Reigning Homestead-Miami Champ Franchitti Looking to Repeat
Danica Patrick started 23rd at Indy but drove a solid race to an impressive sixth place finish. This was Patrick's third Top 6 finish in six Indy 500 races (photo courtesy: Nick Laham, Getty Images Sport)
During Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, South Florida-resident Helio Castroneves was looking to join an elite group with four Indy 500 wins and gain some momentum toward his first IndyCar Championship, which will be crowned Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Instead, it was Dario Franchitti—who claimed the 2009 IndyCar title last fall at Homestead-Miami Speedway—winning his second Indianapolis 500. Franchitti, who led 155 of the 200 laps, became the 19th multi-time winner of the Indy 500 and his boss, Chip Ganassi, became the first owner to win Indy and NASCAR's Daytona 500 in the same year.
The next trophy Team Ganassi will be looking to claim: the 2010 IndyCar Championship, to be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 2. Tickets to see IndyCar’s series-crowning finale in Miami go on sale July 3 (renewal deadline is June 15). For more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.
With an eye on winning a second IndyCar Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall, Franchitti’s victory at Indy boosted him into second in the Championship standings, just 12 points back of leader Will Power.
"I'm going to savor this victory for a couple of more days," said Franchitti, who crossed the finish line while the field was under caution after a horrific crash involving Mike Conway. "It was all looking good right up until that whole yellow, then we had to save fuel [but] were we saving enough, was Tony [Kanaan] going to catch us? Turned out he wasn't. Turns out we had plenty of fuel because of the slow-down lap. Came in to pit lane, did some burnouts, still had some fuel in it. There was enough.”
Polesitter Castroneves saw his quest for a fourth Indy victory come to an end with an uncharacteristic mistake—stalling while leaving the pits on the 146th lap. He finished ninth after needing a final pit stop on the 193rd lap.
“Congrats to Dario; what an awesome car he had,” Castroneves said post-race. “Ganassi did an incredible job to put him up there. It was the car to beat today.
“We tried,” Helio continued. “Unfortunately, silly mistakes put us in the back. I’m very disappointed. I’m more disappointed with the mistake. Certainly, I am very upset for my guys. They did an incredible job the whole month long. They should walk out of here with their heads high.”
Dan Wheldon—the 2005 winner who closed furiously as Franchitti slowed to save fuel in the final laps—finished second for the second straight year, with South Beach-resident Marco Andretti third.
Low on fuel, Franchitti was heading to the checkered flag when Boca Raton-native Ryan Hunter-Reay and Conway made contact sending Conway's car airborne into the catch fence. Conway suffered a broken leg and is shelved from racing for at least three months.
Danica Patrick—who will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during both IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20)—finished sixth in what was her third Top 6 finish in six Indy tries.
Said Patrick: "What a great way to end a tough month. It was a challenging race, but together with my crew doing outstanding pit stops and the engineers calling a great strategy, we were able to pull off a good finish for the GoDaddy car. I never doubted we could accomplish this together as a team. We finished the month on a high note so heading into Texas is a confidence booster."
Indeed, Patrick, Castroneves, Dixon, Franchitti and the rest of the IndyCar field will resume the pursuit for fall glory in Miami on Saturday in Race 7 of 17 en route to IndyCar Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 2). Tickets to see the Champion crowned in Miami go on sale July 3 (renewal deadline is June 15). For more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.
Race 7 is set for Texas and is to start at 8 p.m. EST (VERSUS TV, IMS Radio Network, XM Ch. 145 and Sirius Ch. 211). Both the IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights Series Championships will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway during the NextEra Energy IndyCar Championships (Oct. 1-2). For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.
Open It Up: South Florida’s Indy Drivers
Key Biscayne resident Tony Kanaan—starting from the very back of the field in 33rd position—almost stole the Indianapolis 500 using pit strategy but came up four laps short.
"We took a gamble," Kanaan said of his decision to gamble on fuel strategy which forced him to make a pit stop with four laps to go eventually dropping him to 11th. "The strategies could work both ways. It could have gone the other way, we get in the lead and we win the race. And we brag about it the whole year."
Kanaan’s Andretti Autosport teammate, Marco Andretti, finished third after an extensive video review that showed three cars illegally passing him under caution in the race's final lap.
"I'm pleased with the decision to correct timing and scoring, and place the No. 26 car in third place,” said the South Beach resident. “I was talking on the radio saying good job to my crew, and all of a sudden people were flying past me.”
Miami’s E.J. Viso experienced a tough day after being the sixth fastest on Friday's final practice. Unfortunately, his mount didn't handle the same on Sunday and after starting 19th, he made it as high as 16th before suspension problems on Lap 139 forced him to retire his machine.
Said Viso: “The conditions were very hard today. We tried a lot of things to get the car right, but the car was just too loose most of the time. Early in the race, John Andretti forced me down into the grass; I had no place to go. That was wild. The heat had a lot to do with the track conditions today. I thought we had a good car going into the race after Carb Day.”
South Florida’s Mario Moraes was expected to be a contender Sunday after a strong week of practice and qualifying, but an early brush of the wall took his machine to the garage for repairs. He finished 31st after running just 17 of the scheduled 200 laps.
“Our team tried to fix it in the garage, but it was best to park the car than have the problem continue,” said Moraes. “We will plan to run better at Texas."
Boca Raton-native Ryan Hunter-Reay had surgery on his left thumb and was fitted with a carbon-fiber splint, which should allow him to participate at Texas this weekend. Hunter-Reay's injury was suffered during a pit lane incident earlier in the race.
"It actually happened during the pit-lane incident with [Scott] Dixon,” said Hunter-Reay. “He cleared out into me, and I tore all the ligaments [in my thumb]. A couple laps later, it was hurting. But then I went to push a button on my steering wheel, and the thumb bent back to me. That's a problem."
South Florida’s Mario Romancini completed all 200 laps to finish as the highest ranked rookie in the race. His 13th-place finish was the best for a first-year driver in the field, and it was also Conquest's second-best finish at Indy.
“It was a tough day at my first Indy 500, but I learned a lot at the same time,” said Romancini. “There were a lot of crashes, and I had to work hard to save fuel at the end. I'm ecstatic to have finished as the highest-ranked rookie. It's something I will always remember."
SOUTH FLORIDA FINISHERS:
3. Marco Andretti
9. Helio Castroneves
11. Tony Kanaan
13. Mario Romancini
18. Ryan Hunter-Reay
25. E.J. Viso
27. Vitor Meira
29. Raphael Matos
31. Mario Moraes
32. Bruno Junqueira