INDIANAPOLIS -- Dario Franchitti’s disappointment in failing to join the exclusive club of four-time Indianapolis 500 champions was somewhat assuaged when he realized who had won.
The defending race winner crashed with two laps to go Sunday, forcing the race to end under caution. Tony Kanaan had just made a dramatic pass of Ryan Hunter-Reay to seize the lead, and then coasted across the famed yard of bricks to win the race that has long eluded him.
"Sums up our day," Franchitti said after his wreck. "I went into the first corner on the last restart, and it just didn’t turn, and then the hit. The big, ‘ol hit.
"When I saw who was leading," he added, "it cheered me up a little bit."
Fellow three-time winner Helio Castroneves spent most of the day near the front, even leading a lap. But he was stuck in sixth when the caution flag came out and the race came to an end.
"I can’t wait to come back," the Brazilian said on pit road. "Everything we went through, it certainly worked much better than last year. We’re going to continue to work from tomorrow on, and hopefully we can come back even better next year."
Castroneves admitted that he was disappointed coming up short in his fourth attempt to join A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser as the only four-time winners. But just like Franchitti, he was also happy to see the popular Kanaan earn his place on the Borg-Warner Trophy.
"It’s going to be a crazy week for him, but well-deserved," Castroneves said. "He certainly right now is going to be speechless for a lot of things, but I’m very happy for him."
It had been 22 years since Mears won the last of his four titles, and this year’s race was the first since 1987 to have two three-time winners in the field.
Franchitti never really had a chance.
After struggling throughout May, Franchitti only qualified in the middle of the sixth row. And rather than fighting for the lead, like he did when he won in 2007, ‘10 and ‘12, he spent all of his time fighting with his car, trying to get it to perform better.
"Our car was never really good all day," Franchitti said. "In traffic, we couldn’t make anything happen. It was loose in the middle, big under-steer. The guys tried something, and we didn’t take tires. I was just going backward."
Right up until he hit the wall.
Meanwhile, Castroneves took Team Penske for quite a ride.
He started in the middle of the third row and worked his way to the front, where he was content to bide his time while others jostled for the lead. Castroneves never strayed too far from the top 10, either, as his team consistently provided him with strong pit stops.
In all, Kanaan went into Sunday’s race with 221 laps led at Indy -- more than any non-winner except Michael Andretti and Rex Mays -- but his second-place finish to Buddy Rice in 2004 was the closest he had come to victory. He had a pair of third-place finishes, including last year, again to Franchitti.