Series news and notes 2009-07-13

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Franchitti rekindles fond memories at Toronto 2. Petersen, Andretti follow formula of success 3. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race 1....

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Franchitti rekindles fond memories at Toronto
2. Petersen, Andretti follow formula of success
3. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race

1. Franchitti rekindles fond memories at Toronto: Ah, how Exhibition Place in Toronto rekindles memories for Dario Franchitti. There were the pole starts in 1997 and '98 that didn't end up so well.

But 1999 was something different -- 11th race of the PPG/CART season, a mid-July afternoon with a sizable crowd watching the competitors on the tight turns and long straits of the temporary street circuit. Franchitti picks up his first victory at Toronto (and fourth overall) with Team KOOL Green to creep up to Juan Pablo Montoya in the championship standings. He's seven points back, with Emerson Fittipaldi and Michael Andretti also in striking range.

Ten years almost to the day removed and Franchitti again visited Victory Circle at Toronto by virtue of holding off Ryan Briscoe and Will Power for his third victory of the season (11th in the IndyCar Series).

With the victory - and three bonus points for winning the PEAK Performance Pole Award and leading the most laps on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn course - Franchitti regained the championship points lead after 10 of 17 races.

Much like '99 leaving Toronto, it's a tight title race. Franchitti's Target Chip Ganassi Racing mate, Scott Dixon, is three points arrears, and Briscoe is 13 back. Helio Castroneves remains fourth, though a DNF because of a collision late in the race with the car driven by Paul Tracy didn't do him any favors. Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick remained steady, advancing 12 positions to finish sixth and remain fifth in the standings.

In 2007, Franchitti held a 47-point lead through 10 races but had to finish ahead of Dixon in the final race to claim the championship. Franchitti is aware he doesn't have that cushion this year in seeking his second championship as the series heads to the 1.96-mile airport course for the Rexall Edmonton Indy on July 26.

Dixon won there last year and Castroneves was second. Briscoe, who started on the pole and finished sixth at Edmonton, has five runner-up finishes in the past six races to stay in this year's title hunt.

"I don't think there's a better thing than to be fighting for the championship than with your teammate," Franchitti said. "You're in the same equipment. One week Scott is going to be better than me, I'm going to be better than him, and we'll go out there and we'll have fun and we'll go racing and we'll try and beat each other."

It's a similar scenario to '07 and even 1999, when he left Toronto with title aspirations within reach. Franchitti wound up tying Montoya in points, but lost on the first tiebreaker (seven victories to his three). He's resolved to avoid on-track landmines and see what transpires.

"Everybody makes mistakes; everybody also gets caught up in other people's problems," Franchitti said. "Last week in Watkins Glen, I got caught up trying to avoid two cars crashing in the Bus Stop and it put me in the gravel, destroyed my race (finished 15th). These things happen when you're at a race.

"It's about risk, how much risk do you want to take. There were a couple instances (in the Toronto race) I felt if I'd have taken a bigger risk there was a good chance I was going to end up with a bent race car. So I wasn't prepared to take that because we've got to finish, we've got to keep finishing."

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2. Petersen, Andretti follow formula of success: It's a situation benefiting both: two competitors have the open-wheel experience and guiding words of Michael Andretti and Gary Peterson at their disposal. AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing receives their talents in the top development series in North American open-wheel racing.

"Mike Andretti and I spend a lot of time talking to them before and after the races, trying to give them the 'what to do and what not to do' when they get in the car," said Peterson, owner of AFS Racing and a former Firestone Indy Lights competitor. "They're young."

J.R. Hildebrand is 21; Sebastian Saavedra is 19. They're also 1-2 again in the championship standings through nine races. Hildebrand, who has two victories and six podium finishes overall, leads by 51 points heading to the July 25 race in Edmonton, Alberta.

"We have great drivers," Peterson said. "It's tough having two drivers so competitive on a team. Both of them want to win and both of them want to win the championship."

Saavedra picked up his second victory of the season July 11 on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn temporary Toronto street course. The 53 points (including three points for winning the pole and leading the most laps) pushed Saavedra from fourth to second in the standings, and helped recover from the 18-point penalty he incurred a week earlier at Watkins Glen International.

Hildebrand, who started fourth, won that race in the No. 26 ARPRO car. At Toronto, Saavedra overtook Hildebrand in Turn 1 on Lap 18 and held off his teammate's ill-handling car (damaged left-rear suspension) the remaining 32 laps. It was the first time they have finished 1-2; they were 3-4 at Milwaukee in May.

"I was just trying to push him as hard as I could, waiting for the mistake. It never came," Saavedra said of the laps leading to the pass for the lead. "So I noticed it was just going to have to be by myself. I measured as best as I could, trying to not lose any gap from him. Exiting Turn 11, I was already in his tow. As soon as I saw the braking point, I didn't doubt it. I just went for it."

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3. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 race bonus from Firestone each week. After each IndyCar Series race, Firestone executives pick three "Tire"-rific Moves of the Race, on-track moves where the drivers had to rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires. Fans can vote for the winner at www.indycar.com.

From the Honda Indy Toronto on the streets of Toronto's Exhibition Place, fans can choose from:

* Dario Franchitti, for his pressuring pass of Helio Castroneves for the lead on lap 65

* Danica Patrick, for running the entire race on just two sets of tires (47 laps on the primaries, 38 on the alternates) to finish sixth

* Will Power, for coming back from nearly a full lap down to finish third.

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The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues July 26 with the Rexall Edmonton Indy at Edmonton City Centre Airport. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Edmonton on July 25 at Edmonton City Centre Airport. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on July 27 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing