Franchitti Finds Victory Circle in Milwaukee Never far from the front of the field, Dario Franchitti took command of the Menards A.J. Foyt 225 during the second half of the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series race Sunday at the historic...
Franchitti Finds Victory Circle in Milwaukee
Never far from the front of the field, Dario Franchitti took command of the Menards A.J. Foyt 225 during the second half of the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series race Sunday at the historic Milwaukee Mile, leading 111 laps to score his first IRL race win, and the eighth of the season for Honda.
Franchitti, who missed much of the 2003 season after suffering a back injury in a motorcycle accident, has frequently been fast this season, including a pole and second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in June. But despite regular starts in the top 10, victory had eluded the Andretti Green Racing driver until today. Starting seventh, Franchitti moved into the lead group just after the first round of pit stops. He then battled Buddy Rice and Sam Hornish Jr. during the middle stages of the 225-lap contest, and moved to the front for good on Lap 155, taking the checkered flag six-tenths of a second ahead of Rice as Hornish fell back some six seconds in the closing laps.
Although he never led, Rice was in the thick of the contest right from the start, and his runner-up finish moves the Rahal Letterman Racing driver into second in the championship standings, ahead of Dan Wheldon, who dropped out of the race on Lap 147 with a broken driveshaft.
Pole qualifier Vitor Meira also moved up in the points with a solid fifth-place finish, just behind championship leader Tony Kanaan, who struggled for much of the day with difficult handling in his Andretti Green Racing Honda.
Fernandez Racing owner/driver Adrian Fernandez led a group of three Honda drivers rounding out the top 10 finishers. Fernandez also encountered handling issues in traffic, but finished eighth just ahead of Bryan Herta. After a crash in practice on Friday, rookie points leader Kosuke Matsuura steadily worked his way through the field to finish 10th, and once again was the top rookie finisher.
Next weekend, the IRL IndyCar Series heads from a one-mile "short track" to the high-speed two-mile Michigan Speedway for the Michigan Indy 400 on August 1.
Dario Franchitti (#27 Arca/Ex Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 7th, finished 1st, first IndyCar Series victory, fifth win for Andretti Green Racing in 2004, eighth win in nine events for Honda: "It wasn't the best start I've ever made, but the opening segment was clean and we didn't make any mistakes. When we put new tires during the first pit stop [on Lap 42], the car really came to life. We started moving through the field, passed [Sam] Hornish and TK [teammate Tony Kanaan], and just really picked up the pace. After the yellow came out and Buddy [Rice] got by me, I thought I had the car to beat him. I just wanted to make sure we were going to be there at the end. The car was fantastic today, the engineers got it right, nothing went wrong and that's why we're here."
Buddy Rice (#15 Argent/Pioneer Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 3rd, finished 2nd, moved to second in the championship: "I thought conditions in the race today were quite similar to the test we ran earlier this year. For the team, we've come a long way with our short-track setup since then and, once again, it was the Hondas up front as always. If the last 25 laps had stayed green, we might have had a better shot at the lead, but Dario [Franchitti] was strong all day. He was up front for a lot of laps and it was going to take an awful lot to catch him today. But we've moved up to second in the championship, and we're going to keep moving forward until we win it."
Vitor Meira (#17 Centrix Financial Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 5th: "We've sorted out our qualifying and, with fresh tires, the car was okay in the race. But for some reason as the tires got more miles on them, we would get 'looser' [with oversteer]. The car would have understeer when I was running by myself, but would go loose as soon as I came up on other cars. It wasn't a car to win today. I think is was a top-five car, maybe fourth, but that didn't happen. But keeping the big picture in mind, it was a good finish. There were a lot of close calls for me today, too many to count, but we came home with a solid finish and moved up in the points as well."
Adrian Fernandez (#5 Telmex/Quaker State Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 6th, finished 8th: "It was a difficult race. There were not many good [handling] cars out there. My car was okay on my own, but I was not very good in traffic. I could hold on there but I was very bad on the restarts. I almost lost it a few times, so it was difficult in that respect. I was just trying to hang on there. I had some traffic that I couldn't get around like other people could because as soon as I got close to other guys, I really got a lot of push entering the corners and then, on the exit, a lot of looseness. That prevented us from getting to the front."
Kosuke Matsuura (#55 Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 20th, finished 10th: "I think we did a pretty good race. The problem was the starting position because we were last. I didn't know how the car was going to be and I was waiting during the first fifty laps to feel out the car. When I knew the car was good, I could push in the second stint. The second stint was quite good, but the third stint I was very disappointed. The front wing was broken -- the left front flap was down, and I had a big understeer. We started in the last row and we finished in the top 10 with not a perfect car and that is a good result. I think we have a lot of motivation for the Michigan race."