Firestone Indy 400
Spectacular Last Hurrah
by Esteban Morales
August 5 , 2007
Roughly one decade ago the Indy Racing League was barraged with criticism concerning chassis safety. Dario Franchitti and his Dallara chassis put lingering critics to rest on lap 143 of the Firestone Indy 400 after a horrendous accident sent the Scotsman flipping over several competitors before landing on his roll hoop. The accident took place after Dan Wheldon mounted a challenge for the lead on lap 121. As the drivers raced down Michigan International Speedway’s back straight Wheldon and Franchitti touched wheels sending Franchitti into the air and collecting six cars in the process. Despite the violent accident Franchitti emerged unscathed from his Indy 500-winning Dallara. “It is because of that car that I’m sitting here today with just a bruise on my nose. It is just incredible” said Franchitti following the event. In an odd twist of luck the championship leader’s accident inadvertently ended Scott Dixon’s day. Dixon, who was aiming for his fourth consecutive victory, was unable to close on Franchitti’s 24-point championship lead.
Franchitti’s wild ride overshadowed a stirring drive that began from pole. Franchitti dominated the early stages of the event, which saw one caution for a shunt involving Jon Herb. During the second caution of the race, for Milka Duno’s slowing entry, Franchitti was shuffled to the back of the grid after stalling in the pits. Just seven laps after the lap 51 restart Andretti Green Racing’s lead driver had scrambled from the eighteenth position to second, fittingly applying pressure to his championship pursuer Scott Dixon. Dixon did not hold off Franchitti for long and gave up the lead during pit stops following an accident between the series’ snakebit Brazilians, Helio Castroneves and Vitor Meira, that sent a frustrated Castroneves fuming on his walk back to the pits. Franchitti continued to dominate the race prior to his accident, which sent Castroneves’ teammate Sam Hornish Jr. back to the pits as well.
Another unfortunate participant in the melee was Vision Racing’s driver Tomas Scheckter. Scheckter, who claimed his first victory on the same track in dramatic fashion as a rookie in 2002, started the event from the outside of the third row. Scheckter was in the midst of his best run this season and had kept in touch with the leaders throughout the afternoon. He challenged for the lead as early as lap 63 and was embroiled in a three-way battle at the head of the field with Franchitti and Wheldon just before the wreck.
After a lengthy yellow the event was finally restarted on lap 170 with Scott Sharp leading a lone seven-car pack. Two laps later Tony Kanaan took the lead heading down the backstretch followed by his teammates Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick. Though Patrick lost a lap due to a blown right-rear tire Andretti went on to match his season-best finish behind Kanaan, who earned his third victory of the year in the series’ final scheduled visit to the speedway.