Iowa captured a lot of the excitement that has been missing from the 2009 IndyCar Series season, as Dario Franchitti took a well-judged second victory of the year by navigating a series of incidents and green-flag pit stops. It was still a...
Iowa captured a lot of the excitement that has been missing from the 2009 IndyCar Series season, as Dario Franchitti took a well-judged second victory of the year by navigating a series of incidents and green-flag pit stops.
It was still a driver from Chip Ganassi Racing or Team Penske that wound up in victory lane for the seventh time in as many races. Franchitti was once again in a special livery (his fifth in seven races) as opposed to the standard Target red and white, the TOM TOM lime green car that he also drove to third place at the Milwaukee Mile.
"I'm completely dizzy right now," Franchitti admitted after a quick second half of the race. "We worked hard on certain parts of the setup, and it changed a lot. We did a couple little tweaks, plus the stops were great for track position."
Franchitti led home Ryan Briscoe, with Hideki Mutoh scoring his best result since finishing runner-up at this race last season in third. Dan Wheldon finished fourth and was the only other driver to finish on the lead lap, while Scott Dixon had a fraught but conservative race finishing fifth.
Franchitti got the jump on Briscoe through the final pit stop sequence, all under green flag conditions between laps 195 and 200. He had a good idea of how to handle his car on cold tires after a private test two weeks ago at the Iowa Speedway. He then jetted off to Le Mans to catch up with brother Marino, who was driving for Drayson Racing in last week's 24-hour race.
Briscoe led the most laps, as he did in Milwaukee and Texas, but once again failed to win. Still, he was gracious in still recording a runner-up result and the points that come with it.
"It was hard work out there," Briscoe said. "Dario was better on cold tires, and out of the pits; that's where we were hurting. It was still really good fun."
Briscoe continues to lead the standings by three points (241-238) over Franchitti; Dixon is third on 226 points.
Mutoh, now 10th in the points, might argue every IndyCar race should be run at the 0.875-mile short track oval that races like a super-speedway in the middle of the country.
"I'm very happy and a lot of things happened," Mutoh observed. "I just had to stay out of trouble and the guys did well on the pit stops."
There were seven different race leaders and 12 lead changes, a sincere change from the norm at oval events at Kansas, Indianapolis, and Texas where the races were more or less devoid of side-by-side action and lead changes. There were also five cautions, all in the first half of the 250-lap race.
A couple drivers earned finishes unrepresentative of where they raced. The passing star on this day was Tomas Scheckter of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Scheckter's never been accused of lacking aggression during his time in IndyCar and on this day he drove like a man possessed, passing cars left and right on the outside.
He ran as high as second and finished sixth at day's end, earning Dreyer & Reinbold's best result since Buddy Rice finished fourth at last year's Watkins Glen race. Icing on the cake for the smaller team was its rookie driver Mike Conway in eighth, his best result yet by ten positions and only his third finish of the season.
Danica Patrick finished ninth, several spots behind Dixon and Helio Castroneves. Patrick, the headline-maker in recent weeks for her rumored switch to NASCAR, was last of the leaders to pit during the final sequence and fell to her final finishing position. It says something of her season, a contract year, when ninth is her second worst result of the year.
Accidents took place early and often in the event. On the first lap, E.J. Viso lost control of his HVM Racing entry out of turn four while just behind Robert Doornbos did likewise in his Newman/Haas/Lanigan car. Ryan Hunter-Reay, now driving for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, contacted Doornbos' suspension and he joined them out of the race. Viso still has yet to finish a race in seven starts this season.
Dixon and Castroneves, battling for the lead, made contact in turn two on lap 18. Castroneves' right front wing shredded Dixon's left rear tire and it was thanks to great driving by both of them neither crashed further, though their races were compromised from that point. Dixon was fifth and Castroneves seventh at the checkers.
Justin Wilson had a single-car accident, while later Brazilian drivers Raphael Matos and Mario Moraes had a dustup off turn two. Completing the incidents on this day was Tony Kanaan, whose spell of bad luck at this track continued. Kanaan crashed off turn two on lap 111, only five laps after a green-flag stop.
"It stepped out on me," Kanaan said. "I think it was my fault. But at least this was on my left side, my right side is still sore." Kanaan had led 48 laps before that, and was still wearing a brace on the right side from his massive accident at Indianapolis.
A busy stretch for the series continues next week in Richmond with further events on the road and street courses in Watkins Glen and Toronto the two weeks after that. Richmond concludes a stretch of six consecutive ovals.