner to win Indy and NASCAR's Daytona 500 in the same year. It also validated the Scottish driver's return to the IndyCar circuit two years after celebrating his 2007 Indy victory by making an unsuccessful move with Ganassi to NASCAR.
England's Dan Wheldon, the 2005 winner who closed furiously as Franchitti slowed to save fuel before Conway's crash, was second, and fellow Brit Alex Lloyd was third.
Conway, who waved to the crowd as he was being taken off the track, was airlifted to the hospital with an injured leg.
Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves saw his quest for his record-tying fourth Indy victory come to an end with an uncharacteristic mistake -- stalling out while leaving the pits on the 146th lap. It left him in need of a yellow-flag miracle at the end that never came. He had to pit again on the 193rd lap and finished ninth.
That was four spots behind Danica Patrick, who picked and poked her way from 23rd to finish fifth despite a balky car that she complained about in qualifying.
Patrick never found her comfort zone in the 88-degree weather -- at one point saying she wished she could make up as much time on the track as in the pits -- but she was patient and disciplined and now has three top-five finishes in six years.
Tony Kanaan finished 11th after moving from the 33rd-and-last starting position to second, less than a second behind Franchitti with four laps to go.
The fan favorite was trying to become the first driver in the 94 years of the race to go from worst to first, but finally fell back when he had to go to the pits for a splash of fuel.
Franchitti's crew, meanwhile, started pressing their driver to conserve fuel with about 15 laps left. He did as he was told and after leading three-quarters of the race at speeds around 220 mph, he slowed steadily at the end - to 210 mph, 209, 206.
Wheldon started bearing down, putting himself in position to make the last lap of the Indy 500 the first lap he had led all year on the circuit.
That's when the cars behind them went flying.
With the yellow flag out, Franchitti's wife, actress Ashley Judd, put her hand over her head, hoping her man had enough fuel to make it. He did, and was on his way to a milk moustache in Victory Lane. Franchitti's other Indy victory came in a race shortened to 166 laps because of rain.