SwingTime: Gambler Franchitti Slices Points Lead in Half
Dario Franchitti gambled during the final round of pit stops at Chicagoland to score his third IZOD IndyCar Series race victory of 2010 and cut into Will Power's Championship lead (photo courtesy: IndyCar Media)
In a night filled with sudden changes of fortune, Dario Franchitti—who on Oct. 2 in South Florida will look to defend the IndyCar Championship he won in Miami last fall—rolled the dice during the final round of pit stops at Chicagoland to score his third IZOD IndyCar Series race victory of 2010. In doing so, the reigning champ sliced Will Power’s 59-point lead down to just 23 marks. Lock in your tickets NOW to see the IndyCar Champion crowned at Championship value: Tickets start at $30 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
In electing to make a fuel-only stop in Race 14 of 17 en route to the NextEra Energy Indy Championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2, Franchitti shaved 36 points off of his second-place deficit, with Power was running out of fuel with just two laps to go and having to coast into his pit.
Said Franchitti: "I'm delighted right now; [engineer] Chris Simmons made a brilliant call at our last pit stop. Our car was great in clean air, but we really struggled in traffic. After Chris made the call [for fuel only], I got a lot of help from Dan Wheldon; he worked with me as a drafting partner right up until the end. We made up a lot of ground [in the Championship points standings] tonight, but we have to keep going."
The forced stop sent Power from second place to a 16th-place finish while Franchitti moved within 23 points of the lead with just two races remaining before the series-crowning Cafés Do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 2. Lock in your tickets NOW to see IndyCar Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $30 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
“This obviously makes things tougher for the Championship, but we're still in front and we proved how competitive we can be on the ovals,” Power said of his chances at claiming the 2010 IndyCar’s Championship, which will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 2. “We'll move on, and we will work harder next week at Kentucky."
Indeed, St. Petersburg-resident Wheldon served as Franchitti's "drafting partner" in the closing laps to finish second. South Beach-resident Marco Andretti turned in a strong third-place result (see sidebar), while Miami’s Vitor Meira recovered from two separate on-track incidents—both requiring unscheduled pit stops for nose-wing replacement—to finish ninth, his best result since Iowa in June.
Much of the first half of the 200-lap race was dominated by Ryan Briscoe, who led a race-high 113 laps but during the final laps was forced high and out of the racing groove; he fell to 11th at the finish.
South Florida resident Helio Castroneves led the way for Team Penske, as he finished sixth after starting from fourth place and battling early in the race with the leaders. A fueling problem on the team's first stop, however, saw the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner fall back in the field. With the result, he remains fifth in the standings, 130 points behind Power, in his pursuit of an IndyCar Championship on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2.
"The Team Penske car was good early in the race," said Castroneves. "I was able to run strong toward the front of the field. During our first stop, we had an issue fueling and that put us back in the pack. My car was not as good in traffic as it was toward the front of the field, and honestly, it was a little unnerving back there. The cars at the back were moving around quite a bit, and it was difficult to find racing room. We will be back at it again next week at Kentucky, and hopefully we'll have a better result there."
Danica Patrick finished 14th after starting 12th and in the process set an IZOD IndyCar Series record by running at the finish for the 30th consecutive race. Motorsports’ first lady will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during both IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20), and a special “Double the Danica” ticket package is available here. Lock in tickets to see the 2010 Champions crowned in Miami this fall by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com or by calling (866) 409-RACE.
Said Patrick: "I'm really disappointed with the race result. The GoDaddy car was handling well all night; I just didn't have enough speed to stay with the lead pack. It's tough to end the event like this because we were really competitive, and I thought we'd have more out there tonight."
Next up, the IndyCar Championship contenders head to Kentucky on Sept. 4 for Race 15 of 17 en route to Championship Weekend in Miami on Oct. 2. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $30 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
Open It Up: South Florida’s IndyCar Drivers
"It's good to be able to taste it again. It's been tough on the road courses lately, so I'm happy to have the Venom car on the podium again.”
--South Beach-resident Marco Andretti, after a third-place finish on the first of four oval races culminating at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2
South Beach-resident Marco Andretti returned to form at Chicagoland after several disappointing finishes on recent road-course races. He led an Andretti Autosport trio in the Top 5 with a third-place finish—equaling his season’s best—in Race 14 of 17 en route to the NextEra Energy Indy Championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 2. Lock in your tickets NOW to see the IndyCar Champion crowned at Championship value: Tickets start at $30 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
“It's good to be able to taste it again,” said Andretti. “It's been tough on the road courses lately, so I'm happy to have the Venom car on the podium again. We gave those guys in front of us everything we had. But when you have to run the high line, it means you're running more distance, and it's tough to pass any of those guys when you're running more distance."
Andretti teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan followed in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
“It was back-and-forth, seesawing all over the place,” said Hunter-Reay, whose fourth-place finish was his best of the season on an oval. “I knew we could tune the Ethanol USA-Team IZOD car to be that good. Once we got the front wing where we needed it, I knew we'd be marching forward."
Key Biscayne’s Kanaan was not so enthusiastic following a race that saw several on-track incidents.
"It was a great team effort for us tonight, but it was a crazy race,” he said. “It's great for the fans, but it's hard to enjoy it as a driver. For most of the night, you're in survival mode. Everybody is going to get mad at each other at one point or another in a race like this because there is nowhere to hide. People were doing crazy things out there…."
In a race that saw drivers three abreast with pedal-to-the-metal racing, Miami resident Vitor Meira’s night was more eventful than most. Before the checkered flag waved, his crew replaced two front-nose assemblies. Once the race started, Meira went a lap down but then led twice in en route to posting his first Top 10 finish in two months. In the process, he jumped three positions in the point standings to 14th. Adding to the impressive run was that he drove the last half of the race with an injured right wrist.
"It was a very interesting race; we knew it would be, but it was really crazy!” Meira said in echoing the sentiments of his South Florida-neighbor, Kanaan. “Getting two front wings, getting lapped, and then my team did a good job getting the lap back. This was very tough. I thought after the second wing replacement our race was gone, but we didn't give up—never gave up, never.”
After finishing fifth, Boca Raton-native Hunter-Reay remains in sixth place in the IndyCar Series Championship standings, which will be decided Oct. 2 on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $30 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
In the past four seasons, the IndyCar title has been decided in the year’s final race—including in Miami last fall when Dario Franchitti held off Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon with just laps remaining to win his second IndyCar Championship. The pursuit of a Miami Championship continues at Kentucky on Sept. 4 (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS TV)—Race 15 of 17 en route to the Next Era Energy Indy Championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 1-2). Tickets are on sale NOW: For the best seats, call (866) 409-RACE or log on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
How South Florida drivers fared in Race 14 of 17 en route to Championship Weekend in Miami:
3. Marco Andretti
4. Ryan Hunter-Reay
5. Tony Kanaan
6. Helio Castroneves
9. Vitor Meira
17. Mario Moraes
19. Milka Duno
27. EJ Viso
29. Raphael Matos