INDIANAPOLIS - One lap to go, running on empty, and a car bearing down on his tail. After having the dominant car and the perfect game plan, Dario Franchitti still needed more Sunday - one break to win his second Indianapolis 500.
He got it in the form of a spectacular, airborne crash that brought out a yellow flag and allowed him to cross the line with a scant 1.6 gallons of fuel left.
That 1.6 gallons left him holding a quart of milk, a winner at the Brickyard for the second time in four years.
"Still running," the winner told his crew over the radio as he crossed the finish line, while wreckers were moving out to scoop up debris from an accident that sent Mike Conway into the wall and to the hospital with a broken left leg.
The victory made Franchitti's boss, Chip Ganassi, the first owner to win Indy and NASCAR's Daytona 500 in the same year.
It validated the Scottish driver's return to the IndyCar circuit two years after celebrating his 2007 Indy victory by making an unsuccessful move with Ganassi to NASCAR.
And, of course, it made Franchitti and crew look like the master tacticians they were on this day - working the gas pedal perfectly to stretch their final fill-up for the last 37 laps and edge out 2005 champion Dan Wheldon.
"Just get to the finish, see if you can get to the finish," Franchitti said when asked about what was going through his mind over the last few laps.
He did, and so the story became about his second victory instead of Helio Castroneves' fourth. Spiderman's quest to tie A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears for most wins ever at the Brickyard essentially ended with an uncharacteristic mistake - stalling out while leaving the pits on the 146th lap.
It left Castroneves in need of a yellow-flag miracle at the end that never came, and he finished ninth after one last pit stop on the 192d lap.
"Unfortunately, silly mistakes put us in the back," Castroneves said. "I'm very disappointed. I'm more disappointed with the mistake."
Meanwhile, Danica Patrick made no mistakes. After being booed during qualifying when she complained about a balky car, she picked and poked her way from 23d to finish sixth.
Patrick never found her comfort zone in the 88-degree weather but she was patient and disciplined and now has five top 10 finishes in six years. "I'm very happy with the result, and the reasons we got it were that our pit stops rocked and we had a perfect strategy," Patrick said.
Marco Andretti was third, followed by England's Alex Lloyd and Scott Dixon. Andretti was originally listed as sixth, but was later moved up after it was determined that Lloyd, Dixon, and Patrick illegally passed him at the end.