IRL: Franchitti masters Milwaukee Mile

IRL: Franchitti masters Milwaukee Mile

Dario Franchitti won his first Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event at the historic Milwaukee Mile oval, leading the most laps (111 of 225) in his ...

Dario Franchitti won his first Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event at the historic Milwaukee Mile oval, leading the most laps (111 of 225) in his #27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda and beating 2004 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Buddy Rice's #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda to the checkered flags by .6590 seconds.

Dario Franchitti.
Photo by Loran Hygema - KOZ DPI.
The gap wasn't really as small as it looked, as the final, fifth yellow period bunched the field for a seven-lap shootout and allowed Rice to close on the Scot, who handily paced the race by gaps ranging from one second to more than three when traffic permitted. After his first pit stop and with new tires, "The car came to life," Franchitti explained after snaring the lead a total of three times.

"Track conditions were good here today and my car was happy everywhere. At the last yellow I thought I had the car to beat Buddy today; the engineers did a great job putting it together" after the team had a terrible test here in preparation for the race. "I caught some traffic, and that's what stopped me from pulling away from the pack," Franchitti noted.

Rice never did lead a lap but thought, "Finishing in the top three is always a good deal. I don't see why second is so bad. It's looking good in the points right now; we're doing exactly what we need to do," Rice explained. "We're marching forward. We needed it to stay green all the way through and it would have been very good, but that's just the way it goes," he said.

Buddy Rice.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
Sam Hornish Jr. finished third this afternoon in his #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota, but had nothing for Franchitti. "I could be a little happier," he said tongue firmly in cheek. "The guys did a great job in the pits and the car was prepared well. I didn't have enough for Dario but Buddy and I were real close. I just got a little loose once and got up in the gray to keep everything under control and he just got by me."

Tony Kanaan was among the first to congratulate his teammate after the race was complete and Franchitti had performed doughnuts on the front straight, enjoying a fourth-place finish in his #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda. Polesitter Vitor Meira took fifth place in the #17 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda, after being unable to stave off his competitors nearly from the start.

The final drivers on the lead lap were Townsend Bell in the #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara//Chevrolet and Alex Barron's #51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy. "We'll take top Chevy," Bell admitted. "We had some miscommunication on our first pit stop and fell back in the field, then picked off a few spots once we were running again. We just tucked it in and turned some laps." Barron believed, "At the end of the day we can say we had a good result. Our pit stops were flawless and our data guys made some great calls."

Adrian Fernandez took eighth place at the checkered flags, one lap down in the #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda calling it "a difficult race. There were not many good cars out there and while my car was good on its own, I was not very good in traffic."

The #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda of Bryan Herta took ninth place after leading 38 laps, second only to teammate and winner Franchitti. When the bulk of the pack pitted for their first stops, Herta stayed out and did not call for tires and fuel until 81 laps were completed on his first stint.

Rookie Kosuke Matsuura completed the top ten in the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda and was pleased with the result, coming from 20th on the grid. "I think we did a pretty good race. I didn't know how the car was going to be and I was waiting for the first 50 laps to feel the car. When I knew it was good, I could push in the second stint," he explained.

Nearly 40,000 fans enjoyed Chamber of Commerce weather here today, as well as an intriguing race for the IndyCar Series competitors. The first 38 laps ran under green as drivers tried to figure out how their cars worked at this track, but Scott Sharp brought out the first yellow when he spun his #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota in Turn 4. He would later finish 15th. When the track went green again, A.J. Foyt IV spun at the same spot, bringing out the second yellow. He would finish the race, albeit in 16th and last running slot.

Scott Dixon.
Photo by Anne Proffit.
Scott Dixon was never cleared to start the race and his #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota was credited with 22nd today.

By the time the track went green after the mishaps for Sharp and young Foyt, though, Tomas Scheckter had already exited the competition with a broken gearbox on his #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet. Tora Takagi would be the next to retire after 110 laps with electrical problems on the #12 Pioneer Dallara/Toyota; he had been a moving chicane for the leaders throughout much of the first half of the 225-lap contest.

A third caution was called for debris, slowing the cars for second pit stops from laps 112-121. Darren Manning, who had been moving up handily from his 10th place start caused the fourth caution on lap 144 when he clouted the Turn 2 wall and slid down the back straight. Manning had been up to fifth place and challenging for the podium and didn't know "if something broke or what. The car was working fantastically and it just snapped sideways."

Dan Wheldon had moved up from 21st and final starting spot after changing an engine in the #25 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda and called on the pits twice with electrical problems, according to the IRL. The team did indicate there might have been a broken halfshaft, however, but it ended Wheldon's day and pushed him back to third in points from second place.

Next out was Jaques Lazier in the #20 Patrick Racing Dallara/Chevrolet after a good mid-field run. He "went into Turn 1 and the car snapped loose real quick. I caught it but by that time, you're in the marbles and you're just a passenger." Lazier caused the final caution that bunched the field for the race to the checkered flags.

Behind Matsuura in tenth, Ed Carpenter finally finished a race, 11th in the #52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy, followed by a disconsolate Helio Castroneves, who led 26 laps yet finished 12th in the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota. The Brazilian "lost power under yellow-flag conditions" and wasn't sure what happened, but it took a while for him to get back on the way. He finished three laps down.

Felipe Giaffone took an unlucky 13th in the #24 Purex/Aventis Dallara/Chevy after several mishaps in the pits, while rookie Mark Taylor brought the #13 Access Motorsports Panoz G Force/Honda to 14th for his first look at the checkered flags since Phoenix, race #2.

The points situation changed a bit with this race, as Kanaan's steady run to fourth left him firmly in first with 357, followed by Rice's 293 points, Wheldon's 276, Castroneves in fourth with 260 and Hornish Jr. in fifth with 235. Franchitti moved up to sixth with his first IndyCar Series victory today (226) while Dixon fell to seventh place, tied with Meira at 200 points.

The Indy Racing League now heads for the Irish Hills of Michigan and the third straight race in a tough summer swing, the Michigan Indy 400 on the two-mile Michigan Speedway oval. The championship is certainly up for grabs but, as team owner Michael Andretti clearly put it, "Tony drove a championship-winning race today."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Darren Manning , Felipe Giaffone , Scott Sharp , Michael Andretti , A.J. Foyt IV , Jaques Lazier  , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Bryan Herta , Alex Barron , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira