Franchitti Finishes Second at Richmond Always strong on the short ovals, Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti was the only driver able to challenge the dominant Team Penske duo of Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. Saturday night at ...
Franchitti Finishes Second at Richmond
Always strong on the short ovals, Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti was the only driver able to challenge the dominant Team Penske duo of Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. Franchitti led 56 laps on the challenging .75-mile Richmond oval, but came up just short at the checker, finishing a half-second behind race winner Castroneves.
Franchitti was the equal of the Penske cars in traffic but was unable to match Castroneves in "clean" air. Still, it was the best result of the season for Franchitti, moving him up three places in the IndyCar Series points standings to fifth.
Meanwhile, championship leader Dan Wheldon finished fifth, but still increased his points lead as his closest challengers coming into Richmond -- teammate Tony Kanaan and Hornish -- both crashed out in separate incidents. Wheldon now holds a significant, 83-point lead over Kanaan in the points after seven events in the 17-race season.
Bryan Herta finished eighth, one lap down, just ahead of Super Aguri Fernandez Racing's Kosuke Matsuura in his best short-oval performance of the season. Rookie points leader Danica Patrick rounded out the top 10, also her best short-track run to date, with her Rahal Letterman Racing teammate Buddy Rice 11th.
Other Honda drivers were not as fortunate. Defending series champion Kanaan started at the rear of the field after a crash in qualifying on Friday, then moved rapidly through the field to run 10th at mid-race. But a spin after contact with teammate Herta and resulting contact with Vitor Meira ended the night for both Kanaan and Meira. Delphi Fernandez Racing's Scott Sharp and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Roger Yasukawa made contact on Lap 201, ending Sharp's race, and Yasukawa also was later eliminated after contact with Darren Manning.
Dario Franchitti (#27 Arca/Ex Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 5th, finished 2nd, best finish of 2005: "Not a bad evening for us at all! After the first pit stop it became apparent that the Penske boys and our car were the fastest ones out there tonight. I did my best, but we were slightly shy of Helio [Castroneves] at the end. I needed traffic to catch him, but with the late caution and then getting the green and white flags on Lap 249, it wasn't going to happen. But I'm always happy just to finish at Richmond; this is the toughest track on the schedule. I think we had the second-best car out there tonight so I'll take a second place finish and be happy with it.
Dan Wheldon (#26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 7th, finished 5th, continues to lead the IndyCar championship points standings: "It was a difficult race for us, but when Sam [Hornish] went out and then Tony [Kanaan] went out, even a fifth-place finish netted us some very valuable points tonight. For us, the race was a case of trying to make the most out of what we had. We didn't have the car to win tonight, but we stuck with it and came out well ahead as a result."
Kosuke Matsuura (#55 Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 11th, finished 9th: "First of all, I was really happy to finish this race. This track is really tough. Tony Kanaan, Sam Hornish -- some of the top drivers -- crashed in this race. This was my first time to work with [new race engineer] John Ward and I was pretty happy to work with him. He gave me a lot of motivation during the race. I had a couple of close calls on track, but we finished in ninth place and just one lap behind the leader. The next race at Kansas is my favorite track. I think we will have a good car there and I am looking forward to it."
Danica Patrick (#16 Pioneer/Argent Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 21st, finished 10th: "We struggled in qualifying and we were hoping the car would be better for the race. I knew Vitor [Meira] tried some things with the car and he was running in the top five and six tonight. So that is encouraging. I was happy he was able to get his car competitive. Buddy [Rice] and I didn't make as many changes, and our cars weren't as good. It was an inconsistent car tonight. In traffic the car just wasn't very good. I think this place could be really fun to drive if we get a good setup for the short ovals. But overall, we had a pretty good experience tonight on this oval. Of course, this kind of racing is much different than other things I have driven. But I am still learning and we'll go to Kansas where the boys finished 1-2 last year. I think we have a good setup for that track."
Roger Yasukawa (#24 Racing for Kids Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda) Started 18th, finished 16th: (not running, contact): "It was an unfortunate ending for us tonight. We were struggling a bit all weekend, but at the race I was trying to focus to bring the car to the end. It's always a tough race here, and I wanted to stay away from the problems and get a top 10 at the end. Unfortunately near the end while I was being passed by [Darren] Manning, I was forced down on the yellow line and had nowhere to go. Drivers get impatient and those crashes happen. There was nothing I could do to avoid it."