IRL: Motegi: Dario Franchitti race report

MOTEGI, Japan (April 17, 2004) - Alpine driver Dario Franchitti returned to Twin Ring Motegi this weekend for the first time since 2002 and used the opportunity to score his first top-10 finish of the 2004 Indy Racing League® IndyCar® ...

MOTEGI, Japan (April 17, 2004) - Alpine driver Dario Franchitti returned to Twin Ring Motegi this weekend for the first time since 2002 and used the opportunity to score his first top-10 finish of the 2004 Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series season.

Franchitti, who missed last year's event due to a back injury, started ninth in the 22-car field and fought an understeering condition during the early stages of Saturday's 200-lap race. Although he lost a lap to his teammate and eventual winner Dan Wheldon, Franchitti continued to battle through the duration of the 300-mile event to score a seventh-place finish in the #27 Alpine Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Wheldon dominated the event, leading 192 of 200 laps, for his first IndyCar Series win in the Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Team 7-Eleven driver Tony Kanaan finished second, followed by Helio Castroneves. The same three drivers also hold down the top-three positions in the series point standings, in that order.

Saturday's performance gave Andretti Green Racing its second consecutive win and its first-ever "one-two" finish. AGR has led 383 of the last 400 laps run in IndyCar Series competition.

Round 4 of the 2004 IndyCar Series comes on May 30 with the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500. Practice for the "500" opens on May 9.

Dario Franchitti, #27 Alpine Dallara/Honda/Firestone:

"It was an incredibly frustrating day for the Alpine team. The car wasn't too bad, but we certainly didn't have a car to compete with Dan [Wheldon] today. We would like to have finished better than we did, but we brought it home and picked up a few points. There has just been so much effort go into this race and we're all a part of it. Dan drove a stormer. He just drove an excellent, excellent race. I guess he's not a rookie anymore."

Kyle Moyer, General Manager, Andretti Green Racing:

"The most important thing for the Alpine team today is that we finished the race. With the way our season started, everything has to come in baby steps, so today got us going. This wasn't one of our stellar days, but this gives us a place to start. All in all, it was a great day for Andretti Green Racing. All of our drivers helped win this race today because they work so well together, so we can all enjoy this."

-AGR-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Jim Beam