Franchitti Undergoes Surgery

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 7 2013

Dario Franchitti was injured in a scary wreck in Houston on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti underwent surgery to stabilize a fracture in his right ankle in a Houston hospital Sunday evening, one of several injuries the Scotsman suffered in a grinding, last-lap crash during Race 2 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader.

Franchitti was admitted awake and alert into Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center Sunday afternoon and diagnosed with a concussion, two spinal fractures and a fracture to the right ankle. He will remain in Houston for a few days and then be transported to Indianapolis for further evaluation.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing released the following statement from Franchitti, a three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500: “Thank you to everyone for all the well-wishes. They mean a lot to me. I would also like to send my best to all the fans involved in the accident and hope that everyone is alright.”

Race-winner Will Power of Team Penske was working on a lead of 0.9382-seconds over Scott Dixon _ Franchitti’s TCGR teammate _ on the 90th and final lap when Franchitti collided with the out-of-shape rear end of Takuma Sato’s car in Turn 5. The contact sent Franchitti’s No. 10 T-Mobile Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda airborne and pin-wheeling into the catch-fence before falling back to the pavement driver’s side-up. E.J. Viso, driver of the No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA Citgo Dallara/Chevrolet, then collided with Sato’s stationary No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Dallara/Honda.

Viso and Sato climbed from their cars with assistance from the Holmatro Safety Team. Medical personnel removed Franchitti from his car and onto a stretcher for an ambulance trip to the hospital.

The impact of Franchitti’s car broke two sections of the catch-fencing, with one piece landing in the grandstands. The Houston Fire Department reported that 13 fans were injured, with 11 treated and released onsite while two were sent to the hospital. An unidentified INDYCAR official also reportedly was injured.

Franchitti, 40, injured his left ankle in a stock car crash in 2008 and has dealt with back pain since a motorcycle accident suffered in 2003. He fractured a vertebrae in that mishap, and added to his back woes when he flipped and crashed on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in 2007.

Franchitti’s ability to drive in the season-finale at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Oct. 19 remains undecided. He is eighth in points and out of title contention.

Meanwhile, INDYCAR officials issued the following statement regarding the crash Monday afternoon: “Our thoughts remain with everyone affected by yesterday’s incident. Thank you to the people of Houston for their support of the Grand Prix and their concern for Dario Franchitti, the fans and race personnel. INDYCAR is thoroughly reviewing the incident. Reducing the risks that are associated with racing is one of our highest priorities and receives our constant and on-going focus.”

Dixon emerged from Sunday’s second 90-lap event as the new series’ point-leader following his runnerup finish to Power and his No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet. Meanwhile, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves suffered through another day of mechanical issues en route to a season-worst 23rd-place finish on the bumpy, 1.634-mile/10-turn MD Anderson Cancer Centre Speedway at Reliant Park.

Dixon, driver of the No. 9 TCGR Dallara/Honda, will take a 25-point lead (546-521) over Castroneves and his No. 3 Shell Pennzoil Dallara/Chevrolet into the season-ending MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships in Fontana.

A two-time series champion, Dixon must finish fifth or better to clinch _ even if Castroneves earns maximum points. A total of 54 points will be on the table in Southern California. Dixon and Castroneves are the only drivers eligible to win the 2013 championship.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 7 2013
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