Ganassi Duo Dominates Richmond Scott Dixon became the first three-time IndyCar Series race winner in 2009, and teammate Dario Franchitti moved into the series points lead - one point ahead of Dixon - as the Target Chip Ganassi Racing...
Ganassi Duo Dominates Richmond
Scott Dixon became the first three-time IndyCar Series race winner in 2009, and teammate Dario Franchitti moved into the series points lead - one point ahead of Dixon - as the Target Chip Ganassi Racing duo dominated Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway.
Starting from the pole, Franchitti led much of the first half of the 300-lap contest, but was caught out by the caution flag as he was entering the pits on Lap 137. Out of fuel, he was forced to stop for a splash of ethanol, and then had to pit again a few laps later for a complete fuel-and-tires pit stop. As a result, teammate Dixon moved into the lead on Lap 140 and would remain in charge to the checkers. Dixon's 19th career win ties him with former series champion Sam Hornish Jr. for most career IndyCar victories under Indy Racing League sanction.
The 20 drivers in this weekend's field ran a total of 5,798 miles in practice, qualifying and racing this weekend without a single engine-related failure for the Honda HI9R Indy V-8.
Behind the lead pair, Graham Rahal had his best finish of the 2009 season -- and career-best oval track result -- finishing third for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing. A caution flag on Lap 26 gave Hideki Mutoh and Danica Patrick an opportunity to pit early and go "off sequence" from the leaders in an attempt to gain track position and a possible victory. Mutoh did lead a career-high 74 laps, but finished fourth with Patrick rounding out the top five, the last car on the lead lap.
After a season filled with bad luck and misfortune, E.J. Viso had his first finish of 2009, running as high as seventh on several occasions until falling down the order in the last round of pit stops. Still, his 12th-place result was his first finish of the season.
Meanwhile, after a strong start to 2009, Team Penske had its worst results of the year, with both Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves crashing out of the contest, without injury. Briscoe fell out on Lap 26 and Castroneves on Lap 245, as both unsuccessfully battled handling problems. As a result, Briscoe fell from first to third in the drivers' championship, while Castroneves remains fourth.
Tonight's race wrapped up the short-oval portion of the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule. Next week, the series begins the first of three events on road and street courses, starting at historic Watkins Glen International Raceway in upstate New York with the July 5th Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen.
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 1st, 3rd win of 2009, 19th career IndyCar victory, tying Sam Hornish Jr. for most IRL career wins: "Today was all about patience. It was really tough to pass, very slippery off-line, and that made it a track-position race. I've got to hand it to Dario [Franchitti], he was making more passes than anyone tonight. But it was a bit frustrating. I was able to save a bit more fuel than Dario in the first stint, and then we got a break on the yellow [flag] and that got us out in front. It's a one-two finish for the Target Chip Ganassi team, and a huge points night for us, with both Penske cars not finishing."
Dario Franchitti (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 2nd, moves to the lead in the drivers' championship: "The timing of the yellow tonight decided the race. My mistake was using too much fuel [early], trying to get a gap, and that ultimately hurt us when the yellow came out just as I was coming into Pit Lane. Once Scott [Dixon] got ahead, we did our best to pass him, but couldn't get it done. I'm disappointed not to win, but the points lead is a definite bright spot for us. We've had a pretty good season so far, and I'm looking forward to going to Watkins Glen next week, and then Toronto."
Graham Rahal (#02 McDonald's Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Honda) Started 5th, finished 3rd, first top-three finish of 2009: "When we started off this weekend, the car wasn't where it needed to be. It didn't feel very good at all in the first practice. But my engineer Martin [Pare] and I kept plugging away, making changes. I think we made more changes this weekend than ever before, but each one was an improvement. It really speaks volumes for what this team can do. To be standing on the podium on an oval is like a victory for us.