IRL: Iowa: Race report

FRANCHITTI SURVIVES WILD RACE TO WIN IN IOWA NEWTON, Iowa, Sunday, June 24, 2007 -- IndyCar Series points leader Dario Franchitti claimed his second win of the season winning the inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway. Franchitti, who...

FRANCHITTI SURVIVES WILD RACE TO WIN IN IOWA

NEWTON, Iowa, Sunday, June 24, 2007 -- IndyCar Series points leader Dario Franchitti claimed his second win of the season winning the inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway.

Franchitti, who led the final 31 laps of the 7/8th-mile oval, held off his Andretti Green Racing teammate Marco Andretti by .0618 of a second. It was the 17th-closest finish in IndyCar Series history.

Franchitti, who passed Alex Zanardi as Honda's all-time winningest driver with 16 Indy car wins, was the biggest beneficiary of a day which saw eight of the top 10 drivers in the point standings involved in accidents or mechanical failures. He increased his lead in the standings to 51 over another teammate, Tony Kanaan, as the IndyCar Series season approaches its halfway point.

Scott Sharp finished third, Buddy Rice a season-high fourth and Darren Manning fifth. It also was the high finish -- and first on an oval this season -- for Andretti.

RACE DAY NOTES:

Several IndyCar Series drivers have raced in Iowa prior to today's race. Ed Carpenter raced in USAC events at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids, while A.J. Foyt IV raced go karts on dirt in Des Moines and actually was crowned a track champion while he was there. Sarah Fisher is one of 18 drivers to compete in the Knoxville Nationals and the Indianapolis 500.

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Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and his Iowa counterpart, Sen. Tom Harkin, lauded the IndyCar Series for its use of 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol as they toured the Iowa Speedway garage area before the inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Ethanol.

The Hawkeye state is the leading domestic producer of corn, which is used in ethanol production. Grassley said 300 gallons of ethanol can be produced per acre, with the amount trending upward based on the market. And the state is bullish on ethanol, with 20 production facilities operational and 30 in planning/construction phases.

The IndyCar Series is the first in motorsports to utilize a renewable and environmentally friendly fuel in its Honda V-8 engines.

SEN. TOM HARKIN: "If we didn't export ethanol, we could replace in this state 100 percent of our gasoline usage. Iowa is really leading the way, and we're looking to enhance, improve and make more profitable the use of ethanol. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it that when we draw our fuel from the corn fields of the Midwest, that means we don't have to draw it from the oil fields of the Middle East, which is unstable."

SEN CHUCK GRASSLEY: "I thank the Indy Racing League for cooperating with agriculture. In Iowa, we don't think we need to promote ethanol because we've been acquainted with it for so long. I still call this an infant industry because people aren't acquainted with it as we are. The bottom line is that we need to remind ourselves that ethanol is good for farmers, good for the environment, good for good-paying jobs in rural America, good for our balance of trade because we're importing less petroleum, and it's good for our national defense."

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Understated it's not. But that's the idea behind the custom motorcycles designed and built by the Teutul family of Orange County Choppers.

Their latest creation -- a stunning corn-inspired bike that is its first to run on E85 fuel -- was unveiled before the inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by ethanol at Iowa Speedway. The Iowa Farm Bureau Renewable Energy Chopper visually showcases renewable fuel sources derived from Iowa agriculture such as wind, ethanol, soy biodiesel and livestock.

The IndyCar Series is the first in motorsports to utilize 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in its Honda Indy V-8 engines.

"It was a fun project; we had a good time," said Paul Teutul Jr., who noted the project will be shown on the Discovery Channel's "American Choppers" in October. "The best part is it's the first bike we've built that runs on E85. It was a great experience overall."

The design features Iowa corn inlaid in the air cleaner, 3D corn and soybean graphics and spinner wheels (representing wind turbines). The chopper is part of an Iowa Farm Bureau-led movement called "Join the Ride Iowa," which is attempting to encourage the development and usage of renewable energy.

"We had no idea Iowa had so many cutting-edge renewable energy efforts underway until we came to the state for the inspiration in the design of the E85 chopper," said Paul Jr., who toured an ethanol production facility during that trip.

The bike, which was given a ceremonial test drive around the track, will be raffled with proceeds benefiting the American Lung Association of Iowa.

IOWA CORN INDY 250 POST-RACE NOTES:

* This is Dario Franchitti's second win of the season and the sixth win of his IndyCar Series career. His last win came in May at the 91st Indianapolis 500.

* This is Andretti Green Racing's 27th win in the IndyCar Series, the most of any IndyCar Series team.

* Marco Andretti finished second, his best finish of the season and his best finish on an oval since he finished second at the 90th Indianapolis 500 in May 2006.

* Scott Sharp finished third, his best finish of the season and his best finish since he won at Kentucky Speedway in August of 2005.

* Buddy Rice finished a season-best fourth -- his best finish since he finished fourth at Watkins Glen in June 2006.

* Darren Manning finished fifth -- his best finish since he finished fourth at Pikes Peak in August 2004. It is A.J. Foyt Racing's first top five since June of 2006 when Felipe Giaffone finished fifth at Watkins Glen.

IOWA CORN INDY 250 POST-RACE QUOTES:

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, winner Iowa Corn Indy 250: "I was pretty upset last night when we lost our dog (Shug), but we found her this morning having a good time. Great job here by the Canadian Club guys all day. We took a bit of a gamble there at the end to extend our lead and it worked for us. We didn't need that last yellow though but the car was fantastic all day. We had some good restarts. It was a fun race but pretty physical though. I had total confidence (in tires) and it was my call, I told the team that the tires were not a problem. There was no drop off in wear. The tires were great and it was just a great day. This is different, this Iowa Speedway runs almost like a superspeedway. The restarts were a lot of fun."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished second): "There's definitely no confidence lost here. Maybe I overshot the pit box a little bit too much, but I'm not sure I would have beat him (Dario Franchitti) out anyway. It definitely hurt my chances though. Awesome job by Andretti Green Racing with the win. It helps in the points for Dario. I've got to thank him for the setup. The guy is unbelievable at setting up the car. His cars finished 1-2."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Patron Sharp Rahal Letterman Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third): "It's physical, that's for sure. A lot of drivers complained about it and I didn't really feel it until about 30-40 laps into the race. Great job for the whole Patron Rahal Letterman Racing team. God was watching over us. So many cars were literally a foot or two sideways in front of me and somehow I avoided them. It was a great day for points. Obviously we're picking picking up the pace. We qualified fourth, finished third, were able ran with the leaders all day and had great pit stops. I'm really excited.

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fourth): "We stayed out of trouble, and the guys made a good call on the pit sequence there. We started in the back and then came in and topped off and that's what really kept us toward the front all day. We came out of here in a good position by just staying out of trouble. Our car wasn't superfast by itself. It ran OK in the draft and we missed a bit on the set up but the big thing was staying out of trouble. Those guys were getting so racy out there, this place is like Texas there was a lot of wheel banging and a lot of hitting going on."

DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fifth): "It's a good result for us. We were quick at the end of our stint -- it took 20 laps to get speed out of the tires. We changed them at the end on Firestone's advice and we shouldn't have because the tires were so good. I didn't have 20 laps to work them in so I couldn't hold it down. At least we were fast at one stage of the stint so we'll take the info for the next time. There were a lot of close calls out there for me. You just have to choose your line and anticipate. That's where experience helps, and a little luck helps too.

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Hitachi Power Tools Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished sixth): "Not sure what happened yet there at the end. We had enough fuel to go the distance, but the engine just cut out, so either we were wrong with how much fuel we had in the car, or the fuel pump drive broke or something like that. I don't think we ran out of fuel, I think there's plenty of fuel in there, so something must have happened with the fuel pump or something. You know, we got caught out there in that accident when I think Danica (Patrick) turned down on me on the restart that took out half the field. I did a 360, lost a lap, battled back, and the guys did awesome pit stops, fixed a toe-link in the pits, and eventually got our lap back. The Hitachi Power Tools car was fast all weekend. We qualified fifth, and until that fuel pump broke, we were in fourth and maybe could have given "Sharpy" (Scott Sharp) a run. But it's OK. We finished sixth, and I tied my best finish for this season, but it's just frustrating because we had a better car than that. However, we were lucky to not get taken out earlier in the race ,so we'll take it and get ready for another short track at Richmond."

SARAH FISHER: (No. 5 AAMCO/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished seventh): "We got another top 10 today, and we'll take that as we move onto Richmond. We have to make sure we get a car that turns at exit at Richmond and keep working on stuff."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished eighth): "The Team Penske car was awesome today. Unfortunately, we had an odd mishap after our first pit stop. It was weird what happened -- the track was very slippery, and there was no grip. I ended up spinning on my way out of the pits after my stop, and we went five laps down. It's a shame because the Team Penske guys did a great job all weekend. The good news is that we were able to stay out and bring the car home in eighth place. I think Iowa proved to be a great track, and it definitely challenged us out there. Now we'll just have to look ahead to Richmond, and hopefully we'll be competitive next week."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished ninth): "The Delphi Panther car was the best car on the track today. It might not have been the fastest, but it was the best. I was coming in for my last pit stop and my left-front suspension folded up. We need a break and we thought today was it. The Panther guys have been working too hard and deserved better."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone finished 10th): "The steering just seized up, and I couldn't turn anywhere past halfway, so I had to bring the Commit Target car in to the pits, or I would have ended up in the wall. Even if we were able to get back out there for some championship points, it's very disappointing to have an issue like that ruin your race."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 11th): "It was a disappointing day for the Target team. To tell the truth I think I was trying to go too quick on the start for the temperature of the tires and got loose. What today's result does show is how hard the no.9 and no. 10 Target crews worked under difficult circumstances to get both Scott Dixon and I back out there and make a big difference to a Championship. Everybody came together and got what done what needed to be done to get back on track. It's unfortunate for Scott particularly as he would have been very tough to beat."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 14th): "It's really a shame that we got into trouble out there today. The Team Penske car was solid, and we were just hoping to score some solid points after a lot of our main championship competition got knocked out of the race. Unfortunately, we got caught up in a restart that was a complete mess. The leader wasn't up to speed on the backstraight, which caused everyone to check up. Then cars were four-wide down the front straight, and no one wanted to lift. I was just lagging back a bit but got caught up in the mess in front of me. It's really frustrating when something like this happens, but we'll try to put it behind us and hope to make it two wins in a row at Richmond."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Dan spun and I had no where to go. I think Marco (Andretti) was lucky to miss him and I was the next guy in line. It's a pity really, but you can't blame anyone for anything. He just got loose and I was behind him. Bad day for us but we will get it together for Richmond."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I was having a good run and ran into some turbulence, just got loose and hit the wall. It is a shame for the 7-Eleven team. I think we had a good run especially with so many cars in the championship out of contention. I think I just helped some of those guys out."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I had a really good restart, had some momentum going and was following Tony through and he just got loose on the low side and it seemed like I had nowhere to go."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic Panther Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "After the restart, they were three- or four-wide in front of me that caused the mishap. Danica (Patrick), (Ed) Carpenter and A.J. (Foyt IV) got together, and I saw the smoke, and I lifted after they crashed. I went down to the apron, and I was hit from behind with nowhere to go. It's a shame."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It looked like whoever was on the outside of me passed me before the green even happened and then underneath me was Ed Carpenter and I had nowhere to go. As I look at the replay, it looks like Dario (Franchitti) was a fourth car on the outside and he was next to the car that was to the right of me. It looked like a matter of everyone squeezing down with nowhere to go. It sucks. It is a cold day and the tires are really hard and everyone is having problems on the restart because we don't have enough temps in the tires. Unfortunately it looks like this is just a lost race."

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The next IndyCar Series race is the SunTrust Indy Challenge at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on June 30 at Richmond International Raceway. The race will be televised live by ESPN and broadcast the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Corning 100 doubleheader on July 7-8 Watkins Glen International. The race will be televised by ESPN2 on July 12. ESPN2's coverage of the Iowa 100 will be broadcast at 5:30 p.m. on July 3.

-credit: irl

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Sarah Fisher , Felipe Giaffone , Scott Sharp , A.J. Foyt IV , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Ed Carpenter
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing