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Originally published Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 10:45 AM

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Franchitti crashes out of St. Pete season opener

A long weekend came to a quick end for Dario Franchitti in IndyCar's season-opening race at St. Petersburg.

AP Auto Racing Writer

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A long weekend came to a quick end for Dario Franchitti in IndyCar's season-opening race at St. Petersburg.

The four-time IndyCar champion started 10th in Sunday's race as the Chip Ganassi Racing cars struggled with both handling and speed. It forced Franchitti to be aggressive early, and it cost him when he crashed just 19 laps into the race moments after pitting.

"We truly struggled and I just said to Chip `I had to try to make it up somewhere,'" Franchitti said. "I just stepped over the line there on cold tires. Hit a bump in three ... was in the marbles and then the wall. Totally my mistake. Just pushing too hard trying to get back on level pegging somehow."

Franchitti and teammate Scott Dixon struggled from opening practice Friday, and although team owner Ganassi grumbled about engine manufacturer Honda's alleged shortcomings, the problems at St. Pete for the team appeared to be unrelated to horsepower.

Franchitti essentially confirmed that after crashing out of the race when asked if the car had shown any improvement at all.

"From Friday afternoon, yes, but we're a long, long way away from where we need to be," he said. "We have some progress to make on the car and some other areas. A bit of work to do."

The crash ensures Franchitti will be ranked last in the IndyCar standings after the first race, his worst start to the season ever in the series. His previous worst start was 2005 when an engine failure in the opener at Homestead caused him to leave the race ranked 18th in the standings.

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