It’s On: IndyCar’s Top 5 Separated by Just 54 Points

Helio Falls to Fifth in the Championship at Watkins Glen

After starting second, Castroneves suffered a flat left rear tire after the contact with Scott Dixon while racing for fourth place on the Lap 4 (photo courtesy: Ron McQueeney, IndyCar Media)

Will Power—who will be seeking his first-ever IndyCar Championship Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—claimed Team Penske's first IZOD IndyCar Series victory on Independence Day at Watkins Glen. It was Race 9 of 17 en route to the Oct. 2 IndyCar Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Lock in tickets to see the 2010 Champion crowned in Miami this fall by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com or by calling (866) 409-RACE.

The points leader entering the race, Power held off Penske-teammates Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti—who claimed the 2009 IndyCar title last fall at Homestead-Miami Speedway—for his third IZOD IndyCar Series victory of 2010. Brazilians-turned-Miami residents Raphael Matos and Mario Moraes completed the Top 5.

Power enjoys a 32-point advantage in the run for the IndyCar Championship—which will culminate Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—but said he doesn't feel comfortable with the lead margin. "You can have a bad race, and it all goes away," he said. "This year, the way the point system is, you have to win races to win the Championship."

"I wanted to win this race badly, as I haven't won in a long while," said Power, whose last win came March 29 at St. Petersburg. "And I enjoyed the race a lot. I won on determination, as I wanted it very much….The track was very slippery at that point, so I attacked very hard, and that was the key to winning the race."

Franchitti persevered for third place for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Said the 2009 Champion crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway last fall, "I was catching Will, but I used up my tires too much, over using them. Ryan was getting closer to me, and I made a mistake allowing him to get past me. I'm disappointed with the last lap…."

Early in the race, Helio Castroneves—who will be racing for his first IndyCar Championship on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2—tangled with two-time Champion Scott Dixon, forcing both to the pits and taking them out of sync with the rest of the field. After starting second, South Florida’s dancing driver suffered a flat left-rear tire after the contact with Dixon on Lap 4. Castroneves was able to work his way back into the Top 10 and now ranks fifth in the Championship points standings, trailing Briscoe by just seven points.

"I think I proved I was the fastest car on three wheels out there!" said Castroneves. “Unfortunately, we had the flat tire. I think it was a little impatient with the No. 9 car [Dixon]; he had a fast straight line car and probably could have made the pass without causing that contact, but we were both able to recover and finish in the Top 10."

Danica Patrick had a rougher day of it, as she started in 21st place and only was able to jump one spot. Motorsports’ first lady will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during both the IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20).

Said Patrick: "The car itself was solid, but we just couldn't make up any ground. My guys did a great job this weekend, so I wish we had more to show for it."

South Florida’s Matos earned fourth place for De Ferran Dragon Racing, which tied his career-best finish. Moraes’ fifth-place finish was also a season-best.

With just 54 points separating the Top 5 drivers in the points standings, the hunt continues for the 2010 IndyCar Championship, which will be crowned in Miami on Oct. 2. Lock in tickets to see the 2010 Champion crowned in South Florida this fall by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com or by calling (866) 409-RACE.

Castroneves, Patrick, Dixon, Power, Franchitti and the rest of the IndyCar elite will resume the pursuit for fall glory in Miami on Sunday, July 18, at Toronto—Race 10 of 17 en route to IndyCar Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 2). Lock in tickets to see the 2010 Champion crowned in South Florida this fall by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com or by calling (866) 409-RACE.

 

Open It Up: South Florida’s Indy Drivers

Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti

“Difficult day at the office.That’s all I’m going to say.”
--Key Biscayne's Tony Kanaan on a tough day at Watkins Glen for the No. 11

For fans of the many South Florida-based IndyCar drivers, the story of Race 9 of 17 en route toIndyCar Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 2) wasn’t about the winner but about the drivers who nearly won. Miami-residents Raphael Matos and Mario Moraes finished fourth and fifth, respectively, after solid races. Matos, last year's IndyCar Rookie of the Year, lived up to his promise of being more consistent, while the sometimes erratic Moraes drove a steady race.

"It's a great result for the whole team, and all the thanks go to them,” Matos said of his KV Racing Technology squad. “This result is good for momentum for us. I'm sure we'll learn a lot from this weekend that will help us going [forward]."

"The last few races have been really hard for KV Racing Technology, so we needed this fifth-place result,” said Moraes. “Now…we can try to improve on it. I really need to work on my fuel mileage because I really couldn't use my push-to-pass, but it was a good day."

It has been said that road courses are the great equalizers, as engineers of the well-funded teams design specialized suspension parts or aerodynamic mirror supports that primarily benefit racing on the ovals. These innovations do not affect performance as much on the road courses.

After starting eighth, South Beach-resident Marco Andretti drove to a disappointing 13th-place finish and was not happy with his tire choice.

“The Venom car was strong today, but we made the wrong tire choice for the last stint,” said Andretti. “We put a qualifying set of Reds on, and the fronts were totally grained. It felt like I was driving in the wet. By the finish, the tread was gone. Had we made a different choice, I think we could have held our own and challenged for a Top 5 finish."

Boca Raton-native Ryan Hunter-Reay had nothing but his over-eagerness to blame for a seventh-place finish after starting 16th; he stalled his car in the pits to give up a handful of positions. He left the pits last, and to his credit drove to seventh by the end.

“The IZOD guys gave me a good race car, but I dug myself quite a hole when we stalled in the pits,” said Hunter-Reay. “I think we had a fourth-place car. We were definitely better than seventh, but we had to come all the way from the back after the problem with the stall.”

The end of the race was a bit tense for a lot of teams, as the prolonged green-flag running left many drivers worried about fuel. Key Biscayne’s Tony Kanaan had to pit for a splash-and-go on Lap 59; to worsen a bad situation, he stalled the car leaving the pits to drop from 11th to 21st—his worst finish since finishing in that spot in July 2009.

“Difficult day at the office,” Kanaan posted post-race via Twitter. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

The pursuit for Miami glory moves north of the border on Sunday, July 18, at Toronto (12:30 p.m. EST on ABC, IMS Radio Network, XM Ch. 145, Sirius Ch. 211)—Race 10 of 17 en route to IndyCar Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 2. Lock in tickets to see the 2010 Champion crowned in South Florida this fall by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com or by calling (866) 409-RACE.

HOW SOUTH FLORIDA DRIVERS FARED:

4.   Raphael Matos
5.   Mario Moraes
7.   Ryan Hunter-Reay
9.   Helio Castroneves
11.  E.J. Viso
13.  Marco Andretti
19.  Vitor Meira
21.  Tony Kanaan
22.  Mario Romancini
23.  Milka Duno

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