Allan Brewer, IndyCar Correspondent
Ed Carpenter won in his 113th start on Sunday, giving the Sarah Fisher Racing Team its first victory in the IndyCar Series at the Kentucky 300 in Sparta, Kentucky. Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti finished second and claimed the lead in the IndyCar championship points chase. Franchitti’s Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon was third.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Carpenter of his victory that measured 0.0098 seconds on the clock. “I used push-to-pass and beat Dario to the finish line. I had one more push-to-pass than he did so I timed them down until the last lap. I started rolling down the straightaway that last time and I had him. There was no stopping us today. The highest my pulse was after I won. I was screaming and yelling all the way down the back stretch.”
I had one more push-to-pass than he did so I timed them down until the last lap.
For Fisher the victory marks a milestone at a track familiar to her past success. “I’m speechless,” she said. “We’ve worked extremely hard over the last 4 years. Ed did an incredible job. It’s great to see it all pay off. I can’t believe we won here. It was my first victory here, and now Ed’s first victory here. I’m about to cry. I’m going to celebrate.”
Franchitti and Carpenter waged a heated battle throughout the last eleven laps of the race, changing places at the front of the field on multiple occasions. “I couldn’t get past Ed at the end when it counted,” said Franchitti afterwards. “Scott (Dixon) couldn’t get under my gearbox to push me any further. I used up all my overtakes. It was exciting and it was clean.”
Franchitti’s second-place result was good enough to vault him back into the IndyCar Series championship lead by 18 points over Team Penske’s Will Power. A collision with Dreyer & Reinbold’s Ana Beatriz on pitlane on Lap 51 left Power’s car with a hole in the left sidepod that slowed it considerably on the track. Power finished nineteenth.
”It’s amazing how quickly things change,” said Franchitti. “I knew nothing about what was happening to Will. I just focused on what was happening with my own car.”
“It was kind of tough out there today,” said Dixon. “I tried to help Dario but the car kept moving up the track. It was hard to complete passes, and on restarts the car was hard to get back up to speed; but congratulations to Sarah and Ed on the win.”
Rookie James Hinchcliffe of Newman/Haas Racing took fourth place, followed by Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Newman/Haas Racing’s Oriol Servia.
“I was so close to that podium,” said Hinchcliffe. “We had a good car today. I had more downforce and couldn’t lead, but I could push other guys to the front. I was just holding on trying to get as much speed as I could.” Hinchcliffe goes to the Las Vegas round with the IndyCar Series rookie of the year points lead,12 points better than Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand in second position.
“We had a great run at the end,” said Hunter-Reay. “The last corner I went for it, but just couldn’t get there. It’s a good top five but we wanted better, and we have to be pleased with it. I think it will carry over to Vegas.”
AFS Racing’s Wade Cunningham finished seventh, Penske’s Ryan Briscoe was eighth; followed by AJ Foyt Racing’s Buddy Rice and Andretti Autosport’s Danica Patrick.
Team Penske’s Tim Cindric spoke for Power on the incident that cost Power the championship points lead. “The good news is we can still finish on top despite this, but it’s disappointing when you have the best car and you get hit by someone on pit lane. They (Dreyer & Reinbold team) should not have sent that car. It’s on us that we should be more prepared for that kind of thing.”
Cindric stated that the team had no backup sidepod to fit to Power’s car as a replacement part, nor could they interchange the piece from Helio Castroneves’ disabled car that dropped out of the race earlier. Defending Kentucky 300 champion Castroneves retired on Lap 36 with engine failure after several unsuccessful stops to correct a fluid leak.
The Sam Schmidt Motorsport entry bearing reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon started from the rear of the field after failing to pass technical inspection on Saturday. Wheldon finished fourteenth. “This definitely helped from a prep standpoint for the next race (where by rule Wheldon must start last). It’s incredibly competitive out there,” he said. “I never thought we’d come in and dominate. We’ll go back and look at the data then get ready for Las Vegas.”
The early laps of the race were dominated by Power, who set a blistering pace at or near his pole speed.
At the 100-lap halfway mark the running order first through ten stood Franchitti, Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti, Dixon, Carpenter, Hildebrand, Rahal, Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Patrick, and Servia
A KV Racing Lotus crew member was struck on pitlane during a pitstop by HVM Racing’s Simona de Silvestro on Lap 138, prompting a yellow flag. During the subsequent stops by the field, Andretti and Dale Coyne Racing’s Alex Lloyd collided, sending Marco to the sidelines for the day.
EJ Viso later said, "I feel very bad for my Chief Mechanic, DJ McMahon who was injured by Simona de Silvestro in the pits. He fractured his knee and hopefully will get better soon."
On Lap 165 Beatriz backed her car into the SAFER barrier and brought out yellow for an extended cleanup. The Lap 178 restart found Franchitti at the point with Carpenter in second, followed by Dixon, Hunter-Reay and Servia. Cunningham, Hinchcliffe, Briscoe, Kimball and Sato rounded out the top ten.
The running order with ten laps remaining stood Franchitti, Carpenter, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, and Hinchcliffe.
The weatherman kept his promise of a bright and sunny day, with the thermometer pegged at a crisp 62 degrees Fahrenheit ambient and track temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit at the 2:48 PM EDT “Drivers start your engines” command. from Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory.
Power, the IndyCar Series championship front-runner at the start of the Kentucky 300, earned the pole for the race and the bonus point in the championship standings that goes with it. Championship rival Dixon started seventh, and Franchitti, who entered the 200-lap race 12 points behind, started 11th.
The green flag for the race flew at 2:54 p.m. EDT.
The season finale is scheduled for Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There are tickets available and there are a number of free spectator events and activities during the race week, including an Oct. 12 driver autograph session, a parade on Las Vegas Boulevard and a party afterward at the Wet Republic at MGM Grand.
Also, one fan will have a chance to win an all-expense-paid trip to the race and the opportunity to win $2.5 million by entering the big sweepstakes drawing currently ongoing on the IndyCar Series website. The prize is linked to Wheldon’s race entry in the Sam Schmidt Motorsports car that will start at the rear of the field and compete for an equal $2.5 million prize.