Franchitti a Hometown Hero in Nashville Dario Franchitti, who makes his home in nearby Franklin, Tennessee, was a popular winner Saturday night of the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville SuperSpeedway, leading a total of 74 laps and coming out on...
Franchitti a Hometown Hero in Nashville
Dario Franchitti, who makes his home in nearby Franklin, Tennessee, was a popular winner Saturday night of the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville SuperSpeedway, leading a total of 74 laps and coming out on top of a 10-lap shootout with Patrick Carpentier, fellow Honda driver Scott Sharp and Sam Hornish Jr. after a flurry of late-race cautions.
Starting fourth, Franchitti, teammate Tony Kanaan and pole starter Tomas Scheckter contested the lead for the opening 30 laps. Scheckter faded from contention after the first round of pit stops, and it was all Andretti Green Racing at the front of the field until teammates Bryan Herta and Dan Wheldon dropped out with failed wheel bearings, and Kanaan crashed after striking debris on Lap 116.
Rookie Danica Patrick briefly led on the restart before Franchitti again assumed command through the middle stages of the 200-lap event. But after the last round of pit stops it was Carpentier, running an alternate fuel strategy with teammate Alex Barron, at the front. Franchitti worked his way past Barron, who then was involved in a Lap 175 crash with the charging Vitor Meira as the pair battled for third. On the final restart, Franchitti first fought off Honda-powered Scott Sharp, then passed Carpentier in Turn 3 on Lap 194 for a lead he would hold to the checker.
Attrition was high on the concrete Nashville oval, with six Honda drivers failing to finish the final Saturday night race of the 2005 IndyCar season. Buddy Rice dropped out on Lap 134 when a halfshaft [rear axle] broke on his Rahal Letterman Racing machine as he left the pits; and Super Aguri Fernandez Racing's Kosuke Matsuura was eliminated in a bizarre incident on Lap 176. Running 10th at the time of the Meira/Barron crash, Matsuura moved down low on the track to avoid the accident, just as a safety vehicle pulled out on the track in front of him. Matsuura was unable to avoid a collision, and the damage put him out of the race.
Dario Franchitti (#27 Arca/Ex Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 1st, third career IndyCar win, first victory of 2005, moves to third in the point standings. Sixth Honda IRL win of the season: "The car was as good at the end of runs as it was at the beginning. I came out of the last pit stop very surprised to find the two Red Bull [Carpentier and Barron] cars in front of me. To race with Pat [Carpentier] was just brilliant. He and I have raced against each other a long time and I knew I could trust him. The car has been fast all season long, thanks to [team owners] Michael [Andretti], Kim [Green] and Kevin [Savoree] for giving us the equipment to do the job, and of course thanks to Honda. That engine has been really strong all season. It's great to win at home."
Scott Sharp (#8 Delphi Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 8th, finished 4th, set fastest race lap of 201.130 mph on Lap 93: "It feels really great tonight. The car was really good all night long and once again the crew gave me some great pit stops. I thought I might have a shot at Dario [Franchitti] at the end, but he came across like I knew he would. Then Sam [Hornish Jr.] had a good run on me on the outside and there was nothing I could do. But fourth is another strong finish for the team, being with these guys has really helped turn my career around this year."
Danica Patrick (#16 Pioneer/Argent Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 2ndt, finished 7th, continues to lead series rookie point standings: "Once again, we started out front but dropped back in the early laps. Maybe we need to figure out something so I run a bit better on full [fuel] tanks and new tires. It was hard to pass early in the race, everyone kind of got strung out single file, but I was able to pick off a few people as the race went on. Later, we made a fuel strategy gamble that paid off for us. On the last restart, I followed Sam [Hornish] up to the high line, but we both started sliding up towards the wall and had to back out. Overall, the car was good and it was another good race for us, our eighth consecutive finish."
Vitor Meira (#17 Menards Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 6th, finished 16th (not running-contact): "I'd like to see a replay to look at it closely. But I was down on the white line and going past Alex [Barron]. The next thing I know I was hit and into the wall. I was definitely on the inside line and going by him. Maybe he didn't see me or know that I was there. Man, it was upsetting for me because if we had kept going I know I had something for [race winner] Dario [Franchitti]. On cold tires, the car was too loose but the car got better and better as the stint kept going. I got held up a lot tonight by some of the lapped cars and, to be honest, I wasn't going to dive inside some of them. I came close to getting hit a couple of times. This place isn't easy to pass, so getting held up can hurt you in track position. I just wish we could have raced Dario to the end."