IndyCar crash injures Franchitti, brings thoughts of Wheldon

HOUSTON — Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti fractured two vertebrae and suffered a concussion and broken right ankle when his car went airborne into a fence Sunday on the last lap of the Grand Prix of Houston. The accident showered debris into the grandstand, injuring 13 fans and an IndyCar series official.

Franchitti, a four-time series champion, was expected to be held overnight at a hospital, IndyCar said. The series official was treated for minor injuries, it said.

Thirteen fans were injured and 11 were treated onsite at Reliant Park, Houston Fire Department spokesman Ruy Lozano said. Two fans were taken to the hospital for treatment, he said.

The accident in Turn 5 was reminiscent of St. Petersburg resident Dan Wheldon's fatal 2011 crash at Las Vegas in that competitors had to drive through the wreckage.

It was a sobering moment for race winner Will Power, who broke his back in the Las Vegas crash, and Scott Dixon, who took control of the race for the series season title.

"The smells and the visuals, for me, and even talking to Will, you have the remnants of Vegas popping into your head with you coming around the corner and you can't drive through it because there's a field of debris," Dixon said. "There was nowhere near the amount of damage that we saw (in 2011), but seeing the replay was a big shock."

The accident occurred after contact between Franchitti and Takuma Sato sent Franchitti's car over Sato's and into the fence. The caution came out to immediately freeze the field, preventing Dixon from making a final attempt to pass Power.

Power said the accident reminded him of Las Vegas, where he and Wheldon sailed into the fence.

"I just saw Dario's car and him sitting in it with a lot of damage … I hate seeing that," Power said.

The accident ended a weekend in which Dixon moved into the points lead following mechanical failures for Helio Castroneves on consecutive days. Castroneves' gearbox broke Sunday. Dixon has a 25-point lead in the standings and needs to finish fifth or better in the Oct. 19 finale in California for a third IndyCar title.

nhra: John Force raced to his second straight Funny Car victory in the Auto Plus Nationals to open a 65-point lead with two events left in the Countdown to the Championship. Force beat rookie Chad Head in the final round with a 4.106-second run at 313.37 mph in a Ford Mustang in Mohnton, Pa. Shawn Langdon won in Top Fuel to extend his points lead. Jeg Coughlin won in Pro Stock take the season lead. And points leader Matt Smith won in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

formula one: Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won the Korean Grand Prix to close in on his fourth straight championship. Two safety-car periods and significant graining on his tires made for a hard-fought win in Yeongam, South Korea. He finished 4.2 seconds ahead of Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen and leads by 77 points with five races remaining.

IndyCar crash injures Franchitti, brings thoughts of Wheldon 10/06/13 [Last modified: Sunday, October 6, 2013 10:34pm]

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