Franchitti clinches IndyCar title
|By Matt Beer||Saturday, October 10th 2009, 22:31 GMT|
Dario Franchitti has won the IndyCar Series title for the second time in his career after out-foxing rivals Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon in the Homestead finale.
While Briscoe and Dixon dominated the race from the front, battling wheel to wheel for victory for most of the afternoon, Franchitti saved enough fuel to avoid the last minute splash and dash stop that his two rivals both had to make.
That meant Franchitti (Ganassi) vaulted from third to first in the final nine laps of the race and went on to clinch victory and the championship.
Briscoe came home second for Penske, with Dixon completing the podium in the second Ganassi car.
The race also set a new record as it ran its full duration without a single full course yellow - a first for the Indy Racing League.
Franchitti was only really involved at the lead fight at the start and the end of the race. Ganassi had the best of the start, with Franchitti and Dixon going wheel to wheel for the lead through the opening laps, while Briscoe lost third to Vision's Ed Carpenter and then had to spend several laps fending off Marco Andretti (Andretti Green).
But the Australian was soon up to speed and closing on the Ganassi duo, moving into second when Franchitti lost momentum on lap eight and let Dixon make a clear break in the lead.
Dixon established a 2s advantage over Briscoe and 5s over Franchitti in the opening stint, but Briscoe was on the leader's tail after the first pitstops, and then moved ahead with an outside line move through Turns 1 and 2 on lap 65. Dixon's attempt to respond saw him almost slide into the Penske Dallara, allowing Briscoe to surge away into a comfortable 3s lead as he sorted out the moment.
Then the advantage swung back towards Dixon after the second pitstops, with the reigning champion charging back on to Briscoe's tail and then slicing inside and back into the lead on lap 106.
He only stayed ahead for 19 laps though, before Briscoe went back around the outside to reclaim the lead.
At this stage the lead duo were in a class of their own. Franchitti had fallen 9s adrift, and everyone else had been lapped by the top three within 80 laps.
But that pace came at a price - with no yellows at all, the two leaders were rapidly getting through their fuel and had to make their third stops 56 laps from the end, making a late splash and dash inevitable. The more conservative Franchitti stretched his fuel load to lap 149, ensuring he could get to the flag without another stop.
Both Briscoe and Dixon turned their fuel mixture up to full strength and charged away, almost putting Franchitti a lap down.
But it was not enough. Dixon and Briscoe pitted on laps 191 and 193 respectively, leaving Franchitti 6s clear of the Penske driver and 8s ahead of his Ganassi team-mate - and with not enough time for his pursuers to respond. Briscoe and Dixon both gained on Franchitti in the remaining laps, but ran out of laps to catch the Scot, who was ecstatic as he claimed the title in his first season with Ganassi's IndyCar team and his first year back in single-seaters after his abortive NASCAR switch.
Tony Kanaan charged from the midfield to fourth for Andretti Green, ahead of Briscoe's Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves and AGR's Hideki Mutoh.
All the AGR cars had looked capable of a top four finish, but Andretti had to retire with a brake problem and Danica Patrick tangled with Panther's Dan Wheldon - who had also fought through into the top six - in the pitlane. Also missing out a potentially great finish was Carpenter, whose early heroics ended when his car's handling faded and he tumbled down the order.
KV's Mario Moraes was seventh, while Newman/Haas/Lanigan rapidly lost ground after qualifying well. Alex Lloyd recovered to eighth, but Graham Rahal was 11th behind Tomas Scheckter (Dreyer & Reinbold) and Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne).
Raphael Matos clinched the rookie of the year title as expected. The Luczo Dragon racer, already a Star Mazda, Atlantic and Indy Lights champion, was only 14th, but his rival Robert Doornbos (HVM) retired in the closing stages having run near the tail of the field.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1h28m28.3117s 2. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 4.7888s 3. Scott Dixon Ganassi + 6.0206s 4. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green + 1 lap 5. Helio Castroneves Penske + 1 lap 6. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green + 2 laps 7. Mario Moraes KV + 2 laps 8. Alex Lloyd Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 2 laps 9. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold + 3 laps 10. Justin Wilson Coyne + 3 laps 11. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 3 laps 12. Ed Carpenter Vision + 3 laps 13. Ryan Hunter-Reay Foyt + 4 laps 14. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon + 4 laps 15. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold + 5 laps 16. EJ Viso HVM + 6 laps 17. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold + 6 laps 18. Sarah Fisher Fisher + 13 laps 19. Danica Patrick Andretti Green + 15 laps Retirements: Robert Doornbos HVM 166 laps Dan Wheldon Panther 150 laps Marco Andretti Andretti Green 58 laps Jaques Lazier 3G 23 laps