Franchitti OK after car flips sideways, turns upside down during Indy 400 wreck

Updated: August 6, 2007, 8:49 AM ET
Associated Press

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti walked away from a spectacular and frightening seven-car crash Sunday during the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Franchitti, who came into the race leading the IndyCar Series points and having finished all but one lap this season, had led most of the race and was working hard to hold off Dan Wheldon on Lap 144 of a scheduled 200 on the 2-mile oval when the two touched wheels on the backstretch at about 218 mph.

Franchitti's car turned sideways and flipped over Wheldon's car high into the air, at one point with its nose pointing straight toward the ground. As Franchitti's open-cockpit car came down, upside down, Scott Dixon, who was seeking his fourth straight victory and is chasing Franchitti in the points, drove into and under the Scotsman's flying car, nearly getting hit in the helmet.

Before the melee ended, three-time series champion Sam Hornish Jr., former Michigan winner Tomas Scheckter, Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV also were involved.

Dario Franchitti's car
AP Photo/Bob BrodbeckDario Franchitti's car took the brunt of the damage in Sunday's seven-car wreck at the Indy 400.

"I had a very fast car and I was just trying to stay ahead of Dan," said Franchitti, whose parents and sister were at the race and rushed to the infield hospital to make sure he was OK. "I closed my eyes and, when I opened them, I found myself up in the air, backward about 30 feet in the air. I was just hoping it wasn't going to hurt when I came down.

"I was just thinking, 'Hang on tight.' You've got the belts and the HANS [head and neck restraint] device and you've just got to hope they do their job. When it landed, it wasn't a hard impact and I was lying upside down. They were saying on the radio, 'Are you OK?' I was saying, 'I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm just uncomfortable right now.'

"I was hanging upside down in my belts. I'm a very lucky guy."

Franchitti didn't blame Wheldon for the crash.

"The same time he moved out, I moved in," Franchitti said. "We touched. It's one of those parts of racing that's not any fun. They're running so close together. It's not Dan's fault and I don't believe it's my fault. We're just out there trying to get an advantage."

Franchitti said he had already called his wife, actress Ashley Judd, to tell her he wasn't injured.

I closed my eyes and, when I opened them, I found myself up in the air, backward about 30 feet in the air. I was just hoping it wasn't going to hurt when I came down.

Dario Franchitti

He appeared to have the best car in the field, leading a race-high 101 laps despite missing the final 66 laps. After stalling the engine on an early pit stop and falling back to 18th, Franchitti charged to second in just six laps and then regained the lead on a restart.

Despite winding up 13th -- and thanks to the three points he earned for leading the most laps -- Franchitti came away 24 points ahead of Dixon -- who finished 10th -- in the standings. That's exactly how they began the race.

"That's the scariest thing I've ever been through," Scheckter said. "I saw Dario's car in the air and then it was just a mess."

There were no injuries reported, but Foyt, the grandson of four-time Indy winner A.J. Foyt Jr., was showing everyone tire marks from Franchitti's car on his helmet.

"Man, we were really lucky," Foyt said. "I'm just very thankful that Dario is OK, and everyone else."

Combined with several earlier crashes involving Helio Castroneves, Vitor Meira, Darren Manning, Sarah Fisher and Jon Herb, only seven of the 20 cars that started the race were left running, although Hornish's crew was trying to get him back in the race.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press