Franchitti scores crucial Chicago win

Dario Franchitti tore a huge chunk from Will Power's IndyCar points lead by winning at Chicagoland as a late fuel problem ruined Power's evening

Franchitti scores crucial Chicago win

The decision not to change tyres at the final stop allowed Ganassi driver Franchitti to move to the front, where he resisted Dan Wheldon (Panther) and Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport) to secure a crucial victory that brings Power's championship advantage down from 59 points to 23 with three rounds to go.

Penske driver Power had been in the thick of the lead fight as well, but did not receive sufficient fuel at his last pitstop, forcing him to pit and tumble to 16th in the closing moments.

The first half of what turned into an epic race was all about Power's pole-winning Penske team-mate Ryan Briscoe fending off huge pressure from Andretti. Once a fourth-lap multi-car collision that left Raphael Matos (De Ferran Dragon) and Tomas Scheckter (Conquest) in the wall, and Alex Lloyd (Dale Coyne) and Vitor Meira (Foyt) with damage was tidied up, Briscoe and Andretti launched into side by side battle with a huge pack of cars jostling behind them.

Even the first round of pitstops taking place under green failed to disrupt Briscoe and Andretti's dice, but things got more chaotic when the yellow came out again for Dreyer & Reinbold's Ana Beatriz brushing the wall on lap 77.

The whole field bar owner/driver Sarah Fisher pitted to top up with fuel, and the stops saw disaster for KV Racing as Takuma Sato and EJ Viso tangled in the pitlane. Both had been running in the top 10, although a puncture had already cost Sato ground. Their team-mate Mario Moraes' promising night was later ruined by a pit speeding penalty.

The first attempt at a restart was then abandoned due to Meira, Newman/Haas' Hideki Mutoh (who had earlier left the pits minus his right front wheel) and FAZZT's Alex Tagliani tangling as they prepared to go green.

Fisher's strategy put her in the lead when the green did finally fly on lap 90, and while Briscoe immediately blasted past her, the rest of the pack found the yellow car more difficult to shift - allowing the Australian to make a temporary escape as everyone else tripped over each other trying to pass Fisher.

Andretti, Power and returnee Ed Carpenter (Vision/Panther) were the first to make it through and they soon chased down Briscoe to resume the lead fight.

But when the next round of pitstops took place under green with 65 laps to go, it was Wheldon who emerged in the lead ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay, with Andretti and Power joining them in a ferocious dice, while Briscoe slipped back in the pack. Wheldon's return to the front was a mighty effort from the Briton and his Panther team, as a wheel problem at his first stop had previously dropped him into the midfield.

Power eventually snuck through into the lead, taking Andretti with him, but the pack was totally reset again when Lloyd spun onto the infield and prompted a final yellow 31 laps from the finish.

Everyone took the chance for a last pitstop and Franchitti chose to save a few seconds by keeping the same set of tyres. The Scot had been a consistent top 10 factor all day without ever looking like a major victory threat, but this strategy vaulted him to the front of the field ahead of Power, Wheldon, Hunter-Reay and Briscoe.

Franchitti was then able to cling on through the final 25 laps to secure victory, holding off Wheldon by just 0.0423 seconds at the line as the Panther driver made a final outside line bid for glory. The pressure on Franchitti was such that all 14 cars still on the lead lap were covered by just 1.5s at the flag.

Andretti, Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan (Andretti) completed the top five, while Power was forced to back off and pit due to his fuel issue and fell right down to 16th.

Helio Castroneves recovered to sixth in Penske's other car following a fuelling problem at his first stop, while Justin Wilson emerged from the pack late on to take a fine seventh from 23rd on the grid for Dreyer & Reinbold.

Scott Dixon was a regular frontrunner but ended up shuffled back to eighth for Ganassi at the end, ahead of Meira - a remarkable ninth despite requiring two front wing changes following collisions - and Graham Rahal (Newman/Haas).

Briscoe was twice held out wide in the frenetic final shoot-out and plunged to 11th in a race he had looked set to control. Another man to finish much lower than he deserved was Carpenter - who had looked like a victory threat until a string of pit disasters took him out of contention.

Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1h47m49.5783s 2. Dan Wheldon Panther + 0.0423s 3. Marco Andretti Andretti + 0.1051s 4. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti + 0.1631s 5. Tony Kanaan Andretti + 0.3408s 6. Helio Castroneves Penske + 0.4868s 7. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold + 0.5953s 8. Scott Dixon Ganassi + 0.9137s 9. Vitor Meira Foyt + 0.9588s 10. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas + 0.9841s 11. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 1.0185s 12. Bertrand Baguette Conquest + 1.0833s 13. Hideki Mutoh Newman/Haas + 1.3042s 14. Danica Patrick Andretti + 1.5658s 15. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher + 1 lap 16. Will Power Penske + 1 lap 17. Mario Moraes KV + 1 lap 18. Davey Hamilton De Ferran Dragon + 1 lap 19. Milka Duno Dale Coyne + 3 laps Retirements: Ed Carpenter Panther/Vision 179 laps Jay Howard Sarah Fisher 162 laps Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 162 laps Simona de Silvestro HVM 150 laps Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 88 laps Alex Tagliani FAZZT 85 laps Takuma Sato KV 80 laps EJ Viso KV 80 laps Tomas Scheckter Conquest 4 laps Raphael Matos De Ferran Dragon 4 laps 
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