Dario Dominates Richmond Indianapolis 500 champion and series points leader Dario Franchitti dominated Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway, scoring his second IndyCar Series victory in as many weeks --...
Dario Dominates Richmond
Indianapolis 500 champion and series points leader Dario Franchitti dominated Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway, scoring his second IndyCar Series victory in as many weeks -- and his third win this season -- to expand his championship lead after nine of 17 races.
Starting from the pole, after rain washed out qualifying on Friday and the field was set by the championship points standings, Franchitti pulled ahead as the green flag waved and led all but nine of the 250 lap race distance. At one point he led by as many as four seconds, a massive margin on the ¾-mile Richmond short track.
Only in the final laps did the Target Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon get close enough to mount a challenge for the lead. But Franchitti was able to use lapped traffic to maintain a gap after the final round of pit stops, and also survived a late-race caution flag that created a six-lap sprint to the finish. Franchitti got a good jump on the Lap 244 restart and Dixon finished second, for the fourth time this season, and moved to second in the championship standings.
It was another weekend of 100 per cent reliability for the Honda Indy V-8 engine, as the IndyCar Series completed the second consecutive short-track event, and the second of a five consecutive race in a swing through the Midwest and East Coast.
Tony Kanaan led eight laps and ran second for much of the first 159 laps. But the 2004 series champion fell to fourth during the final round of pit stops, and was unable to challenge Wheldon for third after the final restart.
Buddy Rice had his strongest race of the season, and a second consecutive top-five finish for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, as he clawed his way from the 12th starting position to finish fifth, battling the likes of Danica Patrick, who finished sixth, and seventh-place Tomas Scheckter.
Defending race and series champion Sam Hornish Jr., spun without contact as the field approached the green flag to start tonight's race and was never able to regain the lead lap, despite a strong mid-race run. He finished 15th. His Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, was penalized for a blend-line violation on Lap 171 and also fell off the lead lap to finish 11th.
Next week, the series travels to historic Watkins Glen, New York, for the second road course event of 2007 on the 3.77-mile circuit in the Finger Lakes region.
Dario Franchitti (#27 Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 1st, third win of 2007 and 7th career IndyCar victory, eighth top-five finish in nine races this season. Now holds a 65-point lead in the championship: "I think this track just suits my style. But the team gave me a great car tonight. We weren't sure at the start of the race what we'd have, but the car was great and just got better and better. My engineer, Allen McDonald, took a little bit of a gamble with the setup, and it paid off in spades. It's much too soon to start thinking championship, we just have to keep working at it one week at a time, keep riding that wave."
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 3rd, finished 2nd, seventh top-four finish in 2007, moves from third to second in the points standings: "Our car was pretty decent tonight, but it came down to track position and we spent too much time behind lapped traffic. Dario [Franchitti] did a good job against us there. The guys did a great job once again in the pits -- that's what got us around Tony [Kanaan] -- and we finished second to the championship leader, so not too bad. And now we go on to Watkins Glen, which has always been good for us [winning in both 2005 and '06]. So I'm really looking forward to it!"
Robert Clarke (President, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "It was a pretty clean race, especially for a short track, and the fastest car won tonight. Congratulations for the second week in a row to Dario Franchitti and the Andretti Green Racing team. They certainly are looking strong at the moment. It's also good to see how the Ganassi team has improved their short-track program this season. And again, it was a weekend of 100 per cent Honda Indy V-8 reliability, which is always our goal."
-credit: honda racing