Dario Does It Again: Franchitti Nets 3rd IndyCar Championship
Will Power climbs from his car after suspension failure relegated him to a 25th place finish (photo courtesy: IndyCar Media)
Dario Franchitti entered Saturday night’s IndyCar Championship finale trailing points leader Will Power by 11 points. But come the end of the night, Franchitti had earned his third career IZOD IndyCar Championship, by a five-point margin.
“I’m going to let it sink in and enjoy it,” Franchitti said. “I’m very proud of the achievement. It’s an absolute honor to drive for the Target team and the feeling of success is great.”
Target Chip Ganassi Racing made it a clean sweep of the NextEra Energy Indy Championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway in winning the team’s third straight Championship while also taking the checkered flag of the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300, via Scott Dixon. Danica Patrick finished third.
Said Dixon: “Yeah, it's a great day. Obviously, I think the main goal for the team was to get the Championship.”
Franchitti started on the pole, dominated much of the early race and led a field-high 128 laps. But late in the race, he slipped back in the field and was nearly collected in an accident that could have ended his Championship hopes.
“It was all going really well until that last pit stop when we got back of the pack, and everyone was going four-wide and banging wheels,” he said. “The 18 car [Milka Duno] crashed right in front of us and almost took us out. It was a little too action-packed at the end of the race.”
“It wasn’t a perfect night for the 10 car [Franchitti], but we did what we needed to do,” said team-owner Chip Ganassi, who has experienced an incredible season as car owner by also capturing the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400.
With the title, Franchitti earned his third IndyCar Championship (2007, 2009) to become just the second driver to win three IndyCar Championships—and two consecutive—joining Sam Hornish Jr. (2001, 2002, 2006). Franchitti has won the IndyCar Championship the last three seasons in which he has competed in the series, having raced NASCAR in 2008.
Power and his Team Penske crew, meanwhile, were never able to mount a serious charge. On Lap 135 while running fourth, Power scraped the wall in Turn 4, and the resulting suspension damage relegated him to a 25th place finish.
“The Championship is won over 17 races, not one,” Power said. “I tried to get around a couple of backmarkers and got in the gray a little. The Ganassi guys are so fast; we had to really start pushing hard to find something. There were some cars that took a little air off that pushed me up a little higher. We were definitely quick enough, though I thought it would be very tough to pass Dario.”
Dixon, who started on the front row alongside teammate Franchitti, led the final 26 laps and held off Andretti Autosport teammates Patrick and South Florida resident Tony Kanaan to win the race by 2.7587 seconds. Dixon’s third victory of the season helped the two-time series Champion overtake South Florida’s Helio Castroneves for third in the standings.
Said Castroneves, who finished fifth: “That was a very difficult race. I struggled in traffic all night long, yet at the end of the race I had a car that I felt was capable of a little more.”
Patrick and Kanaan kept the fans on their feet in the closing laps of the race with a thrilling side-by-side battle in which their cars touched. Patrick nipped Kanaan by inches at the start/finish line.
Patrick—motorsports’ first lady, who will return to race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 19-21)—set an IndyCar record by running at the finish for the 32nd consecutive race. Kanaan finished third.
“After I crossed the line, I said it wasn’t a win, but it sure felt like one,” Patrick said. “This was a great way to end the season. We have had our high points and low points, and the crew pulled it together for a strong end to the year.”
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Open It Up: South Florida’s IndyCar Drivers
South Florida resident Tony Kanaan engaged in a thrilling late-race battle with teammate Danica Patrick that resulted in a third place finish for “TK.”
"Putting on a good show was the least we could do for the fans here tonight,” said Kanaan. “I have to thank my crew. It was a good weekend as a team. I'm looking forward to next year."
Florida resident Vitor Meira finished sixth after starting 21st, which was his best result on an oval this season. “Good job by ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing,” Meira said post-race, “because to go from 21st to sixth and to be there all day long…I mean, we passed a lot of people; we passed everybody.”
South Beach resident Marco Andretti, who has not had much success on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway, finished seventh. With the exception of a second-place finish to open the season in 2008, it was his best mark in South Florida.
"The Venom car was good tonight, but we made a wrong decision as a team and pitted during that second-to-last yellow.
Boca Raton-native Ryan Hunter-Reay finished 11th after starting 20th.
"Good job to the No. 7 team and the No. 11 team [Kanaan], and Marco also had a solid day as well,” said Hunter-Reay. “We were good in traffic but had no speed on our own.”