Dario Franchitti Wins 3rd Indy 500


(Photo credit: MGN Online)

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(CNN) — Dario Franchitti won the 96th edition of the Indianapolis 500 motor race on Sunday, placing first in the prestigious race for the third time.

The Scotland native bested a field of 32 other competitors — including a female racer backed by the first all-female team in the Indy 500 — who circled the track 200 times, traversing a total of 500 miles, powered by fuel and raw adrenaline.

He and several other racers, including Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, traded the lead several times in the final minutes. But Franchitti was able to hold on and win, as he did in 2007 and 2010, after Japan’s Takuma Sato tried to pass him on the last lap but ended up crashing instead.

Last year’s winner, Englishman Dan Wheldon, died last October after crashing during a race in Las Vegas, and he was honored prior to Sunday’s race.

Among those in the running this year was Katherine Legge, the ninth woman to qualify for the race, but the first to bring an all-female team with her.

She sported a Girl Scouts logo on her helmet and representing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as an ambassador.

“My parents said ‘You can be anything that you put your mind to,'” Legge told CNN. She said she hopes girls get the message “to follow whatever they want to be. And they have to pursue that with 110 percent knowledge that they can get there if they really, really want to.”

As for the race, the Indy rookie said beforehand that she was feeling as “ready as I’ll ever be.”

Since the death of two-time Indy 500 winner Wheldon in a 15-car crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October, this is the year of safety measures.

Wheldon died when his vehicle became airborne and hit a fence pole. A new design being used this year is supposed to prevent cars from becoming airborne.

Italian firm Dallara has created the new DW12 chassis, named for Wheldon, who helped test the car before his accident.

Wider cockpits, wheel guards, a smaller engine, vertical wings on the side panels and energy absorption foam have all been added to keep drivers safer on the track, and in the event of an accident.

“We’ll all be driving with heavy hearts,” driver Marco Andretti told CNN. “… I think we just have to think of what a happy person he was and how much he loved the sport and Indy in particular.”

Meanwhile, the heat and humidity presented a challenge for drivers and spectators.

Temperatures were in the mid-80s by morning, and were expected to reach into the low to mid-90s.

“There is a heat advisory for Indianopolis today,” said CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider. “The temperature will soar to 96 degrees today and the heat index will climb to 100 degrees. Keep in mind that the normal high temperature for this time of year is 81 degrees, so this extreme heat is unusual.”

— CNN’s Ashley Strickland, Christine Romans, and Josh Levs contributed to this report.

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