Published May 28, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS – Dario Franchitti's first win at Indianapolis, in 2007, made him more than just Ashley Judd's husband.
His second win, in 2010, was about pure dominance — he led 155 of the 200 laps.
This year's victory was about standing among the all-time greats. He earned $2,474,280 from an overall purse of $13,285,815 for Sunday's win. The four-time series champion from Scotland became just the 10th driver to win IndyCar's signature event at least three times.
Helio Castroneves, the only other current driver with three wins at Indy, already was promoting next year's race.
"Dario, well done, man," Castroneves said Monday during the victory awards celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "Three times. Now, we're going to be racing, so who gets four? That'll be cool, huh? That'll be really cool."
Now that Franchitti has basically done it all, there's only one thing left.
Castroneves won 'Dancing with the Stars,' so a few of the drivers had a little fun with Franchitti now that he's joined Castroneves as a three-time winner.
"Three times," Alex Tagliani said. "I think the drivers think you need to step it up. We think if you come and try to do it four times, you should try 'Dancing with the Stars.' I think that's the only thing you can try to do to step it up."
Castroneves continued the joke.
"You want to do it? I know the people. I have people," he said as Judd gave the cutoff sign.
Franchitti prefers to let his car do the dancing. He started 16th, took the lead for good in the No. 50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda car from his teammate, Scott Dixon, on lap 199. He overcame a spirited passing attempt by Takuma Sato in turn 1 on the final lap. Sato spun and hit the SAFER Barrier while Franchitti hung on to win the race under caution.
Sato explained the reasoning behind his aggressive inside move.
"There's only one podium, which is the winner," Sato said matter-of-factly.
Sato joked that Franchitti wouldn't want to see the No. 15 car next to him in the future.
"I'm small, but I need a little bit more room," Sato said, drawing laughter from Franchitti and a thumbs-up from Judd.
When asked if everything was OK between himself and Franchitti, Sato said "I think so. I hope,'" as Franchitti nodded affirmatively.
Justin Wilson recalled getting hopeful for a moment when he saw that Franchitti and Sato nearly connected.
Then again, it was Franchitti.
"Dario's a wily old cat," Wilson said. "He had something up his sleeve."
Dixon, who won the race in 2008, earned $1,102,280 for finishing second. It was his seventh consecutive top-six finish at Indianapolis.
Franchitti expects a tougher Dixon the rest of the year.
"I'm a little upset here," Franchitti said to Dixon. "I know you're going to come back stronger."
Franchitti's move to elite status nearly didn't happen. E.J. Viso, who rear ended him in the pits early in the race, acknowledged that he was a bit too close.
"Well, it didn't cost him much," Viso said. "Happy, man, that you won the race. You deserve it."
Unfortunately for Franchitti, he learned Monday that three-time winning status often comes with jokes about your age.
"Dario, you are a legend," Ryan Briscoe, the polesitter who finished fifth, said. "You were a legend to me when I was racing go carts."
James Hinchcliffe wouldn't mind if Franchitti opted for early retirement.
"I hope someday, you get sick of all this winning and let the rest of us do it," he joked.
All kidding aside, the theme of the night was the acknowledgement of Franchitti's new place in Indy history.
"You're a legend, in my opinion," fellow driver Ed Carpenter said. "You're up there with the all-time best, and it's an honor to work with you."