INDIANAPOLIS — On the first two turns of the first lap of Sunday's Indianapolis 500, Dario Franchitti went wide from his starting spot on the outside of Row 1 to pass Will Power, then picked off pole-sitter Helio Castroneves just before a yellow flag flew.
For the opening lap of a 200-lap, 500-mile race, it was a relatively insignificant moment.
Yet the moment encapsulated the 94th running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
As expected, a past champion driving for one of the IndyCar series' iconic owners won and put his name on a new line in the 500 record book. Just not the driver most people expected.
Castroneves was gunning for his fourth 500 victory to tie the record. Instead, Franchitti led Lap 1 and 154 more in the race's most dominant performance since Juan Pablo Montoya led 167 laps in his 2000 win.
St. Petersburg resident Dan Wheldon finished second and Marco Andretti finished third; Andretti initially was scored sixth but was moved up after a review showed that three cars passed him under the final caution. Danica Patrick was the highest finisher of four women, in sixth.
Franchitti, the 2007 winner, is the 17th driver to win multiple Indy 500s. Ganassi also notched a notable double, having also won the Daytona 500 in February with Jamie McMurray to become the first owner ever to win both races in the same year.
Did the first lap make it all happen? No … maybe.
"That kind of set the stage," Ganassi said. "That was a very important kind of pumping-his-fist in staking his claim."
Franchitti's No. 10 car was outstanding on one of the hottest days in race history, with a high of 89. The slick 2.5-mile, century-old track showed its teeth by claiming several drivers in solo accidents, most in the treacherous Turns 1 and 2.
The last crash, on the last lap, was the most spectacular. Mike Conway ran over Ryan Hunter-Reay's left rear tire in the south short chute, soared into the catch fence and flipped before coming to rest upside down.
Conway was taken to the hospital with a broken left leg; two fans were hit by debris and treated for minor injuries.
Hunter-Reay said he was slowing because he had run out of fuel. He, like much of the field, pitted under caution on Lap 163; trying to run the final 37 laps without stopping again forced several frontrunners to either stop for a splash of fuel or slow down to conserve.
Franchitti won under caution in a moment reminiscent of his first win, when Andretti went upside-down on a crash moments before the race was called for rain after 166 laps.
Sunday's caution ended a frantic — though at times slow — final laps where Franchitti, Wheldon and others tried to save fuel. Some couldn't, like Tony Kanaan, who had spent all day working from 33rd to second, only to need a splash of fuel at Lap 196. He finished 11th.
Wheldon feared he may have tried to save too much.
"Perhaps I should have not been so disciplined," said Wheldon, runnerup for the second consecutive year. "Back in the day I'd have probably ignored some of the instructions that I got on those last five laps, but as I've got older, I think I'm a bit better behaved. But maybe that bit me in the butt a little bit."
Franchitti turned laps as slow as 202 mph in the closing moments, but those tortoise ways landed the Borg-Warner Trophy as he crawled to the finish when Conway's wreck brought out the final caution.
"I was managing the gap to Dan," the Scotsman said. "That last lap, I saved a lot of fuel. I was quite happy."
His last lap, and his first lap, couldn't have gone any better.