Dario Does It: IndyCar Champion Crowned in Miami
Dario Franchitti won the Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and captured his second IndyCar Series crown (photo courtesy: Robert Laberge, Getty Images Sport)
Racing drivers are a superstitious group, and heading into the Firestone Indy 300 one number was particularly wild for IndyCar Championship contender Dario Franchitti: He would be racing his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Dallara Honda on Oct. 10th in search of Target Chip Ganassi’s 10th win of the season.
And in Miami, he came up a Perfect 10.
With a tip of the helmet to fuel strategy, Franchitti (616 season points) claimed the first-ever IndyCar Championship crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway, narrowly defeating fellow title-contenders Scott Dixon (605) and Ryan Briscoe (604), who led 103 of the 200 laps.
The win was especially satisfying for two-time Champion Franchitti when one considers he took a break from IndyCar Series competition last year to try his hand at NASCAR. He rejoined Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team for 2009, and the decision to return to the open wheels paid huge dividends.
"We were sticking with our strategy," said Franchitti, who needed to win the race to win the title. "I cannot believe it. What a year for this Target team; it's been so much fun. Scott and I raced each other hard all season, and it came down to this."
Franchitti gained a valuable bonus point after qualifying for the pole position in Miami on Saturday. He started the race trailing teammate Dixon by four points and knew that the winner of the race was likely to be crowned the 2009 IndyCar Champion.
The Ganassi teammates each took a turn at the lead during the early going before Team Penske’s Briscoe wrestled the lead away from Franchitti. Briscoe stretched the lead to more than 23 seconds before having to pit for a splash of ethanol with just seven laps to go. The late pit stop was due in part to the torrid pace set in the first caution-free race in IndyCar Series history.
“I can’t believe there wasn’t a caution,” said Briscoe. “I kind of wish there was. You know, I was going as hard as I could trying to keep my eye on Scott [Dixon] and knew that there had to be a caution eventually.”
The break that Briscoe need never came. The 201.420 MPH average was the second fastest in IndyCar Series history. Dixon rallied to a third-place race finish behind Briscoe to secure a second place finish in the Championship standings.
“It sucks to finish third in the race and second in the Championship,” said Dixon. “But congratulations to Dario because they did what they had to.”
Indeed, there was no beating the No. 10 on Oct. 10 for Team Ganassi’s 10th win of 2009.
Firestone Indy Lights Series Championship Recap from Friday Oct. 9
The IndyCar Series Championship will return to Homestead-Miami Speedway next year, with the finale set for Oct. 2, 2010. Next up on the Championship front, NASCAR storms Homestead-Miami Speedway for its series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend Nov. 20-22. Great seats are available now by calling (866) 409-RACE or by visiting www.TheChampionshipTrack.com.