HOUSTON – Scott Dixon took control of the IndyCar championship race when Helio Castroneves suffered his second mechanical failure in two days at the Grand Prix of Houston, where the race ended when Dario Franchittis car went airborne into the fence on the final lap.
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Franchitti fractured two vertebrae and broke his right ankle. The crash showered debris into the grandstand, injuring 13 fans and an IndyCar Series official.
Franchitti, who also suffered a concussion, was transported by ambulance to a hospital. IndyCar said the four-time series champion would be held overnight, and that a series official was treated for minor injuries.
Houston Fire Department spokesman Ruy Lozano said 13 fans were injured, and that 11 were treated on site at Reliant Park. Lozano said two were taken to the hospital for treatment.
The accident in Turn 5 was reminiscent of Dan Wheldons 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 Las Vegas crash, and for Dixon, who took control of the IndyCar championship race Sunday but passed by teammate Franchittis car and waved in an attempt to get an update on his condition.
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 cant drive through it because theres a field of debris, Dixon said. There was no 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 Franchittis car launching over Satos and into the fence. Parts and pieces from both cars flew into the grandstand and Franchittis car bounced back onto the track. E.J. Viso then hit Satos car.
The caution came out to immediately freeze the field, preventing Dixon from making a final attempt on passing Power for the win. Dixon won Saturdays first race of the doubleheader weekend and settled for second after Franchittis crash.
The accident ended a weekend that saw Dixon move into the points lead after mechanical failures for Castroneves on consecutive days.
Castroneves came to Houston with a 49-point lead over Dixon. But a gearbox problem Saturday when Dixon won allowed Dixon to pull within eight points. Then Castroneves gearbox broke Sunday, and Dixon now has a 25-point lead in the standings and needs only to finish fifth or better in the Oct. 19 finale in California to win his third IndyCar title.