Helio and Dario both fall short of fourth Indy win

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Today’s Indianapolis 500 was the first in over 25 years that saw two three-time winners of the great race – Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti – go after a fourth victory at the Brickyard.

But neither of them were able to claim the prize and for another year, the four-win club only has A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser as esteemed members.

Even though he stayed toward the front all afternoon, Castroneves only led once for one lap and finished sixth. However, he chose to look at the bigger picture, which involved him maintaining third place in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship behind new points leader Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato (who recovered from an early spin to finish 13th).

“I was just having issues with the [rev] limiter,” said Castroneves. “I was trying to pass a lot of people, but unfortunately, it was hitting the limiter. That was one of those things…We finished top six, which is great championship-wise for points, and that is what we are looking for as well. When you don’t win, you have to look on the positive side, and that is the championship.”

But Castroneves did indeed have a decent day, which is more than can be said for Franchitti. The Scotsman never found the front of the field and ended his day with a crash on Lap 197 shortly after the final restart of the day. That crash would close the race under yellow with Tony Kanaan taking the win.

“Our car was never really good all day,” said Franchitti, who was credited with 23rd place. “In traffic, we couldn’t make anything happen. It was loose in the middle – big understeer. The guys tried something, and we didn’t take tires. I was just going backward, sliding around on those old tires. I went into the first corner on the last restart, and it just didn’t turn and then the hit. The big, old hit.”

Kanaan’s triumph was the only highlight of an otherwise sub-par Sunday for Franchitti, who, like Castroneves, counts the KV Racing Technology driver as one of his good friends.

“When I saw who was leading, it cheered me up a little bit,” he said. “Great, just phenomenal that Tony won. We had a crap day. We were never in contention, but I’m just so happy he won. He’s a very, very deserving winner.”

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.