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Franchitti injured in crash; Power wins race

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Will Power's victory in Race 2 of the Shell-Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston on Sunday was overshadowed by a huge accident at the end.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti suffered a concussion, a spinal fracture and a fractured ankle, and several spectators were injured as well as a result of the crash in which Franchitti's car was thrown into a fence on the final lap of the IndyCar Series race at Reliant Park.

Franchitti was following Takuma Sato when the Japanese driver lost control in Turn 5, a sweeping right-hand corner on the street circuit around the Astrodome.

Franchitti ran into the back of Sato's vehicle, and Franchitti's car hit the fence, scattering fencing and car debris.

Franchitti was awake and alert as he was loaded into an ambulance for the ride to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

An IndyCar spokesman said the spinal fracture will not require surgery, but Franchitti will be kept overnight at the hospital.

Photographs showed that part of the fencing landed in the top row of the grandstand, but not many spectators seated were in that section.

Thirteen spectators were treated for minor injuries at the site of the race, and two were taken to a hospital, according to the Houston Chronicle.

A tire came loose from Franchitti's car, but it apparently hit the spectator crossover bridge and landed back on the track, witnesses said.

Franchitti's teammate, Scott Dixon, was among the drivers to go through the accident scene in the seconds after the debris settled. Dixon said he waved at Franchitti, who was moving inside the cockpit, but Franchitti didn't wave back.

"Seeing the (television) replay was the big shocker," Dixon said.

The crash drew attention from a dramatic shift in IndyCar's standings heading to the season's final race Oct. 19 at Auto Club Speedway, an oval in Fontana, Calif.

Dixon finished second and Helio Castroneves was 23rd to create a big swing in the standings. Dixon entered the doubleheader weekend trailing by 49 points. He now leads by 25 because he won Saturday's first race. He can win his third title by finishing fifth or better at Fontana regardless of where Castroneves finishes.

Simon Pagenaud was eliminated after finishing sixth. He trails Dixon by 55 points.

Castroneves suffered a gearbox problem for a second consecutive day. He dropped out of the race on Lap 12 only to return briefly after repairs.

Dixon's lead could have been 38 points if Power had not beaten him. That represented a 10-point swing, and Power grabbed the two-point bonus for leading the most laps.

Castroneves picked up a point when Team Penske got the gearbox repaired in time for him to pass Tony Kanaan, who had crashed.

Dixon began talking about oil coming from Castroneves' gearbox on the opening lap, and the amount of oil increased for several minutes until smoke was visible.

Castroneves said he realized the problem "on the third or fourth lap."

"I'm very upset, but I'm just thinking about Fontana now," Castroneves said.

Heavy morning rain led officials to cancel qualifying. Dixon was initially awarded the top starting position because he had more entrant points than Castroneves, whose car had been docked 15 such points in June for failing post-race inspection at Texas Motor Speedway.

Dixon was given the pole sticker, but about an hour later, changed its decision based on its interpretation of the rules.

When qualifying is rained out, IndyCar rules call the lineup to be set based on entrant points entering an event. In the case of doubleheaders, the start of an event is designated to be Friday morning, not Sunday morning.

As a result, Castroneves got the pole sticker. But now he has a big deficit to erase.

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