Franchitti has lead after 50 laps at Indianapolis 500
Dario Franchitti led the Indianapolis 500 after 50 laps Sunday in the 200-lap race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves, attempting to become only the fourth driver to win four Indy 500s, was second behind Franchitti, who won the historic race in 2007.
Raphael Matos was third, and Ryan Briscoe, Castroneves' teammate at Team Penske, was fourth.
Danica Patrick continued to struggle. After starting 23rd, she was 19th and running at speeds much slower than the leaders.
But Tony Kanaan, her teammate at the team of Andretti Autosport, moved up quickly to 12th after starting next to last in 32nd.
With the 33-car field lined up in 11 rows of three cars each, the start of the Indy 500 is always a hair-raising moment. The start Sunday went smoothly as the cars moved into the first turn after getting the green flag from actor Jack Nicholson, the honorary starter.
But then Davey Hamilton spun and smacked the inside wall, bringing out the yellow flag. A few laps later, Bruno Junqueira also lost control and hit the outside wall. Neither driver was injured.Nicholson clearly enjoyed his day in the speedway's flag stand overlooking the start-finish line.
The honorary starter typically waves the green flag only at the beginning and then departs. But with the two early spin-outs triggering caution periods, the 73-year-old Nicholson -- wearing a Lakers cap, of course -- stayed put so he could again wave the green flag each time the field restarted.
Stay tuned to latimes.com/sports for more updates on the race.
-- Jim Peltz in Indianapolis
Photos: Top, actor Jack Nicholson waves the green flag to start the Indianapolis 500. Credit: Darron Cummings / Associated Press. Bottom, Helio Castroneves leads the field down the front straightaway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Credit: Mike Groll / Associated Press