By Allan Brewer, IndyCar Correspondent
- Power wins, increases points lead
- Dixon runner up for 2nd time tonight
- Penske takes 3 of top 4 positions
Penske Racing’s Will Power won the second of two Firestone Twin 275 races at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night after picking a prime starting position for the 114 lap event in a random drawing. The win was the Australian driver’s career first on an oval track, and his third of the current season. It also pushed him further ahead of rival Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti toward the 2011 IndyCar series season championship.
“This means so much to me and to the team,” Power said afterwards. “I’ve been trying to win one on an oval for so long for this team. Now we know we can do it. It was a great day, a great race and great fun.”
Power narrowly averted disaster on Lap 103 when he dove deep under the white line beneath a slowing Graham Rahal of Ganassi Racing after the latter ran out of fuel on-track. A dash into the pits with 10 laps remaining gave Power sufficient ethanol to finish the race.
Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon finished second in the nightcap, matching his result of the early evening. Power’s Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe took the final podium spot, followed by the third Penske entry with Helio Castroneves at the wheel. KV Racing Lotus’ Tony Kanaan came to the checkered flag fifth after drawing the pole position start.
Power began the nightcap in the third spot on the grid because of a pick-em selection process new to the IndyCar series. Dixon slotted into the 18th position and Franchitti was left as the last driver to draw with the 28th starting position.
“It was just a lottery,” said a fuming Franchitti of his next-to-last row grid position, the worst of his open-wheel career, to start the second Firestone Twin 275. “My guys did everything we could to win tonight but we got hosed. I hope we don’t lose the championship because of this.” Franchitti placed seventh, immediately behind Andretti Autosports’ Marco Andretti.
Franchitti won the first race of the double-header, leading 110 of the 114 laps en route to his second IndyCar series victory of the year. His margin of victory in the opener was a slim 0.0547 seconds over teammate Dixon.
The win was Franchitti’s career 28th IndyCar series victory, and his first at Texas Motor Speedway. Franchitti’s previous best of the 2011 campaign was his win at the St Petersburg, Florida season opener. “I was able to get the lead at the start,” he said afterwards. “The biggest problem was traffic. When I had clear air the car handled well, but the car was really sliding around there at the end.”
Dixon finished second for the first time on the night, and Power took the third podium step.
Both events went off smoothly, with drivers exercising care not to end a two-race night of competition too soon. Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball and fellow rookie Wade Cunningham, in the Sam Schmidt Motorsports car driven to victory in the Indy 500 by Dan Wheldon, drew the evening’s only yellow flag when they made contact emerging from the obtuse final turn of the 1.5 mile speedway on Lap 94 of the first contest.
A novel random draw for pole in the second race put veteran Tony Kanaan in the No. 82 KV Racing Lotus entry onto the first spot on the grid for the final Firestone Twin 275. Cunningham, moving to a backup car, chose the outside position on the front row to start race two.