Franchitti takes flag to flag win

Dario Franchitti resisted race-long pressure from the Penske drivers to clinch victory at Sonoma

Franchitti takes flag to flag win

The Ganassi driver had Ryan Briscoe on his tail for the majority of the race, but managed to lead from flag to flag and secure a win that brought him back into the thick of the title fight as his team-mate Scott Dixon finished only 13th.

Mike Conway recovered from a first lap collision to take a brilliant third, the Dreyer & Reinbold rookie's first IndyCar podium, ahead of Mario Moraes (KV) and Hideki Mutoh (Andretti Green).

Dixon was another of the eight drivers involved in the opening lap tangle at Turn 2. The accident ended EJ Viso's race, and forced Marco Andretti, Conway, Tony Kanaan, Dixon, Franck Montagny, Danica Patrick and Graham Rahal to pit for repairs.

After a lengthy yellow to tidy up debris from this incident, Franchitti and Penske driver Briscoe made an early break from the field, running nose to tail throughout the stint.

Helio Castroneves had spent the opening laps resisting a strong challenge for third from Mutoh, but a change to the red tyres at his first pitstop allowed Castroneves to charge away from the Japanese driver and join Franchitti and Briscoe in a three-car lead train.

The trio were covered by just a second for much of the middle stint, before Castroneves' victory challenge ended when he tangled with the yet-to-stop Kanaan just after his final pit visit. The Penske Dallara was briefly airborne and landed heavily, and it was little surprise to see Castroneves start tumbling down the order afterwards.

He had fallen to sixth by the time his damaged suspension gave way on lap 66, sending him ploughing off the road and causing the final yellow.

The late restart gave Briscoe - who had continued to lurk behind Franchitti after the last stops - a final shot at taking the lead, but the Scot would not be denied and edged clear in the sprint to the flag, although Briscoe's second place put him back in the championship lead.

A late charge from Conway saw the rookie pass both Moraes and Mutoh in the closing laps, giving the Briton a shock podium despite his early delay.

Mutoh also dropped behind Moraes after being wrong-footed by Conway's move. That earned Moraes a career-best fourth, after he benefited from the first lap crash and a great opening lap to leap up the order from 14th on the grid.

Newman/Haas/Lanigan's Oriol Servia and Dale Coyne driver Justin Wilson came through to sixth and seventh after their troubled qualifying sessions. Servia escaped a mid-race tangle with Ryan Hunter-Reay that smashed the Foyt car's front wing, while Wilson made an errant tactical pitstop to take on 'red' tyres earlier than his rivals and also lost time with a half-spin while trying to overtake Mutoh.

Kanaan claimed eighth, ahead of Raphael Matos (Luczo Dragon) and Robert Doornbos (HVM). Dixon had been on course to salvage 10th, only to be nudged into a spin by Andretti at the final corner. The officials later reversed their positions to move Dixon up from 14th to 13th, leaving him 20 points behind Briscoe in the standings.

Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1h49m23.0073s 2. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 0.2488s 3. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold + 0.8293s 4. Mario Moraes KV + 3.6171s 5. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green + 5.4536s 6. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 6.3801s 7. Justin Wilson Coyne + 6.6997s 8. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green + 7.1808s 9. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon + 8.5936s 10. Robert Doornbos HVM + 10.8175s 11. Ed Carpenter Vision + 11.3688s 12. Dan Wheldon Panther + 12.4000s 13. Scott Dixon Ganassi + 13.8968s 14. Marco Andretti Andretti Green + 14.8978s 15. Richard Antinucci 3G + 19.0650s 16. Danica Patrick Andretti Green + 1 lap 17. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold + 4 laps Retirements: Helio Castroneves Penske 66 laps Ryan Hunter-Reay Foyt 65 laps Franck Montagny Andretti Green 57 laps Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 30 laps Ernesto Viso HVM 0 laps 
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