Dan Wheldon, the winner of last year's Indianapolis 500, died last October in a 15-car wreck during the Las Vegas 300. Unable to defend his title, three of his best friends in racing did it for him on Sunday during the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500. Dario Franchitti stood atop the podium for the third time, having finished the race in the lead under caution, with fellow friends of Wheldon, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, on either side of him.
While the order of finishers was anything but staged, the race itself saw a number of moments that were purposely dedicated to Wheldon and his family. The event opened with car owner Bryan Herta driving a single parade lap around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the car Wheldon won with last year. Fans were also given white sunglasses to wear in tribute during laps 26 and 98, which marked the numbers of both cars that Wheldon drove to his pair of Indy 500 wins. Wheldon's wife, Susie, was also in attendance – her first visit to any racetrack since her husband's death last year. She reportedly spent the day watching the race with Scott Dixon's wife, Emma, and then after congratulating Dario on his win, accompanied him and his wife, actress Ashley Judd, on the same victory lap she took last year with her own husband.
There was a race that happened this day, though, and despite a relatively clean running – only 39 of 200 laps were run under caution – the ending was decided by the all to familiar sight of a car spinning out and hitting the wall.
The race to the finish began with Kanaan, Franchitti and Dixon leading the pack in that order after the race's last restart with six laps remaining. A few laps later the order had reshuffled and left Dixon in the lead with Franchitti following and being pursued by Takuma Sato. Kanaan had fell to fourth. With just a couple laps to go, Franchitti passed Dixon in Turn 1 and pulled Sato along with him. Rolling the dice, Sato attempted the same pass against Franchitti on the last lap but wound up with no where to go on the inside and spun his car into the wall, leaving Franchitti, Dixon and Kanaan to cross the finish line in that order under caution.
For his efforts, Franchitti pocketed a cool $2.47 million for the win, with Dixon earning $1.1 million and Kanaan over $636,000. Also of note is the fact that three Honda-powered cars were battling for the win at the end, despite the fact this season's first four races have been won by Chevrolet-powered cars, which also earned the top four spots in qualifying.
The IndyCar season moves on to Detroit next weekend on June 3 for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.