Indy 500 2012: Dario Franchitti's Victory a Fitting Tribute to Dan Wheldon

Andrew Kulha@@AKonSportsSenior Analyst IIIMay 27, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Dario Franchitti of Scotland, driver of the #50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, points in the air as he holds the victory milk over his head in victory lane in celebration of winning the IZOD IndyCar Series 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Winning the third Indy 500 of his career could have served as a huge talking point and tribute to the IndyCar racing skills of Dario Franchitti, but in an act of class, reverence, respect and what I can only assume was a bittersweet mixture of joy and sadness—Franchitti made sure that his late friend Dan Wheldon was on all of our minds.

Tragically, Wheldon was killed in October of 2011 at the Las Vegas Indy 300 in a horrible crash. It was an accident that shocked and stunned not only the motorsports world, but the sports world in general, and the loss of the popular driver was felt deeply by many. The pain that must have been felt by his family and friends in unimaginable...

What a fitting tribute Franchitti's win was to his friend, who had won the Indy 500 just a year before.

When Franchitti crossed the finish line as the winner a year after his friend did, it seemed as if it were the only way the 2012 Indy 500 could have ever finished. Franchitti was obviously joyful about his win, but you could tell that Wheldon was on his mind.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Dario Franchitti of Scotland, driver of the #50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, leads a pack of cars including Tony Kannan, driver of the #11 GEICO-Mouser Electronics KVRT Chevrolet and Scott Dixon of New Zealand, driver of t
Nick Laham/Getty Images

After the race Franchitti talked about his friend, according to his quotes via Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press:

"Everybody up there was a friend of Dan's, and that about sums it up. Everybody loved him," said Franchitti as bagpipes played over the public address system.

"What a race! What a race!" Franchitti said. "I think D-dub would be proud of that one."

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Dario Franchitti of Scotland, driver of the #50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda celebrates as his wife actress Ashley Judd (L) and Susie Wheldon (2nd L), wife of the late Dan Wheldon look on during the IZOD IndyCar Series 96th
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The moment was so much bigger than the winners circle of the Indy 500, and considering that it's arguably the most popular race in sports, that goes to show you how deep of a moment it was.

The whole race day was spent in memory and honor of Wheldon, but it was capped off in the most fitting of ways.

Normally, a driver winning his third Indy 500 would be the main story, but Franchitti made sure that it was just a small note in comparison to the love, respect and remembrance so many have for Wheldon.

The memory of Wheldon was bigger than any race that Franchitti could have won, and you could tell that the three-time Indy 500 winner was completely OK with it.

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