IndyCar Series News And Notes 2011-06-20

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Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Franchitti humbled to be in 'strange company'
2. Goncalvez rebounds from scary crash to land on podium
3. Inside the numbers - Milwaukee

1. Franchitti humbled to be in 'strange company': Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais - tied with 31 victories on the all-time Indy car racing list -- are the next marks for Dario Franchitti, though the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver doesn't necessarily contemplate such laurels.

It's select company - surpassing Tommy Milton, Bobby Rahal, Ralph DePalma, Gordon Johncock, Rodger Ward and Johnny Rutherford over the past 55 weeks - and the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion can't fathom himself in the room. On June 19 in the Milwaukee 225, Franchitti tied four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears for ninth on the leaderboard with 29 wins.

We have to go there and do the job, and if we do the job we'll be in a good situation.

Dario Franchitti

"When someone said, 'You tied Johnny Rutherford,' I couldn't put I couldn't put into words what it meant," said Franchitti, who at Milwaukee also recorded his 80th career podium and 100th career top five. "For me, there are two Johnny Rutherfords. There's J.R., my friend in the paddock who drives the pace car and who on Lap 120 in the Indianapolis 500 under yellow is waving to me in the mirror of the pace car. And there's Johnny Rutherford, the racing legend, and I say 'It's Johnny Rutherford.'

"So there's almost a disconnect for me between my friend and this racing great. And the same with Rick. I see him every week. Rick is the guy when I first came over here helped me learn to drive an Indy car on an oval."

Mears amassed his victories (22 CART, 7 USAC) in much the same manner as Franchitti - on a variety of ovals and road courses. Mears won his first Indy car race at the Mile on June 18, 1978. Bonus note: Greg Moore, Franchitti's good friend who was fatally injured in an Oct. 31, 1999, racing incident, won his first Indy car race at the Mile on June 1, 1997.

"I was sitting there just before the driver's meeting and Rick walked up and we were talking about some stuff, just roundabout the races and some ideas he had," Franchitti relayed about race day at Milwaukee. "And I thought, 'Man, that's Rick Mears.' I thought if I do win another race then I would be tying Rick. And it just seems very strange to be honest.

"(After I won at Texas to pass Rutherford), I saw J.R. in the bus lot about one o'clock in the morning and he stopped and just shook my hand and said well done. That was cool. It feels strange to be in that kind of company. But I'm very proud of it."

Franchitti has three victories this season, including two in the span of eight days, matching his output from 2010. With bonus points from earning the PEAK Performance Pole Award and leading a field-high 161 laps, plus the points disparity between first and Will Power finishing fourth, Franchitti and Power are tied for the drivers' championship heading into the June 25 race under the lights at Iowa Speedway.

Franchitti has won at the 0.875-mile oval in the odd-number years (since 2007) that the IZOD IndyCar Series has been visiting the Rusty Wallace-designed racetrack in Newton. Last year, he was leading the 250-lap race when a gearbox malfunction resulted in a season-low 18th place.

"We were in good shape last year, too," he said. "We have to go there and do the job, and if we do the job we'll be in a good situation. And, if we don't, we move on."

2. Goncalvez rebounds from scary crash to land on podium: It's would be easy to say it's been a rough rookie season for Belardi Auto Racing's Jorge Goncalvez.

The teenager from Los Teques, Venezuela still walks with a crutch as a result an off-track car accident that left him with a broken leg and he had a scary accident in the Firestone Freedom 100 that shook his confidence.

But with a new chassis - one that helped JR Hildebrand and Raphael Matos win Firestone Indy Lights championships at AFS Racing - Goncalvez showed his resiliency by not only getting back into the car, but posting his first podium finish in Firestone Indy Lights.

Graham Rahal, Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing and Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing
Graham Rahal, Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing and Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing

Photo by: xpb.cc

"In the beginning when we come here, it's my second time on oval, it's very hard in practice to come back and go fast," Goncalvez said. " But I feel pretty good with the team because the engineer gave me a really good car, just a good car for me, strong, every single lap."

Starting seventh, Goncalvez quickly worked the No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing Special through traffic ran fifth, saving tires for the end of the race. In the final quarter of the race, he was turning laps as fast as the lead car of Esteban Guerrieri, which enabled him to get around Bryan Clauson and Gustavo Yacaman for the final spot of the podium.

"We were really strong at the end of the race," Goncalvez said. "We are really fast. And I felt like I had the best car that ever that I had. I feel pretty good with the team because they make a really good job and make the car ready for this race."

Goncalvez jumped to fifth in the championship with his strong finish. But more importantly, the success gave him more confidence to push his car to the limit.

"I feel it's a (safe) car," he said. "I had the crash I had at 190 miles per hour and nothing bad happened to me. I feel good basically in the car. I'm pretty sure if I crash again, nothing is going to happen to me ‑‑ but I don't want to crash again.

"That's why I say, it's very good that I like to race. I love this; I come, it's my work now, so I'm pretty concentrated for make every day better for me."

3. Inside the numbers - Milwaukee: Numbers to note following the Milwaukee 225, the seventh of 17 events in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

2 - Positions gained in the championship standings by Graham Rahal with his runner-up finish in the No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing car.

3 - Different times Dario Franchitti led the race for a total of 161 laps. He took the lead for good on Lap 199.

4.0 - Average finish of Franchitti through the first seven events.

6 - Different teams represented in the top 10 of the race.

13 - Positions gained by Will Power, who finished fourth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.

17 - Drivers who have recorded at least one top-five finish…Points lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year chase for National Guard Panther Racing's JR Hildebrand over James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing car.

26 - Drivers who have recorded at least one top-10 finish.

29 - Indy car wins for Franchitti, tying Rick Mears for ninth on the all-time list. Franchitti is two wins shy of Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy, the active win leaders.

40 - Wins and Poles in Firestone Indy Lights for Sam Schmidt Motorsports after Esteban Guerrieri won the David Hobbs 100 at Milwaukee.

41 - Consecutive races running at the finish for Danica Patrick, extending her series record.

117 - Points for Franchitti to top the A.J. Foyt Oval Championship standings. Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon is six points behind.

139 - Consecutive races started by Tony Kanaan, who set the IZOD IndyCar Series record at Milwaukee.

271 - Points for Franchitti and Power, who share the championship lead heading into the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer under the lights June 25 at Iowa Speedway.

416 - Laps led in 2011 by Dario Franchitti. Franchitti has led 42.3 percent of the laps, so far.

983 - Laps completed by Dario Franchitii in 2011, so far. He is the only driver to complete every lap of every race.

*

The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 25 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 94 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Sukup 100 at Iowa Speedway on June 25. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 6:30 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS.

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Series INDYCAR
Tags dario franchitti, izod