FRANCHITTI WINS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI TO CLINCH SERIES TITLE

HOMESTEAD, Fla., (Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009) - Dario Franchitti claimed his second IndyCar Series championship by winning the Firestone Indy 300 on Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Franchitti and Target Chip Ganassi Racing used fuel strategy to beat second place Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske to the finish by 4.788 seconds. Franchitti's teammate, Scott Dixon, finished third.

The top three finishers were the only drivers who entered the season-ending race with a chance to win the title on the 1.5-mile oval. Franchitti finished the season with 616 points, Dixon with 605 and Briscoe with 604.

It was the second consecutive title for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, as Dixon won in 2008. Franchitti won his first season championship in 2007 with Andretti Green Racing.

The three title contenders led 198 of the 200 laps.

Briscoe took the lead on Lap 151, with Dixon in close pursuit, when Franchitti entered the pits for the final time on Lap 150. Briscoe and Dixon had stopped on Lap 144.

Briscoe and Dixon then pulled away from Franchitti over the next 35 laps, as Briscoe led Dixon by .1850 of a second on Lap 187. Franchitti was the only other car on the lead lap, 23.8841 seconds behind Briscoe.

But Briscoe and Dixon were forced to pit for fuel in the last eight laps, Dixon on Lap 192 and Briscoe on Lap 194. Franchitti was able to stretch his fuel over the last 50 laps for his fifth victory of the season, a career best.

Franchitti's average speed was 201.420 mph, the second-fastest race in series history. It was the first caution-free race in series history.

RACE DAY NOTES:

In support of Sarah Fisher Racing and Dollar General's association with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the fight against breast cancer, Indy Racing League personnel are wearing pink IZOD polo shirts today, Race Day for the Firestone Indy 300.

Indy Racing League officials and IndyCar Series drivers lined up to form a pink ribbon in Victory Lane for a photo shoot this morning.

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Representatives and guests from more than 20 charities will attend the Firestone Indy 300 on Saturday to cheer their favorite drivers. Through the generous contribution of Apex-Brasil, each IndyCar Series driver was presented with approximately 120 race tickets to donate to a charity of their choice.

Drivers and their charities:

Driver - Charity

Alex Lloyd - Amigo's For Kids/Make A Wish

Dan Wheldon - Best Buddies

Danica Patrick - Boys & Girls Club

Dario Franchitti - Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

E.J. Viso - Herbalife Family Foundation

Ed Carpenter - Tweet Off

Graham Rahal - Make-A-Wish Foundation

Helio Castroneves - Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis

Hideki Mutoh - Amigos For Kids

Jaques Lazier - American Red Cross

Justin Wilson - Boy Scouts of America

Marco Andretti - Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Mario Moraes - American Cancer Society

Mike Conway - Racing For Kids

Milka Duno - Milka's Way

Raphael Matos - American Cancer Society

Robert Doornbos - Voices for Children Foundation

Ryan Briscoe - Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis

Ryan Hunter - Reay Pet Set, Miami Dolphins Foundation, Habitat for Humanity

Sarah Fisher - Susan G. Komen Foundation

Scott Dixon - March of Dimes

Tomas Scheckter - Racing For Kids

Tony Kanaan - IOAF (Injured Officers Assistance Fund)

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Ed Carpenter is wearing an orange Miami Dolphins T-shirt throughout the day as the loser of a bet with fellow IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay that the Dolphins wouldn't win seven games in the 2008 NFL season. The Dolphins won 11 and the AFC East title.

Had Hunter-Reay lost, he would have worn an Indianapolis Colts logo on his helmet for the race.

Carpenter lives in Indianapolis, Hunter-Reay in Boca Raton, Fla.

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Firestone Racing will present two special awards for the second consecutive year at the Indy Racing League Championship Celebration Sunday night at the W Hotel in South Beach, the Tony Renna Rising Star Award and the Greg Moore Legacy Award.

The Tony Renna Rising Star Award is presented to an up-and-coming IndyCar Series driver who embodies the qualities of the late Renna, while the Greg Moore Legacy Award is presented to the Firestone Indy Lights driver who best personifies the late Moore.

IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights driver Renna died in a testing crash in October 2003 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. CART standout and Firestone Indy Lights champion Moore died in a racing accident in October 1999 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

The Greg Moore Legacy Award originated in CART/Champ Car, but Firestone assumed sponsorship when that series unified with the IndyCar Series last year.

AL SPEYER (Executive director, Firestone Racing): "Greg and Tony competed only on Firestone tires at the top levels of open-wheel racing - in Firestone Indy Lights, CART and the IndyCar Series - and both were a close part of the Firestone family. They were on the cusp of stardom when they died doing what they loved. The things I remember most about Greg and Tony were their sheer talent, enthusiasm and willingness to help everyone. I have a deep and lasting respect for them, and am very proud that Firestone Racing continues to honor their memories with these meaningful awards to current-day drivers."

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Sarah Fisher will auction her specially designed pink helmet and other Race Day items on eBay's philanthropic Web site, "MissionFish," with all proceeds going to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's largest breast cancer organization.

Fans can bid from Oct. 10-12 at shop.ebay.com/sarahfisherracing67/m.html.

In addition to her helmet, Fisher's pink race gloves also will be auctioned. A cardboard autographed standee, a pink-walled race car tire courtesy of Firestone and autographed by the entire starting field from the Oct. 10 race, an Arai race- worn helmet visor and Fisher's official pink crew shirt worn by the SFR pit crew are among some of the other items being auctioned.

Also being auctioned to benefit Komen for the Cure will be a Nike golf cap autographed by Tiger Woods, a Wheaties box autographed by Shaquille O'Neal, a Sports Illustrated cover and official crew shirt autographed by Danica Patrick, a race-worn racing suit autographed by Tony Kanaan, a Sports Illustrated cover autographed by Peyton Manning, a photo autographed by Jimmy Fallon, a bag and cap autographed by Jon Stewart and more.

SARAH FISHER: "We hope that fans will enjoy bidding for these commemorative items from this special race. They can feel even better knowing the money is going to Susan G. Komen for the Cure; a great organization that will make the most of these funds. SFR is committed to helping Komen for the Cure fight the battle against this terrible disease. I've lost a loved one to breast cancer, and I will do everything I can to help others in their battle."

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Cole Collins' excited "Hey, Mario" rose above the din in the garage area two hours before the Firestone Indy 300, catching the attention of Mario Moraes and everyone within earshot.

The wide smile displayed by Collins, an 8-year-old from Seattle, was returned by IndyCar Series driver Moraes as they met near the KV Racing Technology transporter. Collins, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, was visiting Homestead-Miami Speedway as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. His wish: "go fast in a race car."

That he did, receiving a ride in the Indy Racing Experience street-legal two-seater on the track as part of the full day of activity. He also received a custom race suit courtesy of Hinchman Racewear, pre-race access to the grid, an A.J. Foyt Racing crew shirt and the opportunity to sit in Ryan Hunter-Reay's race car, and autographs among other items.

Moraes, who recently lost his father to cancer, said to Cole, "Stay strong, my friend."

HEATHER COLLINS (Cole Collins' mother): "This is priceless. Knowing that you have one dream come true, and nobody else can match it is remarkable. To be up close and one-on-one is just amazing to me. He had the choice to pick anybody and he picked Mario, which to this day I still don't know why. He just went through the cars and said, 'That's the one I want.'"

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AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing announced today that driver Martin Plowman will drive for the team in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season.

Plowman, 22, from Tamworth, England, posted two top-five and eight top-10 finishes for Panther Racing this season as a rookie in Firestone Indy Lights.

J.R. Hildebrand won the Firestone Indy Lights championship this season for Andretti Green Racing/AFS Racing. Raphael Matos won the championship for the team in 2008.

MARTIN PLOWMAN: "I've really enjoyed racing in the Firestone Indy Lights series this year and to get the opportunity to join AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing next season is fantastic. The 2010 season will be crucial for me in my quest to reach the IndyCar Series, so to join the two-time defending series champions and a proven winner is awesome. Today is a tremendous step forward in my racing career. I can't wait to start working toward next season."

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POST-RACE WINNER, CHAMPION QUICK QUOTE:

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing):

(Can you believe it?): "No, I can't. I can't. Like 2007, I just had to try to save some fuel and stay on strategy. And it just worked out. The Target car wasn't great early that first stint. Chris (Simmons, crew chief) and the boys made some changes. From the second stint on, we were right there. But we had lost so much ground. We were saving fuel. We were sticking to our strategy. The car was really good at the end. A win is a win. On the cool-down lap, I was thinking of my buddy Greg (Moore). I was in a championship fight 10 years ago, but it didn't matter because we lost him. This one is for him. It's been a hell of a year for the Target boys. I've got to thank Chip (Ganassi) for gving me a job."

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FIRESTONE INDY 300 POST-RACE NOTES:

* This is the second IndyCar Series championship for Dario Franchitti. He also won the title in 2007, for Andretti Green Racing. Franchitti did not compete in the IndyCar Series in 2008, racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

* Dario Franchitti became the third driver to win multiple IndyCar Series championships. Sam Hornish Jr. leads with three (2001, 2002, 2006), and Scott Dixon has two (2003, 2008).

* This is the third IndyCar Series championship for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Scott Dixon won the title for the team in 2003 and 2008.

* This is the second consecutive IndyCar Series championship for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, tying a series record set by Andretti Green Racing in 2004-05 and Pennzoil Panther Racing in 2001-02.

* Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon finished first and second, respectively in the point standings this season. Franchitti had 616 points, Dixon 605 points. It's the third time in series history that teammates have finished 1-2 in the series standings. Tony Kanaan finished first and Dan Wheldon second for Andretti Green Racing in 2004, and Wheldon won with Kanaan second for AGR in 2005.

* Dario Franchitti beat Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon for the IndyCar Series championship by 11 points, 616-605, the third-closest margin in series history. Buzz Calkins and Scott Sharp tied for the championship in 1996, and Sam Hornish Jr. tied Dan Wheldon for the title in 2006, winning by tiebreaker with the most victories during that season. Tony Stewart beat Davey Hamilton for the 1996-97 title by six points.

* Twelve points separated the top three finishers in the 2009 IndyCar Series championship - Dario Franchitti (616), Scott Dixon (605) and Ryan Briscoe (604), the third-closest margin between the top three in series history. In 2006, two points separated champion Sam Hornish Jr. (475), second place Dan Wheldon (475) and third place Helio Castroneves (473). In 1996, six points separated co-champions Buzz Calkins and Scott Sharp (246) and third place Robbie Buhl (240).

* This was a career-best fifth victory this season for Dario Franchitti. He won four races en route to the 2007 IndyCar Series season title with Andretti Green Racing.

* This was the 34th IndyCar Series victory for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, tying with Andretti Green Racing for No. 2 on the all-time series victory list. Team Penske/Penske Racing leads with 35.

* This is the 10th victory this season for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon each won five races.

* The average speed of 201.420 mph was the second-fastest in IndyCar Series history. Sam Hornish Jr. won the race in September 2003 at California Speedway with an average speed of 207.151.

* This was the first caution-free race in IndyCar Series history. The previous record was one, set four times: Two laps in August 2008 at the Infineon road course, six laps in September 2003 at the California oval and 10 laps in August 2005 at the Pikes Peak oval and in August 2003 at the Kentucky oval.

* Raphael Matos is the 2009 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year for Luczo Dragon Racing, earning a $25,000 bonus.

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FIRESTONE INDY 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, second): "It's pretty frustrating. It was one of the best races I've ever run. I just hate that it came down to fuel strategy. It's a whole championship. Dario (Franchitti) has been great all year long, so congrats to him. It's hurts." (Did you think it was yours to win?): "I thought it was going to be between me and Scott, definitely. I guess the 10 car (Franchitti) had the advantage."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, third): "At the start of the race, I didn't think it would be wise to go out and burn a lot of fuel. It ended being the fact and coming true. You just have to take it on the chin and come back and try again next year. At the end of the year, you'd think the fastest car is going to win, but several times, it hasn't been. I think Briscoe and I had a pretty good race going on, but we got what we got."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, fourth): "It was a long race. It looks like those three guys (Franchitti, Briscoe, Dixon) were in another league. I think it was an A-league and a B-league, but we tried. We did what we could. The car was OK. It was just not fast enough, so I guess we'll take the fourth place. After the season that we had, to finish up with a top four, it is what it is."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, fifth): "It was two races. There was those three guys (Franchitti, Briscoe and Dixon) and then the rest of the field. It's a shame. But first, I want to thank all the people here. They were awesome. I mean, I was thirsty; I can imagine you guys. Our Penske boys and Ryan did everything they could to bring this championship home. It's a shame. But fifth is definitely good for us. Fourth in the championship. And I have nothing complain about this year. It was a fantastic year. It was a bit difficult, but I have to thank the fans that supported me all the way through. Indy was great. So thank you, everybody. Next year, it's going to be different. Hopefully going to be different."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Air Force Luczo Dragon Racing, 14th, 2009 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year): "I'm very happy. It couldn't be better. I think this title means a lot to me and a lot to the team. There's a lot of famous names in the Rookie of the Year gallery and I dreamed about (joining them). I think this shows that we are ready for bigger and better things in the series."

MARIO MORAES (No. 5 Azul Tequila/Votorantim/KVRT, seventh): "The KV Racing Technology team didn't qualify the way we wanted. Then we lost some more ground during the first stint of the race. But for the last two stints, the car was really good. And on the last stint I had one of the fastest cars on the track, so I was able to pick up some positions. Of course, I am a little disappointed, but finishing seventh wasn't too bad. This was a very tough season, for a lot of reasons. We had had a fast car all season, especially in qualifying. But there were a lot of things going on, and we had some bad luck. Then things changed and started going our way. We had some good races at the end of the season finishing in the top-five and getting our first podium, so overall, because of the way we ended the season, I am happy. I definitely learned a lot from last year to this year. Actually, I learned more this year than at any other time in my racing career. For that, I have to thank Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser, Mark Johnson, all the KVRT engineers and mechanics. Everyone worked hard all season and did a great job."

ALEX LLOYD (No. 40202 HER Energy/Newman/Haas/Lanigan, eighth): "All in all, it was a pretty good day for the HER Energy team. We lost a quite a few places on the start, and I think that was just me being overly cautious. I've never raced an Indy car on a 1.5-mile oval, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect in Turn 1. Everybody just nailed it, and I lifted too much and we got swarmed by people. In the second half of that stint, we had a good car and came through quite a few cars, so I thought, 'OK, this is looking quite good.' I felt like we could race with some of the quick guys. And then as the race went on, every stint we started to get more and more understeer that we couldn't get rid of, and that really cost us. We finished about where we were at the end of the day. All in all, it was a good day. There are a lot of things that I am learning as I go along, which is an extremely good thing. We had a good car all weekend. We certainly could have been a little bit better in the race, but I think we came away with some really good things, a lot of positives. There were a lot more positives than negatives, so I'm definitely happy, and I think everybody at HER Energy will be happy, too."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, sixth): "Physically, it was a very tough race for me. I am still recovering a bit from my crash during qualifying at Motegi, but the car was fantastic overall and very good in traffic. I have to thank my guys. They did a great job all night, and we were able to gain some positions during pit stops. I had a great season with the team, and a sixth-place finish is a nice way to end the year."

-credit: irl